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Drug trafficking, from a legal perspective, refers to the unlawful sale or even movement of drugs (as determined by both state and federal statutes). Per the drug scheduling system set out by the United States government, almost all recreational drugs — and some prescription drugs with federally defined medicinal properties — are covered under the offense of drug trafficking.
Drug trafficking is differentiated from simple possession both in terms of the act itself — trafficking involving movement and sale, rather than purchase (or cultivation, in some states, regarding marijuana) — as well as the scale and severity of the offense.
Smuggling is a broader category of offense in which a variety of goods can be transported unlawfully, from general merchandise such as food or clothing to more controversial products such as firearms.
Drug trafficking can be considered a form of smuggling as both the transport and sale of the drugs in question are conducted away from the authorities.
In short, all drug trafficking involves an element of smuggling, while not all smuggling operations concern themselves with drug trafficking.
Penalties for drug trafficking can be quite severe. For example, if you are found guilty of trafficking more than 1 kilogram of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, 10 grams of LSD, 1,000 kilograms of marijuana or 50 grams of methamphetamine, you could face the stiffest sentencing under federal guidelines and could end up serving between 10 years to life behind bars. The minimum sentence for a violation of this statute, in federal court, is enhanced to 20 years if an individual dies or suffers serious bodily injury as a result of the use of said drugs. Penalties are not quite as strict for lesser amounts.
State laws also show little lenience toward those found guilty of drug trafficking offenses. Those found guilty of trafficking marijuana in Nevada, if the sum weight of the cannabis exceeds 5,000 pounds or 100 pounds of concentrate, such as oil or resin could lead to 15 years or life imprisonment in addition to fines of up to $200,000. To provide an example of a less substantial weight, some state laws demand that offenders trafficking over 25 pounds or 300 cannabis plants of marijuana be sentenced to a minimum of three years imprisonment. A fine of $25,000 is also attached to this sentence.
Drug trafficking charges can result in between three to six years incarceration for those found guilty of lower-level felony charges, but those convicted can spend life behind bars for weightier transactions or deals that result in injury or death.
It is possible to defeat drug trafficking charges in certain circumstances. If you’re facing charges related to drug trafficking, retaining experienced legal counsel should be a top priority. Not only will attorney-client privilege allow you to strategize with your lawyer — determining whether to take your case to trial or to attempt to negotiate a plea bargain — but having an experienced legal expert on the case can also improve your negotiating position.
Several common defenses can be deployed by a skilled criminal defense lawyer familiar with standing precedent and existing case law pertaining to drug trafficking charges in your state. A lack of evidence enough to secure a conviction on the part of the prosecution, allegations of entrapment or faulty evidence gathering and other material facts can be used to strengthen your defense.
It is imperative that you hire a criminal defense lawyer experienced defending drug trafficking defendants. He or she knows the defenses and errors investigators sometimes make that can help form your defense. You deserve aggressive representation when faced with such a serious charge.
Specialized legal help is available for most legal issues. Each case is unique; seeking legal help is a smart first step toward understanding your legal situation and seeking the best path toward resolution for your case. An experienced lawyer understands the local laws surrounding your case and what your best legal options might be. More importantly, there are certain situations and circumstances – such as being charged with a crime – where you should always seek experienced legal help.
An experienced lawyer should be able to communicate a basic “road map” on how to proceed. The lawyer should be able to walk you through the anticipated process, key considerations, and potential pitfalls to avoid. Once you’ve laid out the facts of your situation to the lawyer, he/she should be able to frame expectations and likely scenarios to help you understand your legal issue.
Affidavit – A sworn written statement made under oath. An affidavit is meant to be a supporting document to the court assisting in the verification of certain facts. An affidavit may or may not require notarization.