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Legal Ramifications of Steroid Abuse

What are steroids?

Steroids are any type of synthetically produced variants of the naturally occurring male hormone testosterone.

What specific substances are classified as steroids and therefore illegal?
It is illegal to possess, without a prescription, an anabolic steroid or any substance that is chemically or pharmacologically related to testosterone and promotes muscle growth.

Are steroids considered illegal in every state?
Yes.  The Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 became law on November 29, 1990, when former President Bush signed the Omnibus Crime Control Bill.  The law applies in every Federal court across the country.  It places steroids in the same legal class –schedule III- as barbiturates, LSD precursors, and veterinary tranquilizers like Ketamine and narcotic painkillers such as Vicodin. 

Does it matter how much you are caught with?
Yes.  In both state and federal courts, punishment is driven by quantity.  In Texas, for example, possession over 400 grams has a possible range of imprisonment of 5 to life.  The amounts are counted in units with one pill, capsule, or tablet equaling 1 unit while 0.5 grams of liquid is also equaling 1 unit.

Are steroids classified the same as illegal drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, pot, etc.?
All illegal drugs are classed according to legislation, but steroids are prosecuted just like “harder” drugs and can carry very serious punishments. 

Are federal laws different from state laws?
Punishments vary in severity on a state to state basis, for example, in Connecticut it’s considered a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail unless near a school, could be additional imprisonment.

In Arizona however, it’s a felony charge but under a new law some offenders if eligible can get probation with drug treatment instead of prison time.

Louisiana carries a possible prison term with hard labor for a first offense personal possession charge.

In Florida and Georgia, the simple possession of any amount is a felony with a sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment.

In Colorado, using steroids is a misdemeanor but possession is a felony.

In Alabama it is a felony charge carrying a prison term of up to 10 years.

Will I be charged in state or federal court?
In most states, both state and federal laws prohibit anabolic steroids, and a person can be prosecuted under either.  In which court the case is brought usually would depend on the agency that made the arrest, and how serious the charge is.  If a person is arrested by local police for simple possession (as in a car stop), you are more likely to be charged in state court.  If your arrest is made out of an investigation by federal authorities (such as DEA or U.S. Postal Inspector) or you are stopped by U.S. customs at an international airport, you are more likely to be charged in both state and federal court for the same conduct.

What types of punishments are given for illegal possession of steroids on a federal level?

Simple possession of any schedule III substance is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000

2nd offense?
Mandatory imprisonment of a minimum of 15 days and a maximum of 2 years and a minimum fine of up to $2,500

3rd offense?
Mandatory 90 days to a maximum 3 years and a minimum fine of $5,000 for simple possession.

What about possession with intent to distribute?

Any case of trafficking (selling or possessing enough to be suspected of selling) is a federal felony punishable with not more than 5 years imprisonment with 2 years parole and a fine of $250,000 if this is the individuals first drug offense.

2nd offense?
Maximum 10 years imprisonment with a minimum 4 years parole and/or increased fines

Is there a different punishment for selling steroids to a minor?

Yes.  The statutory maximum may be doubled if the person distributes steroids to any person under the age of 21, or distributes or manufactures the drug in or near schools and colleges.

What if the person being charged was a minor?
Minors in illegal possession of steroids are adjudicated in juvenile courts.  If you get charged with possession or use of dangerous drugs as a juvenile, and are convicted, then the adult sanctions don't apply, but the juvenile court can send you to juvenile prison, place you on probation, make you pay a fine, do community service work and attend treatment. Also, the law requires that your driver's license be suspended until you are 18, for ANY drug conviction. This even applies if you don't have a license yet - the suspension is of your privilege to drive.

What if the minor was charged with intent to distribute?
Intent to deliver is a more serious offense and has a higher potential range of punishment.

Do punishments vary according to specific steroids or are they all considered to be in the same class?

For criminal prosecution purposes, all steroids are in the same penalty group.

What is getting caught with steroids classified as? (felony, misdemeanor, etc.) 
Due to the weight typically found in a bottle of steroids, most cases are felonies.

Would it be something that would go to trial?
Just like any other case, if a criminal prosecution cannot be settled, or, if there are issues as to intent to possess or intent to deliver or other viable defense, yes, these cases can go to trial.

How long could the trial generally take?
A trial on a simple possession case can last as little as 2-3 days.  A complex conspiracy case can last weeks or months.

What would the average range of cost be to defend myself?
Legal fees vary and depend on the experience and quality of the lawyer.  The most likely minimum fee for a good criminal defense lawyer would be several thousand dollars and could be much more depending on seriousness and complexity of the case.

Is probation a possibility in lieu of jail term or fines?
Probation is an option in most minor possession cases.

Does this ever come off my record or will it be there forever?

Criminal convictions stay on an individual’s criminal record for life.

What rights do I lose after getting caught with steroids while on probation?

You can lose many important rights like the right to vote and bear arms.

Are there any long term effects on my rights if I get caught with steroids? For example:  Can I carry a weapon or could it affect me getting a job in the future? 

All criminal convictions have an impact on future employment.  A felony conviction prevents a person from ever owning or possessing a firearm.

What are the penalties for manufacturing illegal steroids?

Penalties for illegal manufacturing of steroids are significant and can be as high as life in prison.

Is it illegal to be in possession of syringes?

No, but it could be seen, in conjunction with other evidence, as indication of intent to possess the illegal drug.

What laws are in place regarding testing for steroids? 

Laws regarding testing vary from state to state, but many states now have mandated drug testing programs as a condition of participation on their athletic programs.

Is a doctor, coach, or any other individual obligated to report a person to authorities if they test someone positive for illegal steroids?

Again this varies from state to state, but in most cases doctors do not have to report positive test results for any drug.  Coaches may have some duties to report to parents and local school district.

Can law enforcement monitor your online activity if they suspect you of buying or selling steroids?
Yes, and they often do conduct on-line stings on purchasers of illegal steroids.

Can I get into trouble if I buy from an online steroid supplier and their company gets caught?  (What happens if I am in their system or on their mailing list?)

Again the answer is yes, depending on the facts.  Although the government would be most interested in prosecuting the company, they could also prosecute the purchaser.

If my son who is a minor, ordered steroids over the internet and customs seized them what kind of punishment could he face?

There is no distinction between this scenario and buying them from somebody on the street.  It is the intent to purchase the illegal drug that triggers criminal liability.

Could I as a parent face any charges?

If a parent had knowledge of their child’s illegal activity, then they too could be considered a party to the offense or subject to allegations of child abuse.

Could my house get searched if law enforcement suspects me of having steroids or selling them? 
Yes.  If the government has probable cause to believe there are illegal steroids in your home, they can get a search warrant to search the house.

What can happen if I get caught with steroids at school?
The legal punishments regarding the possession of illegal drugs are no different if you are caught on or off campus.

In addition to the legal ramifications, the school will take additional measures of punishment. These vary from school to school but most include automatic expulsions and/or placement in an alternative school setting.

If you are participating in extracurricular activities such as football or other sports, you will almost always be removed from the program. This removal can range from a handful of games to a permanent ban.

If I get caught with steroids at school, can I be arrested?
Yes.  School officials are required to report the offense to the proper legal authority. From there, the legal system takes over with the prosecution in addition to whatever punishments the school hands down.
What impact can this have on my participation in sports or other extracurricular activities?
As stated above, getting caught with steroids can greatly jeopardize any extracurricular participation. Many schools require those participating in such activities to sign a code of conduct strictly related to extracurricular programs. Because involvement in these programs is considered a privilege and not required as part of the school’s curriculum, the school has a variety of restrictions that can be placed on the students.  Most punishments are based on the number of offenses without regard to the amount of the banned substance possessed. Also, most allow for punishment regardless of the location of the offense, whether on or off campus.

Can I be suspended from school if I get caught with steroids?
In many schools, the possession of an illegal drug carries an automatic suspension. Each school and governing body sets their own code of conduct and punishments. Sometimes, however, state law requires districts to automatically suspend the student for particular offenses. In addition, students can be placed in an alternative, off-campus facility for long periods of time.

Can my child be arrested or charged if they test positive for steroids during a state-mandated drug test?

The introduction of statewide drug testing is in its infancy. It is not certain how they will handle the notification of positive drug tests. Some schools, however, are currently testing students involved in extracurricular activities. In those cases, the student receives punishments related to their extracurricular participation (see above) but law enforcement officials are not notified.
These schools see the positive tests as a way to identify those students in need of assistance in dealing with alcohol and drug issues. Counseling is usually available to assist those students who test positive.