Felony drug charges are charges for drug-related crimes that carry a potential sentence of a year or more in prison. Conviction can also subject felons to fines and temporary losses of civil rights like the right to vote. Such crimes are more serious than misdemeanors, where the possible sentence is less severe and convicts do not experience suspensions of civil rights. Nations separate felony and misdemeanor drug charges to provide punishments appropriate to different levels of crime.
Drug charges can cover possession, sales, trafficking, and manufacturing. A prosecutor can decide on the charges to file, given the evidence in the case. Felony drug charges usually involve large amounts of drugs or particularly dangerous situations. Some regions also mandate felony charges for crimes involving children, or crimes taking place in certain areas, like within school zones. The goal is to provide more severe penalties to discourage crimes in certain settings.
Once the prosecutor determines the charges, it is possible to see if the accused is facing misdemeanor or felony drug charges. If the sentencing guidelines for the case include a year or more in prison, they are felony charges. The accused may also pay fines or forfeit property, depending on the regional laws. Accused individuals can choose to respond with a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. Representatives of the defendant may meet with the prosecutor to discuss a plea deal, where the defendant agrees to a certain plea to keep the trial out of court in return for concessions like a reduced sentence.
With a guilty plea and felony drug charges, the accused indicates culpability for the crime and willingness to accept the sentence. No contest pleas are similar to guilty pleas in terms of the fact that they may come with restrictions, fines, and jail time, but they do not constitute an admission of liability to use against the accused in civil court. The accused does not wish to contest the charges, but is not admitting guilt. In a not-guilty plea, the accused rejects the charges and requests a trial to determine the facts of the case.
Individuals facing felony drug charges must think carefully about how to respond and can discuss the situation with an attorney. Drug charges can become a problem on a background check, as many workplaces exclude applicants with a history of drug-related problems. They may also jeopardize child custody or parole agreements, making it important to understand the consequences of different pleas.