The federal government doesn’t go easy on people accused of manufacturing drugs. You need skilled defense on your side. Contact the Helfend Law Group today at 800-834-6434.

Drug manufacturing laws in the United States are a patchwork. While we know it’s obviously illegal to manufacture drugs, it might come as a surprise what can fall under the umbrella of “manufacturing controlled substances.”

In states like Texas and Nevada, doing something as simple as packaging or labeling a drug can sometimes be enough to catch drug manufacturing charges. Here in California, individuals can be charged for playing any part in the manufacturing process, including creating chemical precursors that can be used to make drugs.

Manufacturing a controlled substance is also illegal under federal law, which we’ll focus on in this guide.

Federal law drug laws are serious. A conviction carries a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison, and sentences can range as high as 40 years depending on the type and quantity of substance.

This means that if you or someone you know has been charged with the manufacture of controlled substances, the stakes are high. It’s important to speak with a skilled federal drug crimes attorney as soon as possible to begin building your defense.

Based in Los Angeles, drug crimes criminal defense attorney Robert M. Helfend has fought for the rights of the accused since 1984. Call today for a free case evaluation – 800-834-6434.

When does manufacturing a controlled substance become a federal crime?

Manufacturing a controlled substance is illegal in California under Health and Safety Code 11379.6. It defines the crime as anyone who “manufactures, compounds, converts, produces, derives, processes, or prepares, either directly or indirectly by chemical extraction or independently by means of chemical synthesis, any controlled substance.”

As we mentioned above, this means that you don’t need to be involved in the start-to-finish production of a controlled substance. You simply needed to knowingly contributed to creating an illegal product.

A violation of California Health and Safety Code 11379.6 is punishable by up to seven years in California state prison and fines of up to $50,000.

But when does the federal government investigate and prosecute controlled substance manufacturing cases? It can happen under a number of different scenarios:

  1. Scale and Quantity – Large-scale manufacturing operations or handling substantial quantities of controlled substances often attract federal attention. Federal agencies might step in when the operation exceeds certain thresholds of quantity.
  2. Location – If the manufacturing occurs on federal property or crosses state lines, it inherently becomes a federal matter. Federal jurisdiction is also invoked if the activity is conducted near protected areas, such as schools or playgrounds, as defined by federal drug-free zone laws.
  3. Nature of the Substance – The federal government categorizes controlled substances into schedules based on their medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability. Manufacturing substances classified under Schedules I and II, which include drugs like heroin, LSD, methamphetamine, and fentanyl, is more likely to be prosecuted federally, especially if the operation is large or linked to organized crime.
  4. Interstate or International Elements – Manufacturing operations that use interstate communication facilities like the internet or mail can trigger federal jurisdiction. This is especially relevant for operations that involve importing precursor chemicals or distributing the final product across state or national boundaries.
  5. Use of Weapons or Violence – The federal government may also take over cases that involve violence, the use of firearms or other criminal activities associated with the drug manufacturing operation. The presence of firearms can lead to additional federal charges under statutes that prohibit drug traffickers from carrying firearms.

Federal manufacturing controlled substances law – 21 USC § 841

Manufacturing a controlled substance is defined under Title 21 of the United States Code (USC). Specifically, 21 USC § 841 outlines the unlawful acts regarding the creation of illegal drugs, stating that it is illegal to manufacture, distribute or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled substance.

The law covers a range of activities, including:

  • Producing or creating an illegal drug
  • Preparing illegal drugs using chemical processes
  • Packaging and labeling of the drugs

This offense can involve various substances, often categorized into different schedules based on their potential for abuse, with Schedule I substances being considered the most dangerous and having no accepted medical use.

Federal drug schedules

Controlled substances are classified into five schedules under the federal Controlled Substances Act, based on their potential for abuse, their accepted medical use, and their accepted safety under medical supervision:

  • Schedule I – Drugs with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use (e.g., heroin, LSD, ecstasy).
  • Schedule II – Drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence, but having some accepted medical uses (e.g., cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl).
  • Schedule III – Drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence (e.g., ketamine, anabolic steroids).
  • Schedule IV – Drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence (e.g., Xanax, Valium).
  • Schedule V – Drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and contain limited quantities of certain narcotics (e.g., cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine per 100 milliliters).

Penalties for Manufacturing a Controlled Substance

The penalties for manufacturing a controlled substance can be severe and vary depending on the type and quantity of the drug produced, the location of the manufacturing, and whether any prior offenses are on the individual’s record.

As we mentioned above, a federal conviction for manufacturing controlled substances carries a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison. However, if you are found with any of the following illegal substances exceeding the given quantities, penalties can range as high as 40 years in prison and up to $5 million in fines.

However, if found guilty of manufacturing controlled substances in the following quantities listed below, you can be facing a maximum sentence of 40 years in federal prison, and a fine up to $5 million, as an individual, or up to $25 million, as a group or organization:

  • Cocaine – 500 grams
  • Cocaine base – 28 grams
  • Heroin – 100 grams
  • Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) – 1 gram
  • Methamphetamine – 5 grams
  • Marijuana – 100 kilograms or more, or 100 plants
  • Phencyclidine (PCP) – 10 grams

Defenses against manufacturing a controlled substance charges

Defending against charges of manufacturing a controlled substance requires a nuanced and robust legal strategy. Possible defenses may include:

  • Lack of intent – Proving the defendant did not intend to manufacture a controlled substance.
  • Insufficient evidence – Challenging the prosecution’s evidence as inadequate to prove every element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.
  • Unlawful search and seizure – Arguing that the evidence was obtained through a violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights.
  • Entrapment – Demonstrating that the defendant was induced by law enforcement agents to commit the crime that they otherwise would not have committed.

These are obviously just examples, and your attorney will work with you to build a defense specific to your case.

Facing federal charges for manufacturing a controlled substance is a serious situation that demands a sophisticated legal defense. If you or someone you know is accused of this crime, it is imperative to seek experienced legal counsel immediately. A skilled attorney can provide a comprehensive defense strategy tailored to the specifics of the case, ensuring that your rights are protected throughout the legal process.

For personalized legal advice and representation, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney who specializes in federal drug offenses. Their expertise can be pivotal in navigating the complexities of the law, potentially mitigating the severe consequences associated with these charges. Robert M. Helfend has defended drug related crimes in federal court for more then 30 years, earning accolades from SuperLawyers, Lead Counsel and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100.

Call today for your free case review – 800-834-6434.

Published March 1, 2024.