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Federal Drug Crimes

Knoxville Federal Drug Crime Defense Lawyers

A Strong Defense Is Needed Against Federal Drug Crimes

The Controlled Substances Act, enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1970 and updated annually, regulates controlled substances and classifies them into five categories (Schedules I-V). Schedules are determined according to a drug’s potential for abuse, its ability to create dependency, and whether or not it has any medical value.

Controlled substances identified as Schedule I have no accepted medical value and have the highest potential for dependency and abuse, whereas Schedule V drugs are recognized as having medical value (under specific situations) and have low potentials for dependency or abuse. Below is an abbreviated list of controlled substances and the Schedules in which they fall:






  • Heroin
  • Ecstasy
  • LSD
  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Methadone
  • Methamphetamine
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Codeine
  • Vicodine
  • Ambien
  • Darvocet
  • Valium
  • Xanax
  • Cough medicines with less than 200 milligrams of codine per 100 grams

A complete list of Schedule I-V controlled substances can be found here.

Drugs listed as Schedule I typically have the most severe penalties while Schedule V drugs have the least, although the ultimate punishment depends on the totality of the federal charges and factors such as a defendant’s criminal history.


21 U.S.C. § 841(a) states: Except as authorized by this subchapter, it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally–

  1. to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance; or
  2. to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.

Drug charges at the federal level take into account different factors, which can all impact the nature and length of the sentence received by a defendant. Additionally, some federal statutes require minimum mandatory sentences. The following are common factors which sentencing judges may take into account to determine the sentence of imprisonment for federal drug charges:

  1. a defendant’s criminal history (Federal Sentencing Guidelines can impose harsh ranges of penalties for those who have prior felony convictions);
  2. the amount and type of drugs involved;
  3. the existence of a firearm during the crime; and
  4. whether injury occurred as a result of the alleged transaction.

Some of the crimes that fall under the Controlled Substances Act and/or relevant State laws include the following:

  • Drug trafficking: manufacturing, distributing or possessing with the intent to distribute illicit drugs
  • Manufacturing: operating places for the purposes of manufacturing, distributing or using illicit drugs (additional charges for endangering human or child endangerment may be sought)
  • Continuing criminal enterprise crimes: trafficking in illicit drugs by a person in concert with five or more other persons
  • Conspiracy: involves attempts and the promoting and facilitating of manufacture, distribution or importation of illicit drugs
  • Protected location offenses: distributing illicit drugs to persons under age 21 or within a school or playground zone (penalties may be ; employing persons under age 18 in drug operations
  • Simple possession: possessing controlled substances without a valid prescription from a licensed medical practitioner (unlike trafficking, simple possession does not involve intent to distribute the drugs)
  • Prescription fraud and forgery:
  • Investing illicit drug profits in businesses affecting interstate commerce and unauthorized importation of controlled substances.
  • Violations of tax law, such as tax evasion
  • Engaging in activities prohibited by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).


Some of the most severe punishments in the federal criminal system are found in violations of federal drug laws with multiple obstacles for the accused. Federal drug charges may negatively affect your finances, family, employment, and freedom. Convictions may require probation, imprisonment, monetary fines, property forfeiture, and/or mandatory participation in court-ordered drug treatment programs, depending on one’s individual charges and circumstances including possible prosecution in both state and federal court. Post-convictions can dramatically limit your employment opportunities, terminate your right to own firearms, revoke voting or driving privileges, and affect your custody and/or visitation with your children.


  • The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution protects against unreasonable search and seizures
  • The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution protects individual’s rights against self-incrimination if evidence or statements were unlawfully obtained. If this evidence is determined to be illegally obtained, the prosecution may not be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt based on circumstantial evidence and the case may possibly be dismissed.
    • The Right to Remain Silent means that no one can force a defendant to speak or testify if the defendant reasonably believes that his/her testimony will contribute to his/her conviction of a crime.
    • Search Warrants forbid the search or seizure of private property unless the proper authorities have obtained a warrant through “probable cause,” unless one of the well-defined exceptions is present.
    • No Excessive, Cruel or Unusual Fines or Punishments prevents excessive bail, fines, or “cruel and unusual” punishments to be imposed on defendants


Federal drug charges are not to be taken lightly. An experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you with all matters surrounding your arrest, investigation, and trial. We strongly urge you to obtain legal counsel as soon as possible in order to ensure that you receive a fair, legal process for the following considerations:

  • Accurately assessing the severity and proper charges for an alleged drug crime involves complex procedures and guidelines that are difficult for those not experienced or educated in the law to navigate. Incorrect calculations can lead to unreasonable charges and excessive consequences.
  • Sometimes mistakes are made during investigations and innocent people are accused.
  • Criminal defense attorneys help to balance the power between the defendant and the prosecution by making sure that the rights of the accused are protected.
  • Criminal defense attorneys can help you to fully understand all of the possible consequences you are facing.
  • A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can provide you with the best chance to minimize your charges and obtain the most favorable outcome possible.

The greatest advantage you have when facing federal drug charges is an attorney who systematically knows the law and will be able to guide you in the right direction, diligently concentrate on protecting your rights and the facts surrounding your case, and always act in your best interest.

Norman D. McKellar is such an attorney. He represents the accused nationwide and is a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. For a  free consultation, please call today at 865-566-0125.

Contact Our Firm

If you’re facing federal drug charges, you need a lawyer who is well-versed in federal law and has the integrity to handle your case effectively.

To get started with your free initial telephone consultation, call 865-566-0125 or send us an email. Appointments are available and we accept credit cards.

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