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When Does A Local Drug Offense In Illinois Become A Federal Charge?

When it comes to certain drug offenses, there are two levels of criminal law that you might have to deal with. Both Illinois and the federal government prohibit the production, distribution and sale of certain controlled substances like heroin, meth and cocaine. Trafficking certain prescription drugs can also lead to criminal charges at either the state or federal level. There is often overlap in investigations. Local or state police may alert federal authorities, or federal investigators may learn about an arrest in the media and launch their own probe.

Charges in state or federal court can both lead to serious penalties. But federal drug charges tend to be more serious and involve a lengthy prison sentence if you are convicted. It’s important to know when you could be facing federal-level charges and when your case will more likely stay in circuit court.

Criminal Conspiracy

One thing that gets the attention of the DEA and federal prosecutors is the possibility of leveling conspiracy charges. Under federal law, a criminal conspiracy occurs when two or more people agree to commit a crime and at least one of the people involved takes a concrete step toward completing the scheme. In other words, you do not have to actually complete a drug transaction to be caught up in federal conspiracy charges.

It is possible to face serious charges upon allegations of a very indirect or minor role in a scheme, or simply have been part of a conversation about trafficking drugs. But you could still face the same conspiracy charge as the ringleaders. The consequences of a conviction include up to 20 years in prison for each count of conspiracy.


Another federal statute that prosecutors often apply to drug cases is the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act. This law theoretically targets individuals allegedly involved in organized crime. You may face charges of a RICO violation and the underlying crime over the same evidence. This combination makes the punishment you face potentially even more severe. Many such cases start when someone calls or receives a call on a number that federa agents have under a warrant for a wiretap.

Crossing State Lines

When criminal activity crosses state lines, federal jurisdiction can apply under the Commerce Clause in the Constitution. This often arises in drug cases, for example when you are accused of transporting drugs from another state.

Amount Of Drugs Seized

Federal criminal charges don’t usually result from relatively small amounts of drugs. Larger amounts by weight can lead to federal charges with mandatory minimum prison sentences. For example, a conviction for trafficking 10-99 grams of fentanyl mixture carries a prison term of five to 40 years.

The Criminal Defense Law Firm You Can Rely On In Illinois Courts And Federal Court

Because you could face either state or federal drug charges, you need a defense attorney who is experienced in both. Attorney Jessica J. Koester of The Law Office of Jessica Koester, LLC, has defended clients in federal and state courthouses in Illinois for more than 20 years. She works tenaciously at every stage, from discovery and pre-trial motions to plea bargaining and trial, to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and defend your rights. Jessica Koester personally prepares every detail of her client’s defense and has a proven record of dismissals and not-guilty pleas. She always answers her phone, including evenings and weekends.

Contact The Drug Crime Defense Attorney You Need

If you have been arrested on drug charges or are under investigation, contact The Law Office of Jessica Koester, LLC, as soon as possible for a consultation. The firm represents clients in Edwardsville, Belleville and Marine. Call 618-307-4192.