New York Drug Smuggling Laws & Charges + Statute of Limitations

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Smuggling refers to the secret transportation of goods or money past a prohibited point, such as a secured facility or border. In the case of New York drug smuggling, the item being smuggled can either be illegal substances or prescribed drugs that the individual does not have permission to move across the borders and supply to other people.

New York is becoming increasingly strict about smuggling laws, as everything from humans to cigarettes are smuggled into the state every year. Criminals have ignored the laws that define smuggling drugs as a federal offense, but depending on the item that is being smuggled, the penalties can be severe. In fact, the federal system uses specific guidelines for sentencing – most of which include mandatory jail time. In some circumstances, smuggling is also viewed by the government as an act of terrorism which cases extra penalties.

Laws and Penalties

In New York, a first offense in drug smuggling leads to a mandatory minimum jail-time sentence of five years. As the offenses increase, the penalties become more severe, and federal courts often use a three-strike rule that lead to mandatory sentences.

In addition to prison sentences, many individuals accused of drug smuggling may be hit with a significant fine. The amount of the fine will depend on several factors and can reach as high as twenty million dollars depending on the convictions already in place and the severity of the offense. A significant factor in determining the penalty is whether the accused is working as an individual or part of a group involved in organized crime.

As a federal crime, drug smuggling is treated as a felony in New York, which means that prison sentences can sometimes reach as high as twenty years. Because drug smuggling is regarded to be a particularly serious offense, the penalties are often higher than with other forms of smuggling. However, factors like criminal history, goods being smuggled, and more can have an impact on the sentence. There are also some basic guidelines that can be used to determine a smuggling sentence. For example, in most instances, sentencing in New York uses a point system depending on the nature of the drug and other factors.

Drug Smuggling Defenses

Is with most cases in New York, it is possible to fight back against an accusation of drug smuggling with the help of a lawyer. There are also a range of defenses that lawyers can present during a case to help lower the overall penalty you receive. A defense could be:

  • An argument that the drugs didn’t belong to you – If the accuser cannot prove that the drugs were yours in the first place or that you were aware you were carrying them, you cannot be convicted of drug smuggling.
  • Unlawful search and seizure – If you were not subject to lawful search and seizure procedures during the time of your arrest, then this can be used in your case to lower your sentence.
  • Missing evidence – in some situations, an attorney might be able to launch a defense case when the prosecutor is unable to produce the drugs involved in the drug smuggling charge. An officer who lacks the actual drugs to provide as evidence will have their case dismissed.
  • Lack of evidence to prove the presence of drugs – What’s more, the substance that the person was accused of smuggling into New York must be proven to be an illegal substance or drug. Just because something looks like it might be illegal drugs, doesn’t mean that such is true.
  • Entrapment – Though law enforcement officials in New York may be allowed to conduct sting operations, entrapment might occur when a suspects are pushed into drug smuggling when they otherwise would not have done it.
  • Planted drugs – It’s often difficult to prove planted drugs as a defense, as the word of law enforcement officials is taken very seriously in New York. However, if the lawyer can show without doubt that the drugs were planted on the defendant, then the case must be dismissed.

Statute of Limitations

As a crime at a federal level, drug smuggling in New York has a statute of limitation that is five years. Once that period of time has passed, a person can no longer be prosecuted as a drug smuggler or charged with the crime, unless conspiracy charges are raised. In the case of conspiracy charges, the statute begins to run down following the most recent conspiracy-based action.

New York Drug Smuggling Cases

Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.