If you’re caught with heroin you’re going to face prison time and financial penalties that could last decades and cost you millions.

If you are caught possessing heroin, you could be arrested, spend time in jail, be sentenced to prison, and face legal and financial consequences.

Heroin is classified by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule I drug. This classification means that the administration identifies the drug as having no medicinal value but a high potential for abuse. Any scheduled drug is a controlled substance, which means that if you are caught illegally possessing, using or distributing the drug, there will be consequences.

Article at a Glance

  • Possessing heroin is a serious matter
  • Heroin is a Schedule I drug, meaning it has no medical value
  • It’s always illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess or use heroin
  • First-time offenders can spend decades behind bars for heroin-related offenses
  • Urine, blood, saliva and hair tests can detect heroin usage within varying time windows of detection
  • Hair tests can detect heroin the longest at up to 90 days after the last use

Crimes Associated with Heroin

Because heroin is an illegal drug, there are a number of serious laws that are broken in the process of manufacturing, distributing, and selling the drug. Unlike opioids or prescription opiates, which have similar effects, heroin has no medical use and is always manufactured illegally. If you are caught with the intent to manufacture, import, or export heroin, you could face a long prison sentence and large fines. Additionally, using drugs like heroin impairs one’s judgment and can lead to breaking other laws.

The Legality of Possessing Heroin

When it comes to heroin, the legality of possessing the drug is quite simple. Heroin is a Schedule I drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use and is always illegal to manufacture, distribute, possess or use. So, if you are caught possessing heroin, you will face legal consequences. However, the amount of fines and jail time will almost always depend on the amount of heroin possessed, previous criminal history and whether you are sentenced in a drug court.

Amount of Heroin Possessed

While heroin is always illegal to possess, the amount that you are caught with impacts the amount that you will have to pay in fines and the time that you will spend in jail or prison.

If you are caught trafficking heroin with the intent to distribute, manufacture or sell the drug, possessing less than 100 grams could result in up to $5 million in fines and up to 20 years in prison. Possessing between 100 grams and 999 grams could result in up to $25 million in fines and up to 40 years in prison. Getting caught trafficking a kilogram of heroin has a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and you could serve a life sentence.

Simple possession of heroin is also a serious matter. For example, in the state of Florida, possessing heroin is a third-degree felony that comes with up to $5,000 in fines and up to five years in prison. Laws related to heroin possession vary between states, so be sure to secure legal advice to learn your state’s laws and requirements.

Previous Criminal History

If you’re caught with heroin, whether you have a previous criminal history impacts the amount you will pay in fines and the number of years that you are sentenced. Depending on the state, laws may set out different sentencing and fine schedules based on a person’s criminal history. If you are sentenced in a federal court for possession of more than 100 grams of heroin and it is your first offense, you will serve between five and 40 years in jail. If it is your second offense, the minimum sentence will be 10 years and the fines are significantly higher. State laws greatly vary, so be sure to secure legal advice to learn your state’s laws and requirements.

Court Appointed Rehab

Court-ordered rehab is an option that a judge may recommend instead of, or in addition to, a jail or prison sentence. This type of treatment is part of the larger drug court system that some states and counties have in the United States which treat addiction and dependence as a treatable disease. If you are sentenced in a drug court, you may spend between 12 and 15 months in treatment as you recover at a rehabilitative center.

Getting Caught High on Heroin

Heroin can be detected through urine, blood, saliva and hair tests. Blood and saliva tests can detect the presence of heroin for up to two days after the last use. Urine tests can detect heroin use for up to two to seven days. A hair test, commonly used in the justice system, can detect heroin for up to 90 days after the last use.

If you are caught with heroin in your system, this still counts as illegal possession and you would be subject to the same laws that make illegally possessing heroin a felony. Heroin laws vary by states, so be sure to secure legal advice to learn your state’s laws and requirements.

If you or a loved one struggle with heroin addiction, The Recovery Village offers treatment options that can help. Contact a representative today to learn how personalized treatment plans address addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Begin your healthier future today by reaching out.

Bryan Hindin
By – Bryan Hindin
Bryan Hindin is a law clerk with years of experience working in personal injury, criminal defense, and employment law firms. Read more
Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more

Yeh, Brian T. “Drug Offenses: Maximum Fines and Term[…]and Related Laws.” Congressional Research Service, January 20, 2015. Accessed April 8, 2019.

FindLaw “Florida Heroin Laws.” Accessed April 18, 2019.

Illinois Wesleyan University. “Federal Drug Penalties.” Accessed April 18, 2019.

Findlaw. “Drug Possession Penalties and Sentencing.” Accessed April 18, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.