The state of Louisiana has strict laws regarding illegal drugs, from the minimum sentencing guidelines to the substances that are classified as illegal. A conviction on even a misdemeanor drug charge can result in jail time. Felony charges carry the potential for even longer prison stretches. The quality, experience and toughness of a Baton Rouge drug lawyer might be the difference on everything from the charges that get filed to the verdict of the jury to the potential sentence issued by a judge.
Beall & Thies has been fighting for defendants for over 20 years. We know how much is at stake for our clients and we fight to earn their freedom and reputation. Call our office today at (225) 577-6223 or contact us online to set up a consultation.
Common Types of Drug Crimes
A drug crime refers to a criminal act that involves illegal drugs or controlled substances. These crimes are typically categorized based on the manufacture, distribution, possession, or trafficking of illegal drugs. Drug crimes can vary in severity, and the penalties associated with them can range from fines and probation to imprisonment, depending on factors such as the type and quantity of drugs involved and the offender's prior criminal record.
Common types of drug crimes in Louisiana and other states include:
- Possession of Controlled Substances: This is the most common drug-related offense and involves having illegal drugs, like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or prescription drugs without a valid prescription, in your possession. The severity of the offense often depends on the type and quantity of drugs.
- Possession with Intent to Distribute: This charge is brought against individuals who are found with a significant quantity of drugs that suggests an intent to sell or distribute, rather than for personal use.
- Drug Trafficking: Drug trafficking typically involves the large-scale distribution of illegal drugs across state or national borders. It is a more serious offense and often carries harsher penalties.
- Manufacturing of Illegal Drugs: The illegal production or cultivation of drugs, such as methamphetamine or marijuana, is considered manufacturing and is a criminal offense.
- Prescription Drug Fraud: This crime involves the unlawful acquisition of prescription drugs, often through fraudulent means, such as forging prescriptions or doctor shopping.
- Drug Paraphernalia Possession: Possessing equipment or items used in the manufacture, distribution, or consumption of illegal drugs, such as pipes, scales, or syringes, can lead to charges of drug paraphernalia possession.
- Drug-Free Zone Offenses: Many states, including Louisiana, have laws enhancing penalties for drug crimes committed within specified drug-free zones, such as schools or parks.
- Possession of Synthetic Drugs: Synthetic drugs, such as synthetic cannabinoids or bath salts, are also illegal in Louisiana, and possession or distribution of these substances can result in criminal charges.
Classifications of Controlled Substances in Louisiana
In Louisiana, like in many U.S. states, controlled substances are classified into drug schedules, which determine the legal penalties for their possession, distribution, and manufacture. These schedules are defined in the Louisiana Controlled Dangerous Substance Law. The schedules are based on the potential for abuse, medical use, and the severity of the substances.
Here is an overview of the drug schedules in Louisiana:
- Schedule I: These substances are considered to have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Examples include heroin, LSD, and certain synthetic cannabinoids.
- Schedule II: Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, accepted medical use with severe restrictions, and the potential for severe psychological or physical dependence. Examples include opioids like oxycodone, fentanyl, and some stimulants like methamphetamine.
- Schedule III: These substances have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I and II drugs, accepted medical use, and moderate to low potential for physical dependence. Common Schedule III drugs include some combination products containing codeine, anabolic steroids, and certain depressants.
- Schedule IV: Substances in this schedule have a lower potential for abuse compared to Schedule III drugs, accepted medical use, and limited potential for physical or psychological dependence. Common examples are Xanax, Ativan, and certain sedatives or tranquilizers.
- Schedule V: These substances have the lowest potential for abuse among controlled substances, accepted medical use, and limited potential for physical or psychological dependence. They typically include preparations containing small amounts of certain narcotic medications, such as cough syrups with codeine.
Louisiana law also considers additional factors like the specific chemical compound, drug analogs, and synthetic drugs when classifying substances.
The penalties for drug offenses in Louisiana vary depending on the schedule of the drug involved, the quantity, and the nature of the offense. Possession, distribution, or manufacture of drugs in higher schedules (I and II) typically carry more severe penalties than those in lower schedules (III, IV, V). Penalties may include fines, probation, mandatory drug education programs, and incarceration.
Marijuana Penalties in Louisiana
An increasing number of states might be legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, but Louisiana is not one of them. The use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed, but that requires a prescription from a doctor. Otherwise, on everything from possession to distribution, marijuana is illegal here in Louisiana.
The potential penalties range depending on the quantity of marijuana involved. Possession of 14 grams or less is a misdemeanor with no jail time and a maximum fine of $100. But anything over 14 grams at least opens the door to up to six months behind bars. Once the quantity weighs in at 2 ½ pounds, the charges become felonies, with a minimum sentence of two years in jail and possibly as long as ten years behind bars. Penalties continue to incrementally escalate with quantity, peaking at a 25-year mandatory minimum for possession of 10,000 pounds or more of marijuana.
Distribution is even more harshly sanctioned. To begin with, the amount involved in distribution is irrelevant—it is always a felony, and a first offense means a prison stretch of anywhere from 5 to 30 years. If the sale was done to a minor, the maximum sentence rises to 45 years in jail. Future offenses see minimums double to 10 years and maximums that reach as high as 60 years for selling to an adult and 90 years if the buyer is a minor.
The experienced Baton Rouge drug attorneys at Beall & Thies know your rights and they understand how to fight for them within the state and federal systems. Call today at (225) 577-6223 or fill out our online contact form to set up a consultation.
Drug Crimes Can Involve Federal Charges
The possibility of federal prosecutors getting involved is a further complication that can come with drug offenses. It’s important to have a Baton Rouge drug lawyer who is experienced in federal court specifically, because these cases often have a different dynamic than those prosecuted at the state level.
Federal prosecutors typically have lower caseloads then do their state counterparts. This means they may be less likely to offer favorable plea bargain agreements. It means they can give greater focus to the cases they do move forward on. Judges in federal courts can follow suit, often demanding a stricter attention to detail than would be the case in the state system. An experienced attorney, with a strong team behind them, has a better chance of being prepared for its coming and then matching—and even exceeding---the prosecutor’s attention to legal detail.
Common Legal Defenses Against Drug Crimes
Legal defenses against drug crimes can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, the nature of the charges, and the applicable laws in the jurisdiction.
Below are some common legal defenses that individuals accused of drug crimes may employ:
- Lack of Possession: If you are charged with drug possession, a defense may involve asserting that you did not have actual or constructive possession of the drugs. Actual possession means the drugs were found on your person, while constructive possession suggests you had control or knowledge of the drugs' location, but not necessarily physical possession.
- Lack of Knowledge: You may argue that you had no knowledge of the drugs' presence. This defense can be effective if you can show that you were unaware of the illicit nature of the substance or that it was planted or left by someone else without your knowledge.
- Illegal Search and Seizure: The Fourth Amendment protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. If evidence was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights, it may be subject to suppression, and the charges against you could be dropped. Common search and seizure issues include lack of a valid search warrant, exceeding the scope of a warrant, or conducting a search without probable cause.
- Unlawful Arrest: If law enforcement officers did not have a valid reason to arrest you in the first place, this could be a defense against drug charges. Unlawful arrest can lead to the exclusion of evidence obtained after the arrest.
- Entrapment: If you can show that law enforcement induced you to commit a drug crime that you would not have committed otherwise, you may claim entrapment as a defense. This typically involves proving that you were not predisposed to commit the crime.
- Medical Necessity: In some cases involving controlled substances, particularly marijuana, medical necessity may be used as a defense. If you can demonstrate that you were using the drug under a doctor's recommendation for a legitimate medical condition, this could be a valid defense in states with medical marijuana programs.
- Chain of Custody Issues: Prosecutors must establish the integrity and proper handling of evidence in a drug case. Chain of custody issues, such as breaks in the evidence trail, can cast doubt on the reliability of the evidence.
- Inadmissible Evidence: If the prosecution's evidence is unreliable or inadmissible, it can be challenged in court. For example, if the drugs were not properly tested or if the chain of custody was not maintained, this may affect the admissibility of evidence.
- Illegal Drug Scheduling: Challenging the classification of a substance under the wrong drug schedule or arguing that a particular substance was not, in fact, a controlled substance may be a defense.
- Mistaken Identity: If there is doubt about whether you are the person who committed the drug crime, you can assert a mistaken identity defense.
Experienced Lawyers You Can Trust
Beall & Thies has been serving the people of Baton Rouge for over 20 years as a firm. Our individual lawyers have over 100 years of combined experience. We have a talented and dedicated staff. We’re all committed to making sure every client that comes through our door gets the fair treatment and zealous defense that the American system is supposed to promise.
Louisiana classifies illegal drugs—formally known as Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) into five different categories. Where each drug fits depends on how addictive it can be, as well as to what (if any) legitimate medical usage it has.
Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most serious. They are highly addictive and have little, if any, medicinal value. Heroin is a prime example of a Schedule 1 drug. The Schedule 2 substances, like opium and morphine, are not far behind in how dangerous they can be and how severely they will be treated in a court of law.
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Russell W. Beall
"Russell W. Beall is a founding partner in the Baton Rouge law firm of Beall & Thies LLC. His main emphasis of practice is on Civil Litigation including Torts, Products Liability, and Premises Liability. Russell is a frequent guest speaker at Louisiana State University Law School where he participates in the Appellate Advocacy Program and the Professionalism Orientation. He earned his B.A. degree at Louisiana State University (1998) and his J.D Louisiana State University Law School (2001). Russell is an active member of the Louisiana Association for Justice and is frequently invited to be a guest speaker at continuing legal education seminars."Read Full Bio
William W. Thies
"William W. Thies was born in Indianapolis, Indiana in 1974 moving with his family to Slidell, Louisiana at seven years of age. Mr. Thies graduated from Slidell High School in 1992. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in history and political science from Louisiana State University in 1996 and his Juris Doctorate from the Southern University Law Center in 2001. He was admitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association in May 2002. He is a member of the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, American Bar Associations, and the Louisiana Association of Justice. He is admitted to practice in all state courts, the United States District Court for the Middle and Eastern Districts of Louisiana, as well as the United States Supreme Court."Read Full Bio
"Jacob H. Thomas is originally from the Piney Hills of North Louisiana, known for producing great litigators such as Huey P. Long as well as several other notable statesmen on the both the federal and state levels.Read Full Bio
Jake is a graduate of Jonesboro-Hodge High School and Northwestern State University where he was a member of the Theta Mu chapter of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity, the NSU Presidential Leadership Program, and the Inter-Fraternity Council serving as Vice President."
"Aaron Humphreys joined Beall & Thies, LLC as an associate attorney in the fall of 2016. He was admitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association in May of 2016. Aaron is also a member of the Baton Rouge Bar Association and the Louisiana Association of Justice."Read Full Bio
"George G. Caballero practices general civil law and focuses on plaintiff’s personal injury, wills, and successions. George joined Beall & Thies as of counsel in 2017 after starting Caballero Law Firm in 1993. Mr. Caballero has over thirty years of experience as an attorney and has served clients in various matters ranging from business and tort litigation, business, family law, and successions.Read Full Bio
Mr. Caballero is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. He is a graduate of Louisiana State University and Mississippi College School of Law. Upon graduation, he immediately went into the private practice of law, practicing in both Louisiana and Mississippi."
Jewel “Trae” E. Welch, III
"Trae is a lifelong resident of the Baker-Zachary area. Trae is the son of The Honorable Judge Duke Welch, currently presiding on the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals, and former East Baton Rouge Councilwoman, Roxson Welch. Trae is married to the former Lynn Caldwell of Tallulah, Louisiana. Together Trae and Lynn are raising their two children Quade and Vivian."Read Full Bio