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Avoid drug charge tears by being aware of justice tiers

If you are arrested for drug possession in Michigan, chances are the police officer represents a local jurisdiction. Depending on the circumstances of the encounter, however, drug charges eventually brought could expand beyond just possession. They could also come at you from more than one level. Protecting your legal rights may require a strategy that involves defending against the full array of possible actions.

It's good to keep in mind that there are federal drug laws and there are state drug laws. Authorities at each level have jurisdictional right to prosecute so it's possible for a person to be charged at the state level, federal level, or both. The sooner a defendant has legal representation, the more chance there is of influencing which system eventually handles the case. 

The new AG in town

Such attention to detail might not seem that big of a deal on the face of things. However, skilled attorneys know that it can make a significant difference in the event of a conviction. That's because sentencing guidelines can vary tier to tier and state sentencing rules tend to be less severe than the federal rules.

Differences in sentencing were perhaps not as stark during the Obama administration. Attorney General Eric Holder encouraged policies during those years aimed at reducing the number of individuals in prison for non-violent drug offenses. U.S. attorneys had more discretion deciding what cases to pursue and they tended to put focus on the most serious crimes.

With the arrival of Donald Trump and his appointment of noted drug warrior Jeff Sessions as attorney general, the philosophy on drug crime prosecutions is taking a turn. Sessions recently issued a memo to the regional U.S. attorney offices telling them to step up action on "the most serious offenses." And he made clear he means those drug crimes that carry the longest mandatory minimum prison sentences.

How this will translate on the frontline is difficult to know for sure, but what is clear is that it is going to be important for charged individuals to be aware of the implications of the tiered system. 

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