Drug trafficking, or drug distribution as it is often called, refers to the transportation and selling of illegal drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. It can also involve the transportation and sale of prescription drugs, such as hydrocodone and other pain killers.
Federal Charges vs. State Charges
Drug trafficking can be charged at the federal level or the state level. Many states have drug trafficking laws that are similar to the federal drug trafficking laws, including penalties with mandatory minimum sentences.
Federal drug trafficking charges are heard in federal court, which is quite different from state courts. Federal drug charges can be brought when the offense occurred on federal property or when an undercover federal agent was part of the alleged crime. Most federal drug trafficking charges involve large quantities of illegal drugs, although the state and federal prosecutors will determine where the charges will be filed.
Penalties for Federal Drug Trafficking
The penalties for a conviction on drug trafficking charges will rely on several factors. If you have a previous conviction for drug trafficking, you will likely receive a stiffer penalty. The penalties for a first time offense of trafficking 500-4999 grams mixture of cocaine, 100 to 999 grams mixture of heroin or 5 to 49 grams pure methamphetamine can result in a federal prison sentence of not less than five years and not more than 40 years’ incarceration and a fine of up to $5 million for an individual or $25 million if not an individual.
The penalties for first time federal drug trafficking conviction for any Schedule I and II substances other than cocaine, fentanyl, fentanyl analogue, heroin, LSD, methamphetamine or PCP are not more than 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $1 million for an individual or $5 million if not an individual.
Preparing Your Defense Strategy
Because the penalties are so high for a conviction on a federal drug trafficking charge, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer representing you. Not all defense attorneys handle cases in federal court. Understanding the differences between state and federal court is important, as this can also affect how your defense strategy is handled. An attorney can answer other questions you may have if you are charged with the crime of federal drug trafficking.
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