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What Is Drug Trafficking?

Drug trafficking is a criminal offense that involves the importation, transportation, sale, or distribution of illegal drugs or controlled substance. This can include controlled substances such as cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and so forth, but it also applies to prescription drugs as well.

Though movies may portray drug trafficking with actors crossing state lines or national borders, that is not always the main component of what leads to trafficking charges. In reality, drug trafficking cases heavily relies on the quantity and weight of drugs being trafficked.

Drug Trafficking Laws

Though some aspects of drug trafficking are similar to other drug crimes like drug possession or less serious misdemeanors, the actual crime of drug trafficking takes it a step further. A drug trafficking conviction requires that a person must knowingly possess an illegal drug and the person was involved in the import, transport, sale, or distribution of the drugs, or intended to complete the sale or delivery. Here, the required element of intent elevates this criminal charge to a felony offense.

Both the federal government and states have several laws criminalizing the trafficking and distributing of illegal drugs and controlled substances. The facts and circumstances of your situation play a key role in determining the type of law that may apply in your case.

For example, consider a situation where a law enforcement officer arrests you for drug trafficking across state lines. In that case, federal law will likely apply. But if that law enforcement officer pulls you over in your state and the distribution activities only took place in that state, then state law will likely apply. It can be tricky to decipher which type of laws apply, but a criminal defense attorney can help you learn more about the drug trafficking laws applicable in your case and better understand your situation.

What Is A Controlled Substance?

A substance is classified as “controlled” when federal or state law governs its use, sale, or distribution. Established under federal law, the Controlled Substances Act created five “schedules” of controlled substances, dividing drugs into separate levels based on their potential for abuse and likelihood for dependency. It begins with Schedule V, posing the lowest risk, and goes up to Schedule I, posing the highest risk.

  • Schedule I: Heroin, ecstasy, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana, peyote
  • Schedule II: Methamphetamine, cocaine, morphine, methadone, phencyclidine (PCP), fentanyl
  • Schedule III: Anabolic steroids, ketamine, barbiturates, testosterone, Tylenol with codeine
  • Schedule IV: Valium, Xanax, Tramadol
  • Schedule V: Other unlawfully obtained prescription drugs, pills, and cough medicines like Robitussin with codeine

Penalties for Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking and distribution is a serious criminal offense with harsh legal penalties if you are found guilty and convicted. Whether you are facing conviction in a federal court or a state court, sentences for drug trafficking typically range from three years up to life imprisonment along with thousands of dollars worth of fines, probation, rehabilitation, and more.

For federal drug trafficking charges, the mandatory minimum penalties is connected to the type and quantity of a controlled substance. Though the mandatory minimum sentence for federal drug trafficking starts at five years imprisonment with a maximum of 40 years at baseline, this quickly jumps up to a ten years to life imprisonment if the amount of drugs in question reaches the certain threshold.

Sometimes there may be aggravating factors that lead to even more severe penalties, such as:

  • A criminal history of drug offense
  • High quantities of a substance
  • Selling drugs to children
  • Selling drugs near schools, parks, or houses of worship
  • Crossing state lines or national borders
  • Causing serious bodily injuries or death

Why Should I Hire a Drug Trafficking Attorney?

If you have been accused of or are under investigation for drug trafficking, retain a criminal defense lawyer to help you protect your rights. Consulting with a legal professional can help you reduce legal consequences faced in regards to this serious offense.

An experienced drug trafficking criminal defense attorney can:

  • Explain the drug allegations against you
  • Advise you as to the potential consequences of the charge
  • Review the facts of your case, including the police report
  • Be an intermediary between you and the court system
  • Vigorously defend you against the government
  • Raise any defenses that might mitigate your drug trafficking charges
  • Negotiate with prosecutors to reduce charges
  • Challenge the introduction of illegally obtained evidence

Drug trafficking is a serious crime that often brings felony charges from state and Federal authorities. A drug trafficking defense lawyer can defend you with the goal of achieving best result possible.

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