Drug smuggling is the act of transporting drugs from one area to another for distribution, possession, use, or sale. The drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, MDMA, and methamphetamine are usually made in one part of the world then transported to other countries. The smuggling of drugs includes inter-country, inter-region, or inter-state. Drug trafficking and smuggling is different than being in possession of drugs because of the amount that a person has and the intent that they have to distribute.

The punishment for drug smuggling and drug trafficking is harsh and can vary depending on several different factors such as the type of drugs being smuggled, the area of distribution, if weapons were involved, and whether children were involved in the process.

Are Drug Smuggling and Drug Trafficking the Same Thing?

Yes. The terms are used interchangeably to describe the act of transporting drugs from one area to another. Drug trafficking laws generally cover the different stages of drug distribution beyond just the specific sale, such as:

  • Purchasing
  • Delivering
  • Transporting
  • Importing
  • Transferring

How Does Drug Smuggling Occur?

Drug smuggling occurs when a person has a large amount of drugs in their possession and they intend to transfer, sell, import, and transport the drugs illegally. Drug smuggling also can happen when someone tries to smuggle drugs across country borders. Smuggling drugs can happen in different ways, including:

  • Giving drugs to another person called a smuggler
  • Advertising the sale of drugs
  • Shipping the drugs through the mail
  • Coordinating the transportation of drugs
  • Selling the drugs to another person

Is Drug Trafficking a Felony?

Yes. The type of sentence a defendant will receive, if convicted, depends on the drug trafficked and jurisdiction. For example, marijuana trafficking sentence includes three to 15 years in prison and approximately $200,000 fine. Heroin trafficking sentence includes three to 25 years in prison and approximately $500,000 fine.

While each state has their own laws on drug smuggling, the federal government also prosecutes drug smuggling offenses. Federal drug smuggling charges can happen whenever any drug smuggling activity crosses state lines or involves activity in more than one state. Another difference between federal and state drug laws is the severity of the punishment after a drug smuggling conviction. Federal drug smuggling have harsher penalties and longer jail sentences.

What Rights Will I Lose If Convicted of Smuggling Drugs?

In addition to possible time in prison and paying fines, a defendant convicted of drug smuggling may lose:

  • The right to federal and state benefits
  • Assets that may be connected with drug smuggling, such as items used to transport the drugs or bought with the money made from drug smuggling
  • The right to citizenship if applying for naturalized citizenship

What Is Asset Forfeiture?

A person convicted of drug trafficking may be required to turn over assets, property, and money obtained while trafficking drugs. This is referred to as asset forfeiture. The government takes the assets and they are not returned. Typically, asset forfeiture occurs when an individual is convicted of a drug crime and receives more than one year in prison.

Should I Discuss a Drug Smuggling Charge with an Attorney?

Drug smuggling is a very serious crime that can lead to a lengthy prison sentence and a large fine. If you are facing charges for smuggling drugs, contact a criminal law attorney.