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Steroids: Legal Risks
Courtesy of Collins,
McDonald and Gann, P.C. [phone: 516-294-0300] and Team Legal
Muscle, here are some general principles in answer to a few of the
most commonly asked questions concerning steroid arrests.
How am I most likely to get arrested for steroids?
Traditionally, the most likely way to get arrested for any drug
charge, including steroids, was probably for selling them to someone
who has his own legal problems and is secretly cooperating with law
enforcement. You might get a call from an old gym acquaintance asking
if you can get him a few vials of steroids. A meeting will be
arranged, your old pal will bring along an undercover cop, and you'll
be arrested on the spot or after a few further deals. Under federal
law and the laws of many states, selling steroids, or possessing them
with intent to sell, is a felony. An individual who sells steroids, or
possesses with intent to sell, is punishable by up to five years in
prison under federal law and up to seven years in prison under New
York state law. Every state is different. Two states, in fact, have
enacted NO laws placing anabolic steroids in controlled substance
status. [The complete list is found in LEGAL MUSCLE.] Of course,
whether an individual serves any prison time at all for selling
steroids depends upon numerous factors including but not limited to
the person's past criminal history, the strength of the prosecution's
case, the person's role in the offense, and how effectively the case
is either negotiated or litigated by defense counsel. An experienced
criminal lawyer can make the difference.
What are my chances of being arrested just for personal use
Small-time arrests for personal possession are occurring more and more
frequently. Sometimes these arrests arise out of car stops for traffic
violations and the steroids are found during a search of the car. Car
searches are frequent at border crossings, where law enforcement
authorities searching for drugs are less restricted by Fourth
Amendment constraints. I recently successfully defended two steroid
cases in which my clients' cars were stopped and thoroughly searched
at U.S. land borders (New York/Canada and Texas/Mexico).
However, the fastest-growing way of getting busted for personal
steroid use is by ordering them by mail. I have been consulted or
retained on hundreds of cases of this type. Those who order mail-order
steroids (usually over the Internet) run the risk that the delivery
can be intercepted by U.S. Customs or postal authorities,
precipitating an investigation and potentially an arrest. Many
otherwise law-abiding mature adults have been arrested based on their
receipt of anabolics through the mail. Many others were contacted by
government agents who confiscated the steroid delivery but did not
make an arrest. There is little uniformity in the way these cases are
handled across the country, although overall mail volume seems to be a
factor. U.S. Customs agents in metropolitan New York, for example,
might handle a personal use amount very differently than Customs
agents in rural Alabama.
While the vast majority of users (recently estimated at about 6
million Americans!) probably don't get caught, you could be one of the
unlucky few. Under the Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990, which
applies across the country, steroids are in the same legal class --
Schedule III -- as barbiturates, LSD precursors, veterinary
tranquilizers like ketamine and narcotic painkillers like Vicodin.
Simple possession is a federal offense punishable by up to one year in
prison and/or a minimum fine of $1,000 (most states have added
anabolic steroids to their schedules of controlled substances). Even
if a jail sentence is ultimately avoided, the consequences of an
arrest alone include being handcuffed, fingerprinted, and hauled
before a judge for arraignment in open court. There will likely be
legal expenses and even forfeiture of seized assets. A criminal
conviction may prevent or interfere with employment opportunities in
many fields such as law enforcement, and members of certain
professions involving licensing (physicians, lawyers, dentists,
pharmacists, teachers, nurses, cosmetologists, public accountants,
architects, auctioneers, barbers, and licensed counselors, just to
name a few) can expect a conviction to be reported to their state
licensing authority, placing current employment in jeopardy. A drug
conviction can suspend a person's driver's license (it's mandatory in
some jurisdictions) and be a bar to the ability to own a firearm.
Unquestionably, the assistance of experienced legal counsel is your
best defense against these potential consequences.
Will the police try to get me to "cooperate" with them?
People who get arrested for controlled substances are often pressured
to work with the agents who arrested them or with other law
enforcement authorities to assist in the identification,
investigation, arrest and prosecution of others involved in criminal
activity. Known to law enforcement as "confidential informants" (but
to their former friends and associates as "rats" and "snitches"), they
cooperate in return for more lenient plea or sentence bargains. It is
not uncommon for the police or federal agents to squeeze the many
"small fish" they arrest into giving up their sources, leading to the
arrests of bigger fish who, in turn, are squeezed to give up their
sources. [LEGAL MUSCLE offers a whole chapter devoted to snitches,
cooperation and entrapment.] Whether the police seek to recruit a
person as an informant depends upon a combination of many factors.
Deciding whether it is something an arrested person should consider
doing requires a risk-to-benefit analysis and extensive consultation
with an experienced criminal lawyer.
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 often depends on the agency responsible for your
arrest, and on the seriousness of the charges. Because of the way that
steroid quantities are calculated under the federal sentencing
guidelines (explained in detail in LEGAL MUSCLE), many cases with
potential federal jurisdiction are dumped in state or local courts
where sentencing may be much more severe. Even investigations begun by
federal authorities like the Postal Inspector and U.S. Customs are
most often brought in state court, not in federal court. This is
particularly the case if the quantity is small and there is no
indication of intent to distribute. In rare circumstances, you can be
charged in both state and federal court with the same conduct.
What are my chances of going to jail?
A very important question, but one that is impossible to answer
without knowing the specifics in a given case. Critical factors
include, but are not limited to, the amounts of steroids involved and
your prior criminal record. In our experience, few first-time
offenders charged with mere possession for personal use are sentenced
to jail in the New York state courts. Sellers are treated more
harshly. In federal courts, the quantity involved is crucial under the
United States Sentencing Guidelines (discussed elsewhere in this
site). In state courts, various other factors can apply. You should
know the law and potential sentencing range that applies in your
state. The source for that information is LEGAL MUSCLE, available at
We are committed to defending those prosecuted for anabolic
steroids. We are admitted to practice in the New York and Maryland
state courts, the Federal Courts of the Eastern and Southern Districts
of New York, the Western District of Texas, the U.S. Court of Federal
Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the Court
of Appeals for the Armed Services and the United States Supreme Court.
We will promptly respond to questions from anyone being investigated
for or charged with a crime related to anabolic steroids. Where
appropriate, we will make referrals to qualified counsel in other
jurisdictions. We are available 24 hours, 7 days a week for
emergencies only by calling 516-294-0300. Other inquiries are answered
weekdays between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. EST. Initial
consultations scheduled at our offices in Manhattan or Long Island are
always free of charge. We handle all other criminal matters, including
white-collar crime, fraud, narcotics cases, thefts, assaults, and
serious traffic offenses (including suspended license charges). In
fact, feel free to call us with any legal question; if we don't handle
your type of case, we can try to connect you with an experienced
attorney who does.
To learn more about our firm, visit our web site at
COPYRIGHT (c) 1999-2003 by Rick Collins.
All rights reserved. No commercial reproduction of any portion of this
material is permitted without the express written permission of the
material contained on this web site (and on any sites linked from this
site) is for general informational purposes only, and is not intended to
promote or support the taking of anabolic/androgenic steroids or other
drugs. The designers and authors do not advocate, encourage or recommend
the use of anabolic/androgenic steroids or other pharmaceuticals in
sports. We emphatically disapprove of the illegal purchase and possession
of foreign and domestic prescription drugs. The descriptions and opinions
offered in this site are not medical suggestions or advice but are
generally based on speculative and subjective values. Every athlete who
contemplates taking these drugs should always first consult a licensed
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