Understanding the Different Types of Drug Crimes


Drug crimes and the charges they carry can be relatively minor or severe. If you or a loved one finds yourself in a situation where you’re facing drug drugs, it can be scary and overwhelming.

The following are some of the things to know about these different types of crimes related to drugs, including drug possession and use.

General Overview

There are some drugs that are illegal both federally and at the state level. These include drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine.

Marijuana can be a bit of a gray area legally.

In some states, recreational marijuana use is legal by people over the age of 21, but it remains illegal federally. In other states, there are medical marijuana laws, and in some states it’s entirely illegal.

If you face a drug charge for an illegal substance and you go to court, different factors will play a role in the penalties you face.

Some of these factors include whether or not it’s your first conviction, and if it’s not your first, what the nature of the previous conviction was. Also relevant will be the type of drug and how much of it you had when you were arrested.

The Controlled Substances Act

The federal Controlled Substances Act classifies drugs into five schedules. These schedules are based on a drug’s potential to be abused and whether or not it has an accepted medical use.

The following is an overview of the federal drug schedules:

  • Schedule I drugs are considered to have a high abuse potential and there is no medical use currently accepted for any of these substances. Schedule I drugs include ecstasy, heroin, and psychedelics.
  • Schedule II drugs are considered high-abuse potential, but they may have some medical uses. Examples of schedule II drugs are methadone and Adderall.
  • Schedule III drugs have a moderate possibility of abuse and medical uses. Examples include ketamine and anabolic steroids.
  • A schedule IV drug is one with a low potential for abuse and dependence and accepted medical applications. Examples are Xanax and Valium.
  • Low-abuse drugs are schedule V and include codeine cough syrups.

Every state has its own system for drug classifications, but they tend to follow the federal drug schedules pretty closely.


Paraphernalia is a type of charge that means you had equipment that could be used for preparing, injecting, inhaling, or concealing illegal drugs. Examples of things considered drug paraphernalia include syringes, rolling papers, pipes and bongs.


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Charges related to drug possession vary depending on the state you’re in, the type of drug, and the amount. However, under federal and state drug laws, it’s illegal to have any controlled substance.

You might be charged with simple possession or possession with the intent to distribute.

A simple possession charge means you might have had a small amount of a drug on you, but a large amount could mean harsher penalties if you’re charged with an intent to distribute.


Drug manufacturing is another type of charge, and it refers to being involved in any part of the production of an illegal drug. Delivery of an illegal drug is also a crime, federally and at the state level. Prosecutors do have to prove an intent to manufacture, but you can face both fines and prison time if you’re convicted.

Marijuana growing and manufacturing is treated differently in some states because of the exceptions as far as medical and personal use.


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Drug trafficking laws are related to selling, transporting, and importing controlled substances. Drug trafficking is a felony. It’s considered in the eyes of the law a much more serious crime than drug possession.

Being convicted of drug trafficking charges can mean a sentence of anywhere from three years to life in prison.


Drug dealing means selling illicit substances on a small scale. The punishment isn’t as severe as it is if you’re selling large amounts, but even so, there can be heavy fines and jail sentences that come with dealing too.

What If You’re Caught with Prescription Drugs?

Many prescription drugs are considered schedule II drugs, including most opioids. The offenses that relate to prescription drugs are the same in many cases as if you have heroin.

There’s a tendency to think that it’s a less serious offense to have certain prescription drugs than illicit drugs, and legally that’s not the case.

If you are charged with a drug-related crime, it can mean fines of upwards of $100,000, jail time, drug classes, and probation. It’s important to talk to a lawyer if you’re in that situation.


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