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Incredibly addictive, cocaine is a stimulant most often found in powder form. Crack cocaine has a more pebbly appearance and often carries more severe sentencing. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists cocaine on Schedule II of its list of controlled substances. According to the DEA, narcotics on Schedule II "have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence."
The penalties for cocaine possession vary depending on whether you were arrested by a federal agency or a state agency. In addition, penalties vary among states, and even within the state depending on mitigating and aggravating factors. These include prior criminal history and the amount of the drug that was seized at the time of your arrest.
Weight, Packaging, and Purity: How States Classify Possession
When you are charged with cocaine possession, the state looks at three main items: weight, packaging, and purity.
Weight and packaging sometimes go together, but not always. Any amount less than a gram is typically considered for personal use. Though still a felony, most states consider this a lower level felony. However, even if the amount you have falls under personal use guidelines, if it is packaged in a way that seems to be prepared for distribution, you may face intent to sell charges (some states call this intent to distribute or intent to deliver).
The purity of the drug also plays a role in charges and sentencing. This is due to the fact that, as cocaine makes its way to the buyer on the street, dealers cut the drug with other powdered substances, such as baking soda. As a result, a high purity level indicates the drug is closer its origins (the original distributor). Federal authorities are more likely to prosecute a case involving cocaine of a high purity level.
What Constitutes Possession?
A conviction for cocaine possession requires proving that you knowingly owned or possessed the narcotic. In practice, this means the prosecutor must prove that you knew the drug was present and intended to use or control it. He or she does not have to prove that you actually used it.
To prove possession, the drug must have been under your physical control. This might be on your person, such as a pocket, or within your personal property, such as a bag or automobile.
What are Federal Penalties for Cocaine Possession?
If you are convicted of a first offense, penalties include a maximum sentence of 12 months and a minimum fine of $1,000. If you have one previous conviction, the minimum sentence is 15 days, with a maximum sentence of 2 years. The minimum fine is $2,500.
If you receive three or more convictions, you face a minimum of 90 days in prison and/or fines of $5,000. All of these penalties depend on the amount of drug found in your possession, its purity, and whether you face intent to distribute charges, which bring much stronger penalties.
What are State Penalties for Cocaine Possession?
State penalties vary widely, but have similar guidelines to federal courts, meaning that the amount of the drug seized and prior criminal history play a role in determining charges and sentencing.
Many states have implemented alternative sentencing for certain drug charges. In essence, you may be eligible for probation instead of jail time. Upon completion of a drug and alcohol awareness or treatment program, charges may be dropped.
Texas Penalties for Cocaine Possession
Texas law determines penalties based on the amount of drug captured. However, within each category, penalties vary widely and depend on factors such as previous criminal history. Texas also employs "drug courts" which often allow defendants to avoid jail time via probation and rehabilitation.
- Less than 1 gram: 2 years maximum sentence; $10,000 fine
- 1-3.99 grams: 2-10 years sentence; $10,000 fine
- 4-199 grams: 2-20 years sentence; $10,000 fine
- 200-399 grams: 5-99 years sentence $10,000 fine
- 400+ grams: 10-99 years; $100,000 fine
California Penalties for Possession
California's drug laws punish a conviction for cocaine possession with a prison sentence between 16 months and 3 years, as well as fines up to $20,000. California also offers probation and treatment for first offenders.
Arizona Penalties for Possession
Arizona punishes a first offense with a maximum sentence of 3 years and minimum fines of $2,000. Prior convictions carry a maximum sentence of 7.5 years, while two or more convictions bring a maximum sentence of 15 years.
Arizona also offers probation and rehabilitation for first time drug offenders.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you face charges for cocaine possession, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney, preferably one with experience fighting narcotics charges. Schedule your free consultation today.