Last updated May 12, 2021
Drug distribution involves the sale, exchange, and transfer of illegal drugs. For you to be charged with drug distribution, the state needs to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the drugs you had in your possession are unlawful controlled substances and that you had the drugs with the intent to distribute them.
What Is Considered Drug Distribution?
A drug distribution charge is one of the most serious drug crimes you can face. Police can arrest you on these charges if you were involved in selling, transporting, or exchanging a controlled substance. There is a long list of controlled substances that can result in a drug distribution charge. Some of them include:
- Prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin sold illegally (without a prescription)
Most states classify controlled substances based on how dangerous they are. That means the penalty for a dangerous drug like cocaine would be more severe than the charges for less dangerous drugs.
Drug distribution charges can either be a state or federal crime. For instance, you will be charged with federal drug distribution if you are accused of distributing drugs across state lines.
Penalties for Drug Distribution
Drug distribution is a felony charge. This means you may face several years in prison. The penalties are harsher than simple possession because of the alleged intent to distribute and the quantity of drugs involved is usually higher.
In addition to time in prison, your sentence can also include hefty fines. Prosecutors may even attempt to seize assets like your home or cars that they believe you paid for from your alleged drug sales.
Your criminal record will also stay with you after you finish your sentence, making it difficult to find a job and housing.
The specific penalties for a drug distribution conviction will depend on several factors, including:
- The laws of your state
- The type of drugs involved
- The amount of drugs seized
- Where you distributed the drugs (such as near a school)
- Your criminal history
If you are facing drug distribution charges, you should consult a criminal defense attorney right away so they can help build a strong defense.
Defenses Against a Drug Distribution Charge
A drug distribution charge is a very serious one. That's why it is crucial that you have an attorney that can ensure your rights are protected. Some of the possible defenses your attorney may raise include:
- Lack of intent to distribute: The prosecutor needs to show you intended to distribute the controlled substance. If not, the prosecutor can only charge you with drug possession, which carries with it a lesser penalty.
- You had a prescription for the drug: Sometimes police arrest people in possession of medicinal marijuana or prescription painkillers without knowing that the person has a legal prescription.
- There was no probable cause to search you: If the police did not have probable cause to search you or your property, then your attorney can argue the evidence should not be admissible.
When someone is arrested in possession of a larger quantity of drugs than what we would normally think of as drug possession, prosecutors may threaten that person with distribution charges in an effort to secure a quick plea deal. This also happens when police arrest people with drugs near a school. Law enforcement may threaten to charge you with distributing drugs to children.
When this happens, you should always remember your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. You should always discuss potential plea offers or threats of serious charges with a criminal defense attorney before you make any decisions.
What Is the Difference Between Distribution and Trafficking?
Drug distribution and trafficking charges are sometimes used interchangeably. Although they are both drug-related crimes, there are some differences between the two. In most cases, you will be charged with drug trafficking if the quantity seized is above a certain level. The amount of drugs required for a charge to be elevated to drug trafficking may vary depending on federal and state laws. The penalty for drug trafficking charges is also more severe than drug distribution charges.