Understanding Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

federal drug trafficking charges

If you have been convicted of a federal drug crime, you stand to face harsh penalties including several years in prison and hefty fines. Drug trafficking in particular could result in even harsher prison sentences and penalties. Federal drug distribution or trafficking laws penalize the sale, transportation and illegal import of unlawful controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and other illicit drugs.

The punishment for drug trafficking under federal law can vary significantly depending on a number of factors such as the type and quantity of drugs involved, the geographic area of distribution and whether children were targeted. If you are facing federal drug trafficking charges, it is important that you have an experienced drug lawyer who has successfully handled similar cases.

What Does the Law Say?

Under United States Code 21 Section 841, it is illegal to knowingly and intentionally engage in the manufacturing, distribution or dispensing of a controlled substance, or, to create, distribute, dispense or possess with intent to distribute, a counterfeit substance. A controlled substance could be anything from marijuana, which is legal in California but not under federal law, to hard drugs such as heroin or cocaine to prescription medication such as Oxycontin or Vicodin.

What Are the Penalties?

The penalties in a federal drug trafficking case depend on the circumstances of the case. Some of the factors that could have an impact on the penalties include the defendant’s past criminal history, the quantity of drugs trafficked, the type of drugs trafficked and whether the drug trafficking resulted in death or serious bodily injury to someone else. In addition to lengthy prison times and fines, a drug trafficking conviction may result in other serious consequences such as:

  • Deportation: If you are convicted of a federal crime, you may be subject to immediate deportation. A drug trafficking conviction on your record could make you ineligible for entry into the United States or ineligible for citizenship.
  • Loss of rights and benefits: A drug trafficking conviction could also result in the loss of several civil rights and federal benefits. For example, you may lose the right to carry a firearm or access to federal school loans and grants. Federal benefits may also be permanently lost after repeat convictions.
  • Forfeiture of assets: You may be required to give up any assets, money or property obtained in connection with the drug trafficking conviction.

Need specific penalties? Click here to see a complete list of penalties based upon the substance being trafficked.

Proving Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

In order to obtain a conviction in a federal drug trafficking case, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has the intent to traffic the drugs. For example, if an individual has no idea he or she was transporting drugs, then they cannot be convicted of federal drug trafficking. There are a number of defenses that an experienced California drug crime defense lawyer could utilize in a federal drug trafficking case.

If there is a reasonable doubt regarding your intent to traffic the drugs, the case must be dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence. If you were honestly not aware that you were trafficking drugs, then the case must be dismissed. Another issue that plays a part in drug crime cases is illegal search and seizure. This occurs when law enforcement conducts an illegal search of your property without a proper search warrant or by some other means. If the search and seizure was illegal, then the evidence obtained through such a search and seizure must be dismissed.

Federal drug trafficking charges are some of the more serious criminal charges you can face in any state. Being convicted of these crimes could permanently alter the course of your life. If you are facing these grave charges, it is critical that you contact n experienced drug trafficking lawyer who will be able to advise you about your options and a future course of action.