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Did you know that one in five incarcerated people are locked up for a drug offense?

With statistics like this, it’s clear that the “war on drugs” is still very much alive. It also shows that getting caught in any type of drug charge can bring some very serious consequences.

However, not all drugs are treated the same. Penalties vary widely depending on what you have and what the law believes you intended to do with it. Here’s what you need to know about the various types of drug charges.

Drug Charges and Penalties

The 2 Most Common Types of Drug Charges

The most common types of drug charges are paraphernalia and possession. Depending on the type and quantity of the drug you’re dealing with, penalties can vary from a slap on the wrist to serious jail time.


According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, paraphernalia is: “any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”

This includes, but isn’t limited to, things like:

  • Pipes, bongs, rolling papers
  • Syringes
  • Cut straws, burnt spoons
  • Baggies
  • Scales, grinders

You can be charged with possession, distribution/sale, or display of drug paraphernalia. These charges are all misdemeanors unless it’s your third offense.

In Louisiana, the penalty for your first offense is a $300 fine, 0 to 15 days in jail, or both. For the second offense, penalties get stiffer with jail time that can reach up to six months. If you’re caught a third time, you could be looking at up to two years behind bars.


Drug possession is another common charge. The laws regarding this type of drug charge vary from state to state and depends, in part, on the kind of drug you have. For example, being caught with a bag of heroin is typically much worse than having a small bud of marijuana.

It’s also possible to end up with a possession charge even if you don’t actually have drugs on you. “Actual possession of drugs” is the charge you’ll face if the police found the drugs on your person. However, you can also be charged with “constructive possession of drugs” when law enforcement believes you had knowledge of their presence.

An example of this would be when a group of people are in a vehicle and drugs are found in the glove compartment. This could also occur if you were at a friend’s home when police raided it and found drugs.

Those caught with drugs on them may also be charged with either simple possession or possession with intent to distribute. The second is a far more serious charge.

In Louisiana, the first offense for simple possession typically comes with penalties ranging from a fine of $5,000 to as much as $600,000 and/or prison time ranging from four to 30 years.

Considering these very serious penalties, anyone facing a drug possession charge in Louisiana will want to hire the best drug defense attorney to plead their case.

3 Very Serious Drug Charges

Those who are caught with large amounts of drugs on them or who are actually making drugs face much more serious charges. These include distribution/sale, trafficking, and manufacturing/delivery.


If the courts determine that you intended to sell or distribute the drugs in your possession, you’ll find yourself facing felony charges. To charge someone with distribution/sale the authorities must prove that (1) they were in possession of illegal drugs, and (2) they intended to sell them.

The first is fairly easy. Most people are caught with drugs on their person or in a place that they control, like their home or their vehicle.

Intent to sell often comes from either actually attempting to sell the drugs to an undercover officer or having paraphernalia in your possession that is commonly used to distribute and sell. This could include baggies and scales. Other circumstantial evidence, like having a large amount of cash on you and frequenting known drug houses, may also be used to prove the case.

The penalties for this charge vary greatly but typically involve thousands of dollars and years in prison.


Trafficking is very similar to distribution/sale but it’s on a larger scale. People arrested for trafficking are often running large operations, smuggling drugs from other countries, or transporting them across state lines.

If you’re arrested for trafficking, you could face both state and federal charges, depending on whether you brought the drugs across any state lines or international borders. Drug trafficking charges usually result in steep fines and prison time ranging from three years to a life sentence.

Federal courts are even harsher when it comes to convictions. Your penalties will also increase significantly if it’s not your first offense or if you had a firearm on you when the bust occurred.


The final type of drug charge is manufacturing or delivery. This can involve any stage of the process involved in creating an illegal drug and/or delivering the product to others. This offense is also punishable on both the state and federal levels and brings major fines and prison time.

Need Drug Charge Defense? We Can Help!

Are you or someone you know facing criminal prosecution for a drug charge? While understanding the types of drug charges and the penalties that come with them is a start, what you really need now is a good defense attorney.

We’re happy to review the details of your case and let you know what we can do to help. Burying your head in the sand isn’t an option, so contact us today to schedule your consultation.


Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

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Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, Monroe, Lake Charles and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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