A Primer on Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

When most people hear the term “drug trafficking,” they imagine large vehicles transporting huge amounts of drugs across state (or even national) borders. In fact, while trafficking certainly does encompass the transportation of drugs, it is also used to describe a wide array of other actions involving controlled or counterfeit substances. 

Definition of Federal Drug Trafficking 

21 USC § 841 makes it illegal to “manufacture, distribute, or dispense” a controlled substance; the same section also outlaws possession with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances. 

The key difference between possession and trafficking is that trafficking involves an amount of controlled substances that is more than what would normally be reserved for personal use. There are minimum amounts for almost every type of controlled substance that trigger trafficking charges. For instance, possession of 100 kilograms or more of marijuana will likely trigger trafficking charges. Other drugs, like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, and fentanyl, have substantially lower weight thresholds. 

Minimum Sentences

Just as controlled substances have weight thresholds that trigger trafficking charges, different amounts can earn you a longer prison sentence. Importantly, sometimes mandatory minimum sentences apply to federal drug charges.

For example, someone caught with 101 kilograms of marijuana and convicted of federal trafficking charges will be subject to a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence (with a 40-year maximum sentence). However, if that person is convicted of having more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana, he could be looking at a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. 

Penalties for drug trafficking are more severe for repeat offenders. A second conviction for federal drug trafficking can result in a 20-year sentence, and a third conviction could result in life. 

Additionally, there are all sorts of enhancing factors that may come into play. Using a firearm or other weapon while committing a federal drug crime is sure to increase potential penalties. Using minors to aid in drug trafficking operations is another enhancing factor, as is distributing near a school. 

How Can an Attorney Help?

First, a skilled criminal defense attorney will be able to poke holes in the prosecution’s case and cast doubt on the charges. There are numerous tactics and strategies an attorney will know to deploy in certain situations. 

Second, attorneys are able to help their clients receive mitigated sentences if they should be found guilty. In many ways, navigating the federal sentencing guidelines is actually more complex than defending against charges. The Law Office of Kevin B. Ross is well-positioned to help you take on serious drug charges. Our team handles a wide array of federal and state criminal charges and pledges to be there with you every step of the way. 

Call us today to discuss your legal needs over a free consultation.

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Law Office of Kevin B. Ross, P.C.

Texas criminal defense attorneys Kevin B. Ross and Kristen Beckman bring a team approach to the Law Office of Kevin B. Ross, P.C., a Dallas criminal defense law firm that provides PROFESSIONAL, PERSONAL, and PROVEN representation to people in Texas who are accused of state and federal criminal offenses. We believe everyone deserves the strongest and most effective defense possible. The firm represents clients across Texas who are charged with crimes ranging from federal white-collar crimes to state drug charges, DWIs to murder, and everything in between.

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