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How does the Controlled Substances Act affect drug charges?

Over the decades, the U.S. Congress has established a wide array of crimes involving drugs. Whether they come from the production, distribution or consumption of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, opiates or other controlled substances, drug charges have serious consequences for anyone who is convicted. Frequently, however, penalties are lesser when smaller amounts of these substances are involved, but laws that regulate these controlled substances in the United States still apply.

What does U.S. law say about possession? According to Title 21 of the United States Controlled Substances Act, a person who deliberately possesses a controlled substance for personal use can face civil fines of $10,000 for each violation. This means that a small amount of a controlled substance in someone's possession makes them liable for violating the Controlled Substances Act.

Is there a way to get such charges dropped or lowered? Yes, there is always due process for civil penalties. For one, the U.S. Attorney General is the party responsible for assessing civil penalties. A penalty can only be assessed if an individual is notified in writing about the right to a hearing and fails to respond about the hearing as indicated in the order. That hearing will only happen if the defendant requests it before a 30-day expiration period. The Attorney General can also compromise, remit or modify the civil penalty with or without conditions. If a defendant is subject to a civil penalty for possession of small amounts of controlled substance but does not undergo proper judicial proceedings, then that person can contest the allegations.

In addition, previous convictions for any offense related to controlled substances can affect an individual's case. The civil penalty cannot be assessed if the defendant was convicted for drug charges because it could negatively affect the outcome of an individual's case.

Source:, "Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act," Accessed on Dec. 18, 2014

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