Sale and Possession of Amphetamines: Criminal Penalties and Laws

Understand the stiff penalties associated with illegal possession or sale of amphetamines.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law

All 50 states and federal law make possession and sale of amphetamine without a valid prescription a crime. Penalties vary depending on whether a person is prosecuted under state or federal law.

This article will discuss illegal possession, sale, and distribution of amphetamines under federal law. For state-specific penalties, consult the state's controlled substance (drug) laws or talk to an attorney.

What Is Amphetamine?

Amphetamines are stimulants that typically come in pill or powder form. Common prescription names for amphetamines include Adderall® and Dexedrine®, which are used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Bennies, crank, ice, speed, and uppers are common street names. People who take these drugs for off-label purposes typically use them as mood enhancers and to fight off fatigue.

Amphetamine Schedule or Drug Category

The federal government categorizes many amphetamines as Schedule II drugs, which are considered to have a high potential for abuse. States have their own drug schedules but generally follow federal guidelines in this area.

Restrictions for Prescription Amphetamines

Given the high potential for abuse and addiction, federal and state laws place strict conditions on prescribing Schedule II drugs. Schedule II prescriptions need written authorization (no oral prescriptions) and cannot be refilled. If you get caught with Schedule II pills, such as Adderall®, without a valid prescription, you may face additional federal or state criminal charges depending on how you came about the pills.

What Are the Penalties for Illegal Possession of Amphetamine?

Under federal law, possession of illegal amphetamines carries the following penalties:

  • a first offense: up to a year in prison, up to a $1,000 fine, or both
  • a second offense: 15 days to 2 years in prison, up to a $2,500 fine, or both, and
  • a third or subsequent offense: 90 days to 3 years in prison, up to a $5,000 fine, or both.

(21 U.S.C. § 844 (2022).)

If prosecutors prove the person possessed the drugs with intent to sell them, the crime becomes a sale or distribution crime with much harsher penalties (described in the next section).

What Are the Penalties for Illegal Sale or Distribution of Amphetamine?

Under federal law, a person convicted of illegal sale or distribution of amphetamines may face up to 20 years in prison, a $1 million fine, or both.

Illegal sale and distribution penalties apply to outright sales or attempted sales, as well as possession of the drug with the intent of selling it. For instance, the college kid caught in their dorm room with bottles of Adderall®, lots of cash, and a list of customers will have a tough time convincing a jury that the Adderall® was for personal use. Sharing the drug with another person also counts as distribution under federal law.

In the above college dorm room example, federal penalties double. Federal law doubles both the prison time and fines if a defendant commits a sale or distribution crime on or near a school, college, playground, youth center, and other specified places. If anyone dies as a result of the drug sale (from overdose or otherwise), the defendant may face life in prison.

(21 U.S.C. §§ 841(c), 860 (2022).)

What Are the Penalties for Stealing or Forging a Prescription for Amphetamines?

A person who obtains or tries to obtain amphetamines by using a fake, forged, or fraudulent prescription can face additional penalties. A first offense for prescription fraud carries up to four years in federal prison. Anyone convicted of a second offense or who has a prior felony drug conviction faces up to eight years in prison. (21 U.S.C. § 843 (2022).)

Theft of controlled substances typically falls under state law and carries felony penalties. If the person breaks into a home or pharmacy to steal the drugs, the crime becomes burglary, which can carry anywhere in the range of 10 to 30 years in prison.

See a Lawyer

If you've been charged with illegal possession or sale of amphetamine or any drug crime for that matter, talk to a local criminal defense lawyer. For federal drug charges, you'll want to find a lawyer who defends criminal drug cases in federal court.

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