Heroin is a depressant substance that induces many pleasurable feelings. It’s one of the most commonly abused drugs. Along with many other substances, heroin falls into the Schedule I drug classification set forth by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). This affects its legal status and medicinal use regulations.
Many factors can affect the punishment given to an individual who is caught with heroin. Below we’ll discuss the different outcomes that can happen if you’re found with heroin.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is derived from the opium poppy plant. Along with other opioids, it produces a rush of euphoria and relaxation. In 2020, close to one million people used heroin. It slows down many normal body functions, such as heart rate, blood flow, and motor skills.
People under the influence of heroin may appear to be in and out of consciousness, unable to pay attention for long periods of time. It’s typically injected, but can also be smoked or snorted. Its effects last anywhere from one to three hours.
What Is Heroin’s Legal Status?
Because of the high probability of addiction, heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. This means it’s federally illegal to sell, distribute, use, and possess heroin. It also means no medicinal use is allowed.
Other drugs that fall into the Schedule I classification are:
- lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
Factors That Affect Heroin Possession Sentencing
When someone gets caught with heroin, a number of things can happen. There are many factors that affect sentencing. Some of these factors are:
- the amount of heroin seized
- if paraphernalia is found
- prior arrest record
- state and county of arrest (heroin is illegal in every state, but sentencing lengths vary state to state)
- if being charged federally
- if other crimes have been committed
What Are Some of the Penalties for Heroin Possession?
Because heroin is illegal federally and at all state levels, there will usually be legal consequences when you are caught with it.
Federal drug laws mandate that for a first offense drug arrest with heroin of 100 to 999 grams, no less than five years and no more than 40 years be sentenced. If there is serious death or injury involved, no less than 20 years. Fines between $1 and $5 million can be expected.
If caught a second time with the same amount, no less than 10 years and no more than life will be charged. If there is serious injury or death, then it constitutes life imprisonment. Fines can fall anywhere between $4 to $10 million.
For amounts of one kilogram or more, a first-time offense can harbor no less than 10 years and no more than life in jail. If there is a death or serious injury then no less than 20 years and no more than life can be sentenced. Fines can fall anywhere between $4 and $10 million.
A second-time offender with the same amount may expect no less than 20 years and no more than life. When there is death or serious injury, life imprisonment can occur. Fines of $8 to $20 million can be expected. Life imprisonment can occur when caught two or more times with a kilogram of heroin.
These penalties occur when drug possession is being charged federally. However, if charged by the state, sentences and fines can vary.
For example, in states where drug rehabilitation is favored over sentencing, for a first-time offender with a personal amount of the drug, one may only receive probation, mandatory completion of a drug treatment program, or several hours of community service. Other states that are stricter on drug offenses may give longer sentences and higher fines.