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Punishment for Bringing Drugs to School

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 14, 2016 11:06 AM

Obviously, possessing illegal drugs anywhere can get you into trouble. But all states and even the federal government have increased penalties for possession in so-called drug-free zones like schools.

So when do these laws apply, what do they look like, and what are the possible penalties for bringing drugs to school?

Federal Drug Laws

As part of the War on Drugs, Congress has passed several laws increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for possessing drugs on or near schools. For example, 21 U.S.C. 860 doubles the maximum punishment for "possessing with intent to distribute...a controlled substance in or on, or within one thousand feet of, the real property comprising a public or private elementary, vocational, or secondary school or a public or private college, junior college, or university."

The minimum you could face under the federal law is one year in prison, and second offenders could face at least three years behind bars.

State Drug Laws

On top of the federal statutes, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of drug-free school zone law. These drug laws can vary depending on the jurisdiction, having different definitions for the areas and offenses that are covered and when penalty enhancements apply. Some state drug laws even regulate which defenses are available to defendants charged with drug possession in a school.

For example, South Carolina's drug possession laws set the drug-free zone at 2,600 feet from the school, which is almost half a mile away. Meanwhile, Massachusetts begins its drug-free zone just 300 feet from campus. Colorado makes drug possession in a school a distinct offense, but Arizona only adds enhanced penalties to regular drug possession.

The exact punishment for bringing drugs to school will vary depending on where you live and the amount and type of drug involved. If you've been charged with a drug offense, you should contact an experienced drug crime attorney today.

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