People who use drugs and get caught very often face not just drug possession charges, but also drug trafficking charges. If there is any way to show someone is part of a drug network, which a user by default is, then trafficking charges can be put forward. These charges are very serious and can lead to hefty fines and long prison sentences. An aggressive defense strategy is therefore vital.
What Is a Drug Trafficking Charge?
State and federal prosecutors can bring drug trafficking charges whenever they believe substances are imported, sold, or delivered. Most of the time, charges relate to heroin, hydrocodone, oxycontin, opiates, and methamphetamine. The charge often escalates from possession to trafficking due to the amount people are carrying. This means that people carrying for personal use may still face these charges. The reason why this matters is because minimum sentences have to be imposed on different charges. Hence, someone who may have just purchased a large quantity of drugs for personal use may end up in prison for 25 years.
Defenses Against Drug Trafficking Charges
Under the law, any involvement in a drug network can be classed as drug trafficking, even if the actual crime is distribution or possession. When people are convicted of taking part in drug trade, they can face fines, imprisonment, or both. Because of the “War on Drugs” these offenses are often punished as harshly as possible. It is vital, therefore, that someone facing these charges has the best possible defense in order to beat a drug trafficking charge. Some of the most common defenses are:
- Entrapment, which is a very risky defense. It means admitting to committing the crime that a defendants are charged with, but that they did so in a legally justifiable way, meaning that they felt pressured by an undercover agent, for instance, to commit the crime. This is also known as an “absolute defense”.
- That no warrant had been obtained by the police to conduct a search, or evidence was obtained in any other illegal or improper manner. This means the defense will use the Fourth Amendment. This is also known as a “motion to suppress” and usually happens at pre-trial. The difficulty with the motion to suppress is that the burden of proof of improper conduct of law enforcement lies with the defendant.
- That there is insufficient evidence. This means that the defense attorney questions the strength of the evidence being offered by the prosecution, who have the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The defense will look for any element in the evidence that can be discredited, using this to reduce or even dismiss the charge in full.
- By grilling CIs (confidential informants). These are more commonly known as “snitches”, and their testimony is often quite easy to discredit. Under the Sixth Amendment, a defendant has a right to know who the informant is, which means they can also be brought into court. The prosecution will usually do all they can to keep the identity of a CI secret, which means they will often offer a reduced charge instead.
- Formally requesting the charge to be amended. This is at the state’s discretion, but is quite commonly accepted in cases where a trafficking charge actually relates to possession. Two types of possession exist: actual (the person actually had drugs on their person) and constructive (the person was in the area of drugs and could have control over them). For instance, Those who live in a house in which one person is a drug trafficker, may also be charged with with drug trafficking. The defense would then try to demonstrate that the defendant has no involvement or even knowledge of the situation.
- Offering “substantial assistance”. This essentially means that the defendant has information that can be offered to the prosecution to resolve other cases or disrupt bigger networks, in return for a lighter sentence.
- Requesting deferred prosecution. This is not possible in all states, but in some areas, someone who does not have a felony background may be offered a place on a deferred prosecution program. If they complete the program, the case will be dismissed in full, appearing like a “not guilty” verdict. These programs are strict and hard to complete, but it does mean that the defendant’s record stays clean if they are completed.
- Requesting a reduced sentence and agreeing to treatment. While the War on Drugs means that drug laws and sentences are much tougher, there is an increased understanding of the fact that addiction is a disease. If those who are facing drug trafficking charges are users, then their defense may suggest attendance at drug court, where they can agree to undergoing drug treatment in return for a reduced sentence.
Why Pro Se Is a Bad Idea
Someone who is facing drug trafficking charges may believe that it is reasonably easy to beat them, with so many different options available. Hence, they may choose to go pro se, meaning they will defend themselves. It is important to understand that the consequences of these cases are very severe. Indeed, it is possible to end up in prison for a quarter of a century and have a fine that is unmanageable for the vast majority of people. Beating a drug trafficking charge is down to having an excellent defense strategy in place that looks at all the important details.
It can be very difficult to properly untangle a drug trafficking case. It is common, for instance, for drug smugglers and cartels to find innocent people to transport drugs across country and state borders. It is very important, therefore, that a proper investigation is conducted not just by the prosecution, but also by the defense. To beat a drug trafficking charge, it is vital that an effective defense strategy is mounted that addresses every element of the case.
- How to beat drug trafficing charges. (2010, April 12). Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-answers/how-to-beat-drug-trafficing-charges-247178.html
- Beating a Drug Case. (2015, November 15). Retrieved from https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/beating-a-drug-case
- Drug Trafficking/Distribution. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/drug-trafficking-distribution.html
- S. Constitution – Fourth Amendment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment
- S. Constitution – Sixth Amendment. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/sixth_amendment