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Drug Trafficking Penalties

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What Is the Criminal Definition of Drug Trafficking?

Criminal laws define drug trafficking as: knowingly being in possession, manufacturing, selling, purchasing, or delivering an illegal, controlled substance. Thus, drug trafficking laws cover many different stages in a drug transaction, and not just the actual sales.  Drug trafficking is one of the most serious criminal offenses, and usually results in 1st degree felony charges. 

What Are Some Examples of Drug Trafficking Penalties?

Drug trafficking penalties are generally quite severe. However, some drug trafficking charges will result in more serious penalties than other types of drug trafficking charges. The severity of the penalties usually depends on what type of drug or controlled substance is being trafficked. Drugs that are deemed more dangerous to society will usually result in greater penalties. 

For example, drug trafficking penalties may be as follows, depending on the laws in the jurisdiction:

  • Marijuana Trafficking: Penalties may include fines ranging from $25,000-$200,000, and/or prison sentences from 3-15 years. This depends on the amount being trafficked or the number of marijuana plants involved.
  • Cocaine Trafficking: Depending on the number of grams being trafficked, penalties can include fines ranging from $25,000-$250,000, and/or prison sentences ranging from 3-15 years.
  • Heroin Trafficking: This is generally one of the most serious types of drug trafficking crimes, with penalties including fines from $50,000-$500,000. Prison sentences can range from 3-25 years.

Thus, drug trafficking penalties become more severe depending on the classification of the drug.  Also, penalties can be increased or subject to “enhancement”, if certain factors are present in the case. For example, a drug trafficking prison sentence can be enhanced (made more severe) if the drugs were sold to a minor, or if the drugs were sold in a school zone.

What Are Some Other Drug Trafficking Penalties or Consequences?

Besides the prescribed penalties involved, a drug trafficking conviction can result in several other negative consequences for the offender. Some of these may include:

  • Loss of Rights and Benefits: A drug trafficking conviction can result in the loss of several civil rights and federal benefits. For example, a convicted felon may lose the right to carry a firearm, and can lose access to federal school loans and grants. Benefits may be permanently lost after repeat convictions
  • Forfeiture of Assets: The offender may be required to forfeit any assets, monies, and properties obtained in connection with the drug trafficking conviction. Seizure of assets is generally required for drug offenses punishable by greater than one year imprisonment
  • Immigration Consequences: Drug trafficking consequences can lead to serious consequences in the area of immigration law. For example, a convicted drug trafficker may be subject to immediate deportation. A history of drug trafficking on one’s record may make an alien ineligible for entry in the U.S. or ineligible for citizenship

In any case involving drug trafficking charges, it is necessary for the defendant to understand all the possible penalties that may apply to them. Alternative sentencing measures may be available to some defendants, though these are often associated with strict eligibility requirements.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Drug Trafficking Penalties?

Drug trafficking charges are perhaps some of the most serious criminal charges. You may wish to contact an experienced criminal lawyer immediately if you are facing drug trafficking charges. Your criminal defense lawyer will be able to represent you in court and may be able to help you have the charges dropped or the penalties reduced.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 09-30-2016 03:16 PM PDT

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