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Interstate Drug Trafficking

Federal law prohibits the selling, transportation, and importation of controlled substances, such as marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. While state law also criminalizes drug trafficking, federal investigations are usually better funded and more extensive. Federal prosecutions also tend to result in much harsher penalties, which is in part due to the fact that courts are required to use minimum sentencing guidelines when dealing with federal drug offenses. The stakes are especially high in federal trials, so if you are being investigated for or have been accused of interstate drug trafficking, it is critical to retain an experienced federal crimes lawyer who can help you formulate a defense.

Federal Drug Charges

Drug trafficking is prohibited by both state and federal law. Whether a person will be charged with a federal offense depends on a series of factors, including:

  • Whether the drugs were of high quality and being distributed in large amounts;
  • Whether the criminal organization was operating on a large scale;
  • Whether the distribution involved interstate commerce;
  • Whether the offense occurred on federal property;
  • The person’s role in the organization; and
  • Whether other crimes were committed by the defendant or organization.

Although federal law prohibits the distribution of a variety of controlled substances, almost all cases involve one of six drugs, including:

  • Crack cocaine;
  • Powder cocaine;
  • Heroin;
  • Marijuana;
  • Methamphetamine; and
  • Oxycodone.

When individuals are found in possession of a large quantity of one of these types of substances, investigators presume that they were involved in distribution, which in turn can lead to drug trafficking charges. For example, if a person was found with between 500 and 4,999 grams of a cocaine mixture, he or she can be charged in federal court for drug trafficking. Those convicted of a first offense face a prison sentence of at least five years and a $2 million fine.

Federal Penalties

Prison sentences imposed on those who have been convicted of federal drug trafficking tend to be much more severe than their state counterparts. Although judges do have a certain degree of discretion during sentencing, they are also required to remain within the bounds of predetermined minimum guidelines set in place by Congress. However, before deciding a sentence, judges are permitted to assess the following factors:

  • The type and amount of drug seized by law enforcement officers;
  • The size of the area of distribution;
  • Whether the defendant used a weapon;
  • Whether the defendant was in a position of power within the organization or was only a minor participant;
  • Whether the accused has a criminal record;
  • Whether anyone else was injured during the commission of the crime; and
  • Whether the organization’s distribution network crossed state lines.

When an assessment of these factors is favorable, a judge may be willing to sentence a defendant to the lower range of the minimum sentencing guidelines.

Call an Experienced Federal Crimes Attorney Today

If you were arrested for drug trafficking, do not hesitate to contact the legal team at Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling (305) 670-9919 for a free consultation. Our Miami attorneys are eager to assist you today.

Resource:

ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Quick_Facts_Drug_Trafficking_2013.pdf

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