Federal Drug Trafficking Offense Penalties – Knowing the Basics

Recently, the FBI and Tennessee law enforcement arrested 10 people on federal drug trafficking charges in Memphis. They were ultimately charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute. They had in their possession methamphetamine, cocaine, and more than 100 kilograms of marijuana. Given the conspiracy charges in this case, those arrested are looking at anywhere from 10 years to life in prison.

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While our national discussion seems to be turning towards treatment rather than prison, federal and state law enforcement still heavily punish those involved with narcotics. Indeed, of the 67,742 federal cases in fiscal year 2016, almost 20,000 involved drug trafficking. Moreover, five drugs – methamphetamine, cocaine (powder and crack), marijuana, heroin, and oxycodone – account for nearly all drug trafficking offenses.

If you are charged with federal drug trafficking, it is vital that you retain a criminal defense attorney who has extensive experience. Brandon Sample, Attorney at Law, is an expert when it comes to federal drug offenses. He has successfully represented multiple clients facing federal drug trafficking charges. Call 802-444-HELP today for a free consultation.

The Offense of Federal Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is the same as drug distribution. Both encompass drug sales, transportation, and importation. The federal statute making drug trafficking illegal can be found at 21 U.S.C. sec. 841, which states:

It shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally –

  1. To manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance; or
  2. To create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.

To convict someone of federal drug trafficking, a federal prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: a person (i) knowingly or intentionally, (ii) manufactured or distributed, a (iii) controlled substance (an illegal drug) or counterfeit drug. It is important to note that controlled substances also include prescription drugs.

Often, possession and trafficking can look the same from a charge perspective. However, trafficking charges usually only come should a person have suspicious items at the time of the arrest (e.g. plastic bags, large amounts of cash or drugs).

Penalties for Federal Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is enforced on both the state and federal levels. The penalties for a conviction vary, depending on the substance and how much was being moved. For example, a person would be facing a 3 to 10-year sentence and fines of over $100,000 for marijuana trafficking. Yet, that same person could be facing a possible 25-year prison sentence and fines up to $500,000 for heroin trafficking. In addition, sentencing enhancements, such as distributing narcotics in a school zone, will add to the potential penalty.

The average sentence for drug trafficking offenders is approximately five years in prison. Interestingly, almost half of all those convicted of federal drug trafficking in 2016 had little or no prior criminal history.

There are other consequences that come with a drug trafficking conviction. Law enforcement can seize assets of those involved in drug offenses. An individual can have cars, real estate, or even bank accounts seized. There may also be immigration consequences because of a drug trafficking conviction.

Experienced Federal Drug Trafficking Attorney Is Here To Help You

Federal drug trafficking offenses are serious crimes. So, if you or a loved one have been charged with such an offense, your priority is to obtain a seasoned drug trafficking criminal defense attorney. Brandon Sample is an expert federal criminal defense attorney who fight for you. Call for a free consultation today.

Additional Resources

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/21/841

https://www.ussc.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/research-and-publications/quick-facts/Quick_Facts_Drug_Trafficking_2016.pdf

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