Trusted Content

Common Legal Consequences Resulting From Drug And Alcohol Abuse

Dr. Anna Pickering

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anna Pickering

April 3, 2019

There are many legal consequences related to drug or alcohol abuse. These might include a small fine or misdemeanor all the way up to a felony charge resulting in a long-term prison sentence. Consequences are far-reaching and even someone not intending harm, may end up facing charges for severe crimes like manslaughter or homicide.

The 5 Primary Factors The Criminal Justice System Bases Legal Consequences:

  1. Crimes committed relating to the possession or the sale of a substance
  2. Crimes related to obtaining a substance (including forging prescriptions, stealing money to buy drugs, etc.)
  3. Accessory charges
  4. Physical or sexual assaults related to substance use
  5. Damage to people and/or property while under the influence

Types Of Criminal Drug And Alcohol Charges May Include:

  • Possession of an illegal substance
  • Possession of a controlled substance without a prescription
  • Manslaughter or homicide
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Child abuse or neglect
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Driving while intoxicated (DUI)
  • Underage drinking
  • Drug trafficking

These charges could result in jail time and a host of other legal consequences including loss of custody, divorce, fines, loss of a career, eviction, bankruptcy, and many more.

virtual care

Get treatment when
and how you need it.

How Are Charges Assessed?

When determining the severity of alcohol abuse, drug or drug-related charge, courts will examine factors surrounding the offense. For example, possession of an illegal substance or a controlled substance without a prescription can result in either a misdemeanor or felony sentence. And that sentence depends on the type, quantity, and, even quality of the substance. Sentencing depends largely on the amount and type of substance. Marijuana may result in a misdemeanor, while a similar amount of cocaine can result in a felony charge, but a higher grade of cocaine will result in a greater charge than a less pure cut.

When someone commits a crime, whether intentional or not, related to the use or an attempt to access an illicit or controlled substance, additional charges may result. And they can have some extreme consequences. For example, a young person who sells or offers an illicit substance to another person and if the drug results in that person’s death, the seller will be charged with manslaughter. This felony charge could result in a tough sentence including high fines and life in prison.

Other offenses committed while intoxicated or under the influence of an illicit substance can include physical or sexual assault, child abuse or neglect, domestic abuse, and reckless endangerment. The latter covers a broad range of offenses in which another person is put at risk because of factors relating to using or obtaining a substance. Someone driving under the influence or who leaves a child unattended while seeking drugs may be charged with reckless endangerment. These charges, especially when children are involved, often result in felony charges.

Parents of underage drinkers may also be charged for offenses committed by their children. An adult who permits underage drinking can be charged with manslaughter if a death occurs that resulted from the consumption of alcohol supplied by that adult. A parent may also unknowingly be involved in a crime related to underage drinking. For example, if an underage child has access to alcohol within the home, and that underage individual invites others to the home to drink, the parent could still be charged even if they did not have permission to do so.

Other offenses may include drug trafficking charges. Drug trafficking involves the intent to cultivate, transport, and sell a substance. These charges, even in cases where a person may not be using the substances, can result in stiff penalties. For example, a person transporting a cocaine mixture of less than 5000 grams will face a minimum of five years in prison for a first offense, and a 10-year minimum sentence for the second offense. Fines related to the injury of another person reach into the millions. Someone that transports 400 grams of a schedule II substance like fentanyl, will face 20 years in prison for a first time offense.

Civil Suits, Fines, And Other Legal Consequences Of Drug Or Alcohol Abuse

Apart from the immediate drug charges, a person involved in a drug-related crime may be held liable in a civil suit on behalf of a person injured in a drug-related crime or due to negligence. They may also face high fines, and other legal consequences including custody issues, divorce, and bankruptcy.

Drug charges are also enormously damaging to your reputation, especially in a professional setting. Someone charged with a felony crime must report that crime on many job applications, making it more challenging to seek out gainful employment.

Alcohol And Drug Charges And Drug Court

In some cases, criminal charges may be avoided where drug courts are available. This option exists only in non-violent drug offenses facing their first drug offense. Drug courts afford an individual an opportunity to attend drug or alcohol treatment in avoidance of charges. This program was developed by judicial professionals who saw an influx of drug offenders going jail and not receiving any treatment, only to commit similar crimes upon release. Drug courts have shown success not only in helping rehabilitate first time offenders, but also in reducing strain on an already overburdened prison system.

Getting Treatment For Drug Or Alcohol Addiction

Drug or alcohol addiction can have many unintended consequences. If you or someone you love is battling with an addiction, help is available in the form of comprehensive and evidence-based treatment to prevent an addiction from becoming a life sentence. Get the help you need today beginning with one confidential phone call. will connect you with the online resources, professional support, and compassionate rehabilitation options that work with your individual needs and preferences. Stop the addiction before it stops you, and start on a new path in recovery beginning today.

Want to get help, but not ready to talk?

You can receive 24/7 text support right away and at your convenience. There is no obligation to enter treatment and you can opt out at any time.

Sign up for text support to receive:

✅ Resources about addiction and recovery

✅ Info about our treatment process

"*" indicates required fields


Let Regard Healthcare walk you through the treatment process. We're here to help.
For 24/7 Treatment Help
100% Free and Confidential. Call 888-341-4325

For 24/7 Treatment Help Call:


For Immediate Treatment Help Call:
(888) 979-9592