Drug trafficking involves the unlawful sale, distribution, transportation, manufacturing, and import/export of controlled substances. This is a federal and felony crime and much more serious than drug possession. Also called drug distribution, penalties for conviction for drug trafficking can vary widely depending on the type of drugs involved, the quantity, and the geographic area of distribution. An individual can face anywhere from three years to life in prison, which is why it is so important to have an experienced drug trafficking defense attorney on your side.
What is drug trafficking?
Although the national conversation is moving more toward treatment and rehabilitation for drug offenses rather than prison, federal authorities still look harshly on drug trafficking offenses. Under 21 U.S. Code § 841 – Prohibited acts,
“It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally—
- to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance; or
- to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.”
Penalties for drug trafficking will vary depending on the controlled substance and how much was being moved. Note that controlled substances also include prescription drugs.
What are common drug trafficking charges?
The vast majority of drug trafficking charges are treated as felonies, which often include mandatory minimums. Federal drug trafficking charges may include:
- Conspiracy. If more than one person is involved with the trafficking of controlled substances, they will likely face federal conspiracy charges as well.
- Manufacturing. This includes operating any location or space for processing or preparing illegal drugs for distribution. Manufacturing charges often include substances like meth, cocaine, or heroin.
- Possession. Although this is typically a state-level offense, in certain circumstances it may be prosecuted at the federal level.
- Trafficking. This is a general charge that includes manufacturing, distributing, or possessing a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Regardless of the charges you may be facing, you need a strategic, smart drug defense attorney on your side, as penalties for federal trafficking can be severe and life-altering.
What are the penalties for federal drug trafficking?
Drug distribution and trafficking is prosecuted on both the state and federal levels. If an individual is charged trafficking drugs across state lines, they will be prosecuted in federal court. If they are charged with trafficking within Texas only, they will be prosecuted according to Texas law. Find out more about drug charges and penalties in Texas.
Federal drug trafficking penalties vary widely depending on the specific circumstances. Following are a few examples and the potential federal penalties for a first offense. Second or third offenses will result in even more severe penalties. For a full list, see here.
- Cocaine. This is a Schedule II drug. A quantity of 500 to 4999 grams can land you a minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison, with fines up to $5 or $25 million. Five kilograms or more has penalties of 10 years to life in prison, with fines up to $10 million or $50 million.
- Fentanyl. This is a Schedule II drug. A quantity of 40 to 399 grams can land you a minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison, with fines up to $5 or $25 million. Four hundred grams or more has penalties of 10 years to life in prison, with fines up to $10 million or $50 million.
- Heroin. This is a Schedule II drug. A quantity of 100 to 999 grams can land you a minimum of five years to a maximum of 40 years in prison, with fines up to $5 or $25 million. One kilogram or more has penalties of 10 years to life in prison, with fines up to $10 million or $50 million.
- Marijuana. This is a Schedule I drug. Quantities of 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana or marijuana plants can land you a minimum of 10 years to life in prison, with fines up to $10 million or $50 million.
The DEA also notes that “The minimum sentence for a violation after two or more prior convictions for a felony drug offense have become final is a mandatory term of life imprisonment without release and a fine up to $20 million if an individual and $75 million if other than an individual.”
Defense for federal drug trafficking charges
For a successful conviction of federal drug trafficking, prosecutors must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you knowingly and intentionally,
- Manufactured and/or distributed,
- A controlled substance or counterfeit drug.
Your attorney can employ a variety of defenses to protect your civil liberties, starting with whether or not your search and arrest violated your Constitutional rights. Regardless of the circumstances of your arrest and the charges against you, your first step should be contacting a criminal defense law firm as soon as possible.
At the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, we provide experienced, reliable criminal defense. If you are facing drug trafficking or possession charges and don’t know where to turn, turn to us. We can help. To set up a consultation, call us today at 254-680-4655 or visit our contact page. We proudly serve clients from our offices in Killeen and Copperas Cove.
I’ve dedicated my legal career to defending my clients. I demand all the evidence. I investigate all the facts, the so-called witnesses and even the police officers. I make it my business to know the law. Cases can be won or lost before you even set foot inside the courtroom.
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