Drug Offenses Law & Legal Definition


A drug offense refers to the possession, use, sale or furnishing of any drug or intoxicating substance or drug paraphernalia, that is prohibited by law. Most drug offenses are felonies. The most common defense raised is to challenge the search and seizure that resulted in the police finding the drugs. If the police violated the defendant’s 4th amendment rights, then the court will suppress, or throw out, the drugs.

The penalties for drug crimes can be very severe. The charges are based upon quantity, intent to sell or distribute and other factors such as weapons possession or use, evidence of sales activity, having large amounts of money, etc. The seriousness and ultimate punishment for drug crimes normally depends upon the quantity of the drug, the classification under the drug schedule, and the purpose of the possession (for personal use or for sale). Drug courts and similar concepts are a new approach to resolving drug arrests in a manner that helps the person who was arrested to get help for any substance abuse problem they may have, as well as get assistance with job training, employment education and parenting skills. Usually such alternative options in sentencing are only available to non-violent first offenders or less serious violations. Drug laws exist at the federal and state levels and vary by state, so please consult local law for requirements applicable to your area.

The following is an example of an Arizona statute dealing with maintaining a drug premises:

It is unlawful to knowingly keep or maintain any store, shop, warehouse, dwelling, building, or other structure, place or premises, which is used by persons to obtain, use, or keep any controlled substances under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Penalties depend upon the location of the premises: (A.C.A. § 5-64-402 (a)(3) and (b)) l Maintaining premises within 1,000 feet of the real property of a Drug Free Zone is a Class B felony. l Maintaining premises outside 1,000 feet of the real property of a Drug Free Zone is a Class D felony.

The following is an example of a Federal law defining drug offence:

Drug offense means :

(1) The possession, distribution, manufacture, cultivation, sale, transfer, or the attempt or conspiracy to possess, distribute, manufacture, cultivate, sell, or transfer any substance the possession of which is prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act, or

(2) The operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of such a substance. [23 CFR 192.3; Title 23-Highways; Chapter I-Federal Highway Administration, Department Of Transportation; Subchapter B-Payment Procedures; Part 192-Drug Offender's Driver's License Suspension]