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What Is the Legal Difference Between Crack and Cocaine?

July 15, 2021
By The Wiseman Law Firm

Two Forms of the Same Drug with Different Legal Consequences

Although crack and cocaine are pharmacologically similar, they have some pretty major differences in terms of the form they are consumed in and the legal punishments that come along with them. The most basic difference between crack and cocaine is that cocaine comes in a powdered form, while crack comes in a rocklike form. This is because, according to the American Addiction Centers, cocaine is a hydrochloride salt in its powdered form, whereas crack cocaine is derived from powdered cocaine by combining it with water and another substance, usually baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

Although there are some differences in the way that crack and cocaine are consumed, there is no significant chemical difference between the two, and they cause similar physical reactions. Despite this being the case, the sentences that users and sellers of drugs face are quite different. For powder cocaine, the conviction of possession with intent to distribute can come with a sentence of up to twenty years and a fine of up to $1 million for quantities of 500 grams or more. With crack, the crime carries that same consequence for possession of 28 grams. As you can see, the law is a bit more lenient with the quantities when it comes to the powder form of this powerful drug.

How the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 Emphasized Prevention of Crack Abuse

Unfortunately, it is a common belief in the legal world that the differences in legal punishment between these two drugs have ties to racial disparity that go back to the 1980s campaign against crack cocaine. An example of the way this played out historically was the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. This was a law that was supposed to strengthen federal efforts to promote international drug law enforcement cooperation, to improve enforcement of U.S. drug laws and to enhance interdiction efforts, provide leadership in developing drug abuse prevention programs, and expand Federal support for drug treatment programs.

As a result of the program, many states enacted more severe penalties for crack offenses, with disparities in quantity between powder cocaine and crack ranging from 2-1 in California and 100-1 in Iowa and North Dakota. In 2010, the strictness of the laws lifted a bit, with the disparity between powder cocaine and crack moving from 100 to 1 to 18 to 1. Sadly, having this kind of charge on your record can be devastating. Individuals with drug offenses are barred from receiving public assistance and housing benefits, federal student aid, and even veteran benefits. Drug convictions also prevent people from getting steady jobs, voting in elections, and living in desirable housing. If you are facing a criminal drug charge, whether it is crack, cocaine, or another drug, you will want to work with a lawyer who is experienced in this area and knows how to present your case in a favorable light.

Keeping a Drug Charge off Your Record: the Best Plans of Action

At The Wiseman Law Firm, we bring over 20 years of experience in both high-profile drug cases and simple possession cases to the table. It is never in your best interest to answer the police’s questions yourself, so if you are facing potential drug charges, working with a team like ours will give you your best shot at reducing or wiping the charges. This will also help protect your future and keep this issue from bleeding into various parts of your life. When it comes to reducing or wiping a drug charge, there is a wide variety of ways we can frame your case, and the best plan of action will depend on the specific details of your situation. Some of the outcomes we might work towards include:

  • Second chance probation

With this outcome, the conviction never makes its way onto the offender’s record even after a plea of guilty and the case is dismissed once probation is complete. The case would be eligible for expungement five years from the end of the probationary period, so this gives the offender a chance to avoid any extreme long-term consequences of the charge. The probation period is typically at least two years in length and the offender cannot violate the law while on probation. They also cannot own firearms or dangerous weapons, and they might be required to pay restitution. Offenders are also typically required to submit at least three drug tests and perform 30 hours of community service during a probationary period. Eligible offenses for second chance probation include either class 3 or 4 felonies, such as unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

  • Drug court

The purpose of drug court is to help participants recover from use disorder with the goal of reducing future criminal activity. In Florida, drug courts are court-supervised and comprehensive drug treatment courts are reserved for eligible non-violent defendants. The voluntary program involves multiple appearances before the Drug Court judge or magistrate, substance abuse treatment, as well as frequent, random testing for substance abuse. Those who successfully complete drug court will be able to get the charges dropped, but it will not erase any previous charges or convictions the individual might have on their record.

  • Challenging the charge

Most drug cases are settled through a plea bargain, which is an arrangement between a prosecutor and a defendant in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence or an agreement to drop other charges. However, this does not necessarily have to be the route we take. There is the option of challenging the charges and taking the case to trial. There are many potential defenses we can present in drug charge cases, but it will take the insight of an experienced lawyer to advise you on whether the specifics of your case will allow for this.

  • Citing unfair treatment by law enforcement

According to the Fourth Amendment, the people have a right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This right limits the power of the police to seize and search people, their property, and their homes. The offender will have the best chances of taking this route if there was documentation of the incident. If you have an interaction with the police, it is advisable to write down what you remember, like the officers’ badge and patrol car numbers, what agency the officers were from, and any other details. It is also advisable to file a written complaint with the agency’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board. This information will help us in the case that we want to present the exclusionary rule. The principle-based on federal Constitutional Law is that evidence illegally seized by law enforcement officers in violation of a suspect’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures and cannot be used against the suspect in criminal prosecution. The circumstances under which a defense attorney can successfully use the exclusionary rule include:

    • The police pulled you over for no reason or due to an impermissible reason like racial profiling
    • The police searched your car without probable cause
    • The police searched your home without a warrant
    • A valid search conducted pursuant to a warrant exceeded the permissible scope of the search
    • The police listened to your phone calls or read your messages without a warrant

These are just a few of the ways in which the police could violate your rights, and if they did this, you might have a chance of getting your case dropped.

  • Claiming innocence

This is only a possibility for certain cases, but under the right circumstances, we can present innocence for your case. Potential defense for drug cases include:

    • Mistaken identity
    • A valid prescription for the drugs found by the police
    • The law did not prohibit the drugs in question
    • Lack of knowledge on your part of the drug in possession

No matter what kind of drug charge you might be facing, you will want an experienced criminal defense lawyer to help prevent the charges from impacting your future. Call The Wiseman Law Firm at 407-420-4647 or contact us online to get the support you need.

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