Drug-related charges are one of the biggest reasons people are arrested in the United States. In fact, nearly 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug abuse violations in 2015. It’s important to know what the law says and what your rights are in the event of an arrest.
Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, creating five schedules for drugs: I, II, III, IV and V. Drugs are categorized based on accepted medical use and the potential for abuse and dependency. For example, heroin is Schedule I, Adderall is Schedule II and some cough medicines are Schedule V.
Schedule I drugs are illegal for all uses; all others are legal to possess with a doctor’s prescription. Alcohol and tobacco are not classified as controlled substances, but marijuana, which has been legalized in some states, maintains its Schedule I drug classification and remains illegal under federal law. Some advocates are working to change marijuana’s status as a controlled substance.
Drug Possession Laws
The laws and penalties for drug possession vary by state, and several states are part of an initiative to revise current drug laws. Federal penalties for possessing controlled substances cover all 50 states. If you’re convicted under a federal law, there is a possibility of jail time, even for a first offense.
If you are arrested for drug possession, remember that legal rights always apply. Police must comply with the laws regarding searches and must read your Miranda rights before they begin questioning you. And you have the right to remain silent and to request to speak with an attorney before answering any questions.