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Drug enforcement schedules and how they impact charges

When hearing about a criminal case involving drugs, it is common to hear terms like “Schedule 1” or “Schedule 2.” These schedules indicate the seriousness of an alleged crime and its associated consequences, mainly on the federal level but also in state cases brought by states like North Carolina. But, how does this actually work in practice, and how can it impact a legal case involving drugs?

“Schedules” are categories put in place by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They are very important in federal drug cases, determining what penalties can be handed down to an offender. Here are some of the schedules in place:

  • Schedule 1 — These are taken the most seriously in criminal law, as they are often abused and have limited medical uses. Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, ecstasy and LSD. Despite being legal in many states, marijuana is still considered a schedule 1 drug as well.
  • Schedule 2 — These are drugs approved for medical use that are often abused despite being “legal” for these purposes. Schedule 2 drugs include cocaine, methamphetamine, and stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin.
  • Schedule 3 — These are substances with a lower-risk level than schedule 2 drugs but still some possibility of abuse. This schedule includes drugs like steroids and ketamine.

These are the three schedules most often seen in federal drug cases. Schedule 4 and 5 drugs are also categories for drugs with lower risk, such as Xanax (Schedule 3) and Lyrica (Schedule 4). It is important that anyone accused of a drug crime in North Carolina find a defense lawyer who understands systems like the drug scheduling system, as this is critical in understanding the situation and preparing a defense.

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