Are you facing federal criminal charges for drug trafficking? The federal government has already begun to work on building a criminal case against you. The time to begin defending yourself is now. The accomplished federal drug trafficking attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC can help you fight to protect your future.
Federal crimes are incredibly serious. There’s a lot on the line. Do not hesitate to contact our law office at (502) 371-7000 to arrange a free initial case assessment with our team. We’ll review the charges against you, listen to your side of the story, and answer any questions you have. There’s no time to waste, so call now.
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Understanding Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
Drug crimes can fall the jurisdiction of the state of Kentucky or the federal government. Under state law, trafficking refers to producing, transporting, and/or distributing a large amount of drugs. You won’t typically face state criminal drug trafficking charges for possession. That’s not necessarily the case if your drug offense falls under federal jurisdiction.
Under 21 USC §84, a person can face federal drug trafficking charges for knowingly or intentionally:
- manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing, OR
- Possessing with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance or a counterfeit substance.
In other words, under federal law, drug trafficking not only refers to making, moving, or selling drugs, but also to possessing drugs (or a counterfeit substance) with the intent to do any of those things. Keep in mind that you’d have to have a fairly large quantity of a prohibited controlled substance or counterfeit in your possession for it to be reasonable to assume that you had an intent to distribute or sell.
How Are a Controlled Substance and Counterfeit Substance Different?
Drug trafficking charges can involve cases where you’re found to be in possession of a large quantity of a controlled substance OR a counterfeit substance.
A controlled substance is typically synonymous with the term “illegal drug.” Certain drugs are almost always illegal, while others are illegal if you don’t have a legitimate prescription from a doctor. Drugs are classified by the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act. Classification ultimately depends on whether a drug has known medical uses and how addictive the substance tends to be. There are currently 5 classification, or schedules, for controlled substances in the United States.
- Schedule I: Drugs that have no accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse (marijuana, heroin, LSD).
- Schedule II: Drugs – including many narcotics – that have some accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse (cocaine, fentanyl, morphine, opium, methamphetamine).
- Schedule III: Drugs that have an accepted medical use and moderate potential for addiction and abuse (Ketamine, narcotics with more than 90mg of codeine)
- Schedule IV: Drugs with a low potential for abuse and long-term addiction (Valium, Klonopin, Xanax).
- Schedule V: Drugs with a very low potential for abuse. These are typically cough medicines and ezogabine.
Controlled substances can have physiological, psychological, and physical effects on the body. For that reason, use, sale, and distribution are regulated by the government.
Let’s say you create a substance that looks, feels, and even smells just like marijuana. However, it’s not the real deal. When smoked or consumed, it doesn’t have any effect on the body or mind. Can you still face federal drug trafficking charges for creating and selling the substance?
Absolutely. That’s because federal drug trafficking law doesn’t just apply to controlled substances. It also applies to counterfeit substances. A counterfeit substance is basically anything that’s designed to mimic or be mistaken for a controlled substance. A counterfeit can be a knockoff or a completely inert substance.
You Can Face Federal Drug Trafficking Charges, Despite State Regulations
Many states across the country have legalized medicinal and/or recreational marijuana in one way or another. Today, Kentucky is not one of those states. However, there is legislation in the works that could change that. A bill to legalize medical marijuana has passed the state house “by a wide margin.” In the meantime, marijuana has become legalized in some form in nearby states, including Indiana and Ohio.
However, it’s important to understand that changes to state drug laws will not protect you from federal drug charges. Unless and until the federal government decriminalizes marijuana or other drugs, it will still be a violation of federal law to possess, manufacture, disrepute, or dispense them. That’s true, regardless of what the state says about those particular drugs.
What Are the Penalties For a Federal Drug Trafficking Conviction?
Drug trafficking is a felony offense under federal law. However, the penalties for a drug trafficking conviction can vary. There are three primary factors that will influence the penalty: the type and quantity of the drug involved, and whether or not this is your first offense.
Schedule I & Schedule II Drugs, Excluding Marijuana
Between 5 and 40 Years in a Federal Prison (First Offense)
For a first offense, you can be sentenced to between 5 years and 40 years in a federal prison if you are convicted of trafficking:
- Cocaine (between 500 & 4,999 grams)
- Cocaine base (between 5 & 49 grams)
- Fentanyl (between 40 & 399 grams)
- Heroin (between 100 & 999 grams)
- LSD (between 1 & 9 grams), and
- Methamphetamine (between 5 & 49 grams pure or 50 & 499 grams of a mixture).
The maximum fine is $2,000,000, or $5,000,000 if multiple people are involved in the trafficking scheme.
Between 10 and 20 Years in Prison (First Offense)
The term of imprisonment is aggravated when you have a very large quantify of a drug in your possession. For a first offense, you can be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years in prison if you are convicted of trafficking:
- Cocaine (5 kilograms or more)
- Cocaine base (50 grams or more)
- Fentanyl (400 grams or more)
- Heroin (1 kilogram or more)
- LSD (10 grams or more), and
- Methamphetamine (more than 50 grams pure or 500 grams of a mixture).
The maximum fine is $4,000,000, or $10,000,000 for a scheme involving more than one person.
For other Schedule I and Schedule II drugs, the maximum penalty for a first offense for any quantity is 20 years in prison. A second offense is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Marijuana Trafficking Penalties
Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. However, it is subject to its own penalties.
Trafficking Involving Less Than 50 kg or Fewer than 50 Plants: A first offense carries up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. A second offense carries up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
Trafficking Involving More Than 10 kg or Between 50 and 90 Plants: A first offense carries up to 20 years in prison and $1,000,000 in fines. A second offense carries up to 30 years in prison and $2,000,000 in fines.
Trafficking Involving Between 100 kg and 999 kg or Between 100 and 999 Plants: A first offense is punishable by a prison sentence of between 5 and 40 years and $2,000,000 in fines. A second offense can lead to between 10 years and life imprisonment and $4,000,000 in fines.
Trafficking Involving More Than 1000 kg or More Than 1,000 Plants: A first offense is punishable by between 10 years and life in prison and $4,000,000 in fines. A second offense is punishable by 20 years and life in prison and $8,000,000 in fines.
When a marijuana trafficking scheme involves multiple parties, a maximum fine of $20,000,000 could be on the table, depending on the quantity fo the drug involved.
Defending Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
Just because you’ve been accused of drug trafficking in violation of federal law does not mean that your life is over. The government has to prove that you are guilty. You will have the opportunity to defend yourself. Defenses that might be argued in federal drug trafficking cases include:
- You’ve been falsely accused
- Your identity has been mistaken for someone else’s
- You acted under force or duress
- Your rights were violated (e.g., illegal search, unlawful arrest), or
- You did not have the knowledge or intent, as required by the federal drug trafficking statute.
At Suhre & Associates, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys will carefully investigate your alleged crime. We’ll consult with experts, gather and comb through the evidence, and work to construct a strong defense on your behalf. However, that’s not all we will do. We’ll also scrutinize the government’s case against you and determine where it’s weakest.
Then we’ll attempt to use those weak spots to your advantage. We’ll challenge the validity of evidence. We’ll work to discredit witnesses and the testimony they provide. Our team will work to undermine the federal prosecutors at every turn. Time and time against, our comprehensive approach helps us secure positive results for our clients.
Schedule a Free Consultation With our Federal Drug Trafficking Lawyers
Have you been arrested for a federal drug trafficking offense? Contact Suhre & Associates, LLC for immediate legal assistance defending your case in federal court. Our law firm offers a free initial case assessment, so don’t hesitate to call us or connect with us online today.