Drug Trafficking Charges, Laws, and Penalties in California
Drug trafficking is drug dealing carried on at a high level. While California statutes generally draw no distinction between dealing and trafficking, the police, prosecutors, and judges send a signal that a drug crime will likely be dealt with harshly when they describe the offense as “trafficking.???
Drug trafficking usually involves more than simple hand-to-hand exchanges of drugs for money. In addition to sales of large quantities, drug trafficking may involve additional accusations of crime, including smuggling drugs across borders, money laundering, and drug manufacturing.
When a drug operation involves transportation of drugs into California from another state or country, organized networks of dealers, or large quantities of drugs, various law enforcement agencies work together to make headline-grabbing arrests and drug seizures.
Federal, state, and local authorities have designated four counties — Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino — as the Los Angeles High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). The Southwest Border HIDTA consists of San Diego and Imperial Counties. Drug agents in both areas focus on “drug gangs,??? on drugs that are moving through the state on highways (“drug pipelines??? or “drug corridors???), on meth labs, and on drugs that are carried into California by “mules,??? sometimes unwittingly.
If you have been caught up in a drug sting, have been accused of drug trafficking by an informant, or have been the victim of aggressive police tactics that cause innocent people to be arrested for participating in drug trafficking conspiracies, you need the help of an experienced drug crime defense attorney.
To discuss representation for a drug trafficking charge in any Southern California court, call The Law Office of Randy Collins at 888-250-2865.
Importation and Transportation
Importing drugs from Mexico or any other country, or crossing state borders with drugs, is regarded as a serious drug crime, particularly when significant quantities of drugs are involved. Most federal charges for those crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences of at least 10 years. Large quantities may trigger a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Under California law, transportation of drugs from one place to another is a felony. Even if the drugs are only transported from one house to another, the crime carries a potential sentence of five years in prison. A defendant who is accused of carrying drugs across more than two California counties faces a prison sentence of up to 9 years.
Sales of Large Drug Quantities
Selling any amount of cocaine, heroin, narcotics like oxycodone or hydrocodone, and many other “hard??? drugs can be punished under California law by a sentence of up to 5 years in prison. Selling methamphetamine and drugs like GBH and ketamine can be punished by a sentence of up to 4 years.
California takes a harsher stance when drug traffickers sell large quantities of powder cocaine, cocaine base (crack), or heroin. Under California Health and Safety Code 11352 HS, the maximum sentence is increased by 3 years for the distribution of more than a kilogram of any of those drugs. The maximum sentence continues to increase as weights increase, eventually reaching an additional 25 years for the distribution of more than 80 kilograms.
California also enhances the maximum sentence for sales involving large amounts of methamphetamine and PCP. The enhancements start at an additional 3 years for selling more than 1 kilogram and increase incrementally to an additional 15 years for sales of more than 20 kilograms.
In California, a drug conspiracy is an agreement (although not necessarily a spoken agreement) to participate with at least one other person in the sale, distribution, or transportation of an illicit drug, coupled with any action taken any conspirator in furtherance of the crime. Federal law differs in the agreement is enough to prove the conspiracy, even if no action was ever taken to advance the conspiracy.
Drug crimes are often charged as conspiracies so that prosecutors can pursue everyone who had anything to do with the crime, no matter how minor their role might have been. A driver, a friend who allows drugs to be stashed in an apartment overnight, or someone who purchased cellphones for drug dealers to use might be caught up in conspiracy charges even if that person never saw any drugs.
California’s enhanced penalties for large drug sales also apply to convictions for conspiring to sell those drugs. While proof of minor involvement is sufficient to obtain a conspiracy conviction, the enhanced penalties only apply to conspirators who were “substantially involved??? in the planning, direction, execution, or financing of the drug crime.
Penalties for California drug conspiracies also increase if the defendant is found guilty of participating in at least two drug crimes during a three year period while associating with or helping a “criminal street gang.??? It is not necessary to be a gang member to receive the gang sentencing enhancement. Assisting or promoting criminal activity by gang members is all the law requires. The gang sentencing enhancement can add a mandatory 5 years to any sentence imposed for a serious nonviolent drug crime (and more if the crime involved acts of violence).
Aggressive Defense of California Drug Trafficking Accusations
Randy Collins understands how easy it is for innocent people to be caught in the net of a drug trafficking sweep. Even people who played minor roles in drug crimes are treated as if they were major players.
As a drug trafficking defense attorney, Randy Collins uses his courtroom experience and knowledge of drug law to obtain the best outcomes for his clients that the law allows. Dismissals, acquittals, and reasonable plea agreements can prevent individuals accused of serious drug trafficking charges from spending years of their lives behind bars.
If you have been accused of drug trafficking in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, or anywhere else in Southern California, call The Law Offices of Randy Collins at 888-250-2865. You can also tell us about your problem by submitting our online contact form.