If you are caught with crack in your possession, you’ll face arrest, potential life imprisonment, a life-long criminal record and financial penalties.
Article at a Glance:
Understanding the details of criminal penalties for being caught with crack can be confusing. Keep the following key points in mind to best understand the severity of the situation:
- Crack is a form of cocaine that is illegal in every state in the United States
- Being caught with larger amounts of crack warrants increased penalties
- Possessing large amounts of crack indicates the intent to sell or traffic the substance, potentially resulting in millions of dollars in fines and life imprisonment
- First-time offenders with a substance use disorder may be sent to addiction rehab for court-ordered treatment
- Crack can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days following its last use
Possession of crack is an offense that can lead to severe legal and financial consequences. Among these are arrest, criminal prosecution, driver’s license suspension, mandatory drug treatment conditions and rehabilitation programs, incarceration, a life-long criminal record and more.
Crack is a solid, crystallized form of cocaine. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies cocaine as a schedule II narcotic. Though cocaine has some medical value, crack does not. Possession of crack is illegal in every state in the United States. Criminal penalties associated with the possession and distribution of crack vary by state and are primarily dependent upon the amount of the substance an individual is caught with.
Crimes Associated with Crack
Possession of crack, in any quantity, is illegal. The use, possession, distribution, sale, and trafficking of crack are crimes that carry different degrees of legal and financial penalties. The only way to get crack is through illegally obtaining it.
State-level criminal penalties for crack-related offenses range from misdemeanor possession for small quantities, to serious felony charges for larger quantities, distribution, and trafficking. Sentences for misdemeanor offenses often include probation, financial penalties, and short prison sentences. Felony offenses carry a potential of up to 20 years in prison depending upon the degree of the offense. Crack-related offense penalties are almost entirely determined by the quantity of the substance in your possession, how it came into your possession and the intent of possession.
Certain offenses, such as trafficking, are also likely to be prosecuted at the federal level and are subject to strict mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines under the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Trafficking crack is considered a federal felony offense under the Federal Controlled Substances Act and carries a financial penalty of between $1 million and $50 million, alongside incarceration periods of up to life in federal prison (with a mandatory minimum sentence of between five and 10 years). Individuals with a history of trafficking offenses face additional financial penalties between $2 and $75 million, alongside the potential for concurrent sentences of life in prison.
The Legality of Possessing Crack
Possessing crack is illegal. As is the distribution, manufacturing, trafficking or any other interaction with crack. All are considered criminal offenses in every state of the United States.
If you are caught in the possession of crack in any quantity, you are likely to face state misdemeanor, felony or federal felony charges, and the penalties associated with their respective charges.
Amount of Crack Possessed
Crack in any quantity is illegal for an individual to possess. The amount of crack in an individual’s possession (at the time that he or she is caught) determines the type and severity of the state-level charges they’ll face.
In the state of Florida, any amount of crack possession under 28 grams is classified as a second-degree felony, punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. Any amount of possession above 28 grams is classified as a trafficking offense (rather than a possession) and includes mandatory minimum sentences of between three and 15 years in prison, alongside fines of up to $250,000.
Federal offenses related to crack possession are primarily determined by the nature of the criminal act and the individual’s criminal history, not the amount of crack in an individual’s possession. However, trafficking offenses (beginning with possession in excess of 28 grams of crack) are almost entirely determined by the amount in an individual’s possession. Additionally, unlike many other illicit controlled substances, crack possession at the federal level is subject to strict and severe mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines resulting in excessive legal consequences (when compared to similar drugs, such as cocaine).
Because laws governing the use, possession, and penalties of controlled substances vary between states, it is strongly advised to consult a qualified attorney regarding your state’s individual laws.
Previous Criminal History
In the event of a crack-related arrest, an individual’s criminal history plays a significant role in determining the legal and financial consequences they face.
For individuals with prior drug convictions, the penalties associated with each charge are greater than would be the case for those absent any criminal history. In addition to those with a history of drug-related convictions, individuals with prior, unrelated felony convictions face steeper sentences. Criminal history may also have a compounding effect at the federal level in simple possession cases.
Federal penalties for first-time offenders in possession of any amount of crack (below trafficking guidelines) include a minimum $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail, whereas a second conviction is punishable by a minimum $2,500 fine and two years in jail. The penalties associated with repeat offenses continue to scale up depending upon the number of prior convictions an individual has.
Pretrial intervention programs are prosecutorial agreements offered by many states to assist drug offenders and those struggling with substance use disorders in reducing the severity of legal consequences resulting from drug-related offenses, potentially leading to the complete dismissal of the charges against them. In exchange, the individual must agree to voluntarily enroll in a court-appointed rehab program and meet all other prescribed conditions to fulfill the agreement.
The state of Florida offers pretrial intervention programs to any first time, non-violent misdemeanor or felony offender. In these cases, individuals charged with drug-related crimes enter into deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) that include court-appointed rehabilitation alongside counseling, education, supervision and additional medical and psychological treatment. After all conditions of the agreement are met and the rehabilitation program is completed, the state dismisses all charges in the case.
Getting Caught High on Crack
Individuals on probation may be checked for crack consumption. Drug use is detected in random drug test programs. Violations of probation conditions result in worse penalties than those of the original offense.
Crack use is detectable in a variety of standard drug tests, such as saliva, urine and hair follicle tests. Despite a very short half-life of roughly 15 minutes, crack remains detectable in drug tests for an extended period following use. In saliva tests, crack is detectable for up to 24 hours following use, in urine tests for between one and four days and in hair follicle tests for up to 90 days.
In the event of a failed drug test, while enrolled in pretrial diversion, on probation or other drug conditions, an individual is likely to face excessive legal and financial penalties.
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The Blanch Law Firm. “Crack Cocaine Possession & Trafficking.” Accessed April 14, 2019
Grindler, Gary G. “The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.” Department of Justice, August 5, 2010. Accessed April 14, 2019.
Yeh, Brian T. “Drug Offenses: Maximum Fines and Term[…]and Related Laws.” Congressional Research Service, January 20, 2015. Accessed April 14, 2019.
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Cornell Law School. “21 U.S. Code § 844. Penalties for […]imple possession.” Accessed April 14, 2019.
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