A criminal charge of federal drug trafficking can result in a felony conviction and significant penalties that can follow you for the rest of your life. Some federal drug crimes carry minimum sentences under the federal sentencing guidelines, which means a conviction will most likely result in prison time, possibly for a minimum of five years, a decade or longer. Depending on the specific facts of your case, you could even end up serving a life sentence in federal prison for drug trafficking.
If you are facing charges for a serious federal drug crime like drug trafficking or drug distribution, your case may seem like a lost cause, but that is not the case. Sometimes charges for drug distribution (or possession with the intent to distribute) are the result of a person simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Whatever the circumstances of your case, early intervention by a reputable federal drug trafficking defense attorney is the key to getting the best possible outcome. Contact our skilled drug crimes defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers today to find out how we can help.
Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
The crime known as drug trafficking or drug distribution involves the unlawful sale, transportation or distribution of illegal drugs or controlled substances, such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana or methamphetamine, or even prescription drugs, such as painkillers or narcotics. Both federal and California state laws come into play in drug cases and depending on the circumstances of the charges you are facing, your case could be prosecuted in state or federal court.
Generally speaking, federal law applies to major drug crimes that involve a large quantity of drugs or money, a group of people (i.e. a drug ring), or a federal offense like money laundering or a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). When it comes to drug trafficking, if you are facing charges for crossing state lines to buy, sell, obtain or deliver a controlled substance, the case will be prosecuted in federal court.
Drug Trafficking – 21 U.S.C. § 841
The federal law covering drug trafficking crimes is 21 U.S.C. § 841, which states that “it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally –
(1) to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance; or
(2) to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.”
The Controlled Substances Act and Drug Schedules
When a drug is classified as a “controlled” substance, it means that the use, manufacture and distribution of the drug is governed by law. The Controlled Substances Act is the federal law that organizes controlled substances into five distinct categories, or “schedules,” based on their potential for abuse, accepted medical uses and risk of dependence or addiction.
For example, heroin, ecstasy and LSD are Schedule I drugs, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, while Xanax, Ambien and Valium are Schedule IV drugs, meaning they have a low potential for abuse, have accepted medical uses and a limited potential for dependence. Even marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug under federal law, the most restrictive category of controlled substances, despite its established medical uses and limited potential for abuse.
Even though marijuana has been legalized in many states, California included, the drug is still illegal under federal law and you could still face federal charges for distributing or transporting marijuana.
What Constitutes Drug Trafficking?
What many people don’t realize is that you can be charged with the crime of drug trafficking and prosecuted in federal court simply for having a certain amount of an illicit drug or illegal substance in your possession, even if you were not actively selling the drug.
Under the federal sentencing guidelines, being in possession of more than a specific amount of a controlled substance triggers drug trafficking charges and the amount varies depending on the substance. For instance, if you are arrested with one or more grams of LSD, five or more grams of methamphetamine, 10 or more grams of PCP, or 100 or more grams of heroin in your possession, you could face federal charges for drug trafficking.
The federal government has made a significant effort in recent years to crack down on crimes involving illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, and you could end up facing drug trafficking charges if you are caught trafficking in illegal substances, if you are found in possession of a substantial amount of illegal drugs or prescription drugs and the police believe you intended to sell them, or if you are arrested with a large quantity of cash and the police believe the cash was earned from a drug crime. You could also end up facing drug conspiracy charges if you are accused of knowingly joining with another person in an agreement to violate federal drug trafficking laws.
Drug Trafficking Penalties
Simply put, federal drug trafficking laws make it a crime to manufacture, distribute or dispense, or possess with the intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense, a controlled substance.
As a felony crime and federal offense, drug trafficking is punished harshly, though the specific criminal penalties associated with a conviction for federal drug trafficking depend a great deal on the substance/schedule in question and the amount of the substance, among other factors. There are also penalty enhancements that increase the penalty for federal drug trafficking if the defendant has prior convictions, if the alleged crime involves the use of a firearm, or if death or serious bodily injury results from the drug trafficking.
As a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, if you are accused of distributing, or possessing with the intent to distribute, one kilogram or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, five kilograms or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, or 10 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of LSD, you could face a punishment consisting of 10 years to life or if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of the substance in question you could face 20 years to life in prison, plus millions of dollars in fines upon conviction.
If you are accused of the same crime involving 100 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, 500 grams or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine, or one gram or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of LSD, you could face between five and 40 years in prison or if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of the substance in question you could face 20 years to life in prison, plus millions of dollars in fines upon conviction.
Why You Need a Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
To many people, drug trafficking sounds like a criminal charge reserved for professional criminals, high-level drug dealers and international drug smugglers, but the truth is that federal law contains a fairly loose definition of drug trafficking and distribution, and trafficking charges therefore apply to more situations than you might think. In fact, the United States Sentencing Commission reports that of the 76,538 offenders sentenced in 2019, 19,765 were sentenced for a drug trafficking offense, which can apply to situations that many people might see as simple possession.
As part of its ongoing war on drugs, the federal government has made it a priority to aggressively prosecute federal drug crimes like drug trafficking and drug distribution, and not all federal drug cases result in a fair outcome. That is why you need a knowledgeable federal criminal defense attorney on your side who can proactively protect your rights and best interests and ensure that you understand the charges against you and your options under the law.
The attorney you choose to represent you in your drug trafficking case can have a substantial impact on your future, so don’t make the decision lightly.
Contact Our Federal Drug Trafficking Defense Team Today
If you are caught up in a drug raid or traffic stop and charged with drug trafficking or drug possession with the intent to distribute, you could face a felony conviction that exposes you to serious, life-changing penalties. When faced with the possibility of serving time for a federal drug trafficking offense, you need the benefit of a trial-tested criminal defense attorney who has a clear understanding of the federal investigative and prosecutorial processes. Federal drug trafficking laws and sentencing guidelines are complicated and it can be difficult for anyone other than an experienced attorney to interpret them properly.
At Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers, our defense lawyers have a reputation for vigorously defending the rights of our clients and we are committed to thoroughly evaluating the facts of your case and guiding you towards a favorable outcome, whether that means advising you of your rights following an arrest by federal agents, crafting a timely response to a federal inquiry, negotiating with federal prosecutors or representing you in federal court. Contact our knowledgeable drug trafficking defense lawyers today to schedule a free initial consultation.