What is the Difference Between Trafficking and Selling Drugs?

Drug dealer selling drugs

A drug possession charge in the state of California can quickly escalate to the more serious possession with intent to sell and even trafficking if you are found to be in possession of items such as scales and baggies that are associated with planning to distribute illegal substances. There are major differences in the charges and the penalties involved, making it necessary that those facing charges consult with a California criminal defense attorney with prior experience in this area to help sort it out.

Possession with Intent to Sell

Being charged with an intent to sell or selling controlled substances means that there is strong reason to believe that the defendant is in possession of drugs for the purpose of distributing them or was caught in the act of an actual sale. Penalties for intent and selling convictions are harsher than those in possession only cases.

The sale of a controlled dangerous substance can include a wide variety of illegal substances including concentrated marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and narcotics.  The type of drug involved and the circumstances will determine the sentence after conviction.

In California possessing drugs with the intent of selling them is a felony charge, carrying a mandatory prison term of at least 3 years. The Judge may add this arbitrarily if the sale was made to a minor or the defendant is found to be a repeat offender. The felony status of this type of conviction allows it to fall within the states three-strike system.

Drug Trafficking

An individual who is facing a trafficking conviction in California is looking at a felony charge with a minimum jail sentence of 6 years. Like with a selling charge, a judge is given leeway to add to that sentence as he or she sees fit.

Drug trafficking is referring to the mass distribution of illegal substances for the purpose of distribution. Sometimes known as a smuggler, a person who is charged with this offense and is believed to be involved in a large-scale organization specifically designed to carry illegal substances across jurisdictions whether that be state to state or from country to another. A defendant does not have to be found with the substance to be charged with trafficking it; just proof of his or her activities with a known trafficking organization could be enough for a conviction.

Any type and quantity of illegal substance can be concealed for distribution to other locales, including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. The severity of the jail sentence imposed if found convicted will depend heavily on the type of illegal substance and how much of it is involved.

Federal Intervention

The Federal Government also can intervene in a trafficking case and file its own charges based on the Controlled Substances Act. The penalties for a Federal conviction are severe.

For example, a first time offender who is caught moving anywhere from 500 to 4,999 grams of cocaine into the country or across state lines will not serve less than five years in federal prison. In addition, they could be forced to pay a fine of anywhere between one to five million dollars. The sentences will lengthen and fines grow when there are extenuating circumstances such as prior convictions and when another individual was hurt or killed during the commission of the offense.

California is considered to be one of the harshest states when it comes to cracking down on dealers and traffickers. A defendant facing these felony charges will need the experience of a qualified drug crime defense lawyer to help them fight a conviction. Even defendants facing serious charges have rights under the constitution. A defense attorney will ensure that the police, the prosecutors, and the judge will honor those rights.

Call 888-250-2865 to obtain a free case evaluation from one of our skilled legal professionals. If you are facing charges in Orange, Riverside, San Diego, or Los Angeles County, we can help.