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Who Has Jurisdiction Over Drug Crimes?

Most criminal offenses, including homicide, DWI/DUI, burglary, and assault and battery, are chargeable under state laws, but who has jurisdiction for certain crimes can be less clear-cut. 

The fact is that many drug busts are the result of investigative cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the May 2013 arrest of 25 people in a Berks County drug trafficking investigation. While minor possession charges seldom involve more than the local police, many drug crimes may be charged as either a federal offense or a state crime. In general, federal drug charges involve trafficking larger amounts of drugs, conspiracy or organized crime. Other drug offenses, including possession with intent to sell or deliver or fraudulently obtaining a prescription medication, generally fall under state jurisdiction.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice statistics, drug-related arrests rose from 7.4 percent of all arrests reported to the FBI to 13 percent of all arrests in a 25-year period from 1982 to 2007. If you’ve been implicated in such a crime, a drug charges lawyer may be able to keep your case out of federal court. This is important, because:

  • The federal government has deep investigative resources, including those supplied by special units of the FBI and the DEA.
  • It is likely that the federal government has spent months or more building a case against you.
  • While federal sentencing guidelines have been modified since the 2005 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Booker, federal penalties are still generally more severe than those meted out by the state.

As with any drug charge, whether state or federal, it is crucial to seek legal representation as soon as possible — and before you say anything to law enforcement — to ensure that your Constitutional rights are protected.

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