Drug trafficking crimes get a great deal of attention at both the state and federal level, and it is easy to see why. Drug abuse costs the US over $10 billion per year, due to death, injuries, health care costs, treatment, incarceration expenses and more.
What constitutes drug trafficking? If you are being charged with some sort of drug trafficking offense, the penalties are serious. Below are some of the most common questions about drug trafficking sentences.
Q: What are the sentences like for drug trafficking?
A: Trafficking of Schedule I and II drugs, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, PCP and LSD will result in mandatory minimum sentences. For example, if you were in possession of 500 grams to five kilos of cocaine, you would do at least five years in prison. If you are caught with more than five kilos of cocaine or more than one kilo of heroin, you will get a minimum sentence of 10 years, with a maximum life term.
The sentence could be enhanced based upon your criminal record, or for some of the other factors mentioned above. Many federal drug trafficking charges will net you at least 10 years in prison. Life imprisonment is possible for repeat offenders with large amounts of drugs.
Q: What about fines?
A: State trafficking convictions can get you a fine of $25,000 to $100,000, while a federal conviction can get you a $10 million fine.
Q: What is the difference between drug possession and drug trafficking?
A: Drug trafficking is a federal felony, and is more serious than drug possession. Generally, if you are found with larger quantities of illegal drugs, you can be charged with drug trafficking, as it appears as if you are selling drugs, not just possessing them for personal use.
Q: What about mandatory minimum sentences?
A: In the state and federal statutes, there are mandatory minimum sentences that mean you must serve the minimum period in prison and you cannot get parole before that time has passed. Three and five year mandatory minimums are common.
Q: What are some of the factors that affect a federal drug trafficking sentence?
A: The Federal Sentencing Guidelines take many factors into account when determining what your sentence should be for drug trafficking. These include if the offense involved injury to someone else; if there was a weapon possessed or used; and your criminal history.
Q: Can my sentence be enhanced for other reasons?
A: Yes. If you are convicted of drug trafficking or possession in a school or protected zone, you can get more prison time. Also, your penalty can be enhanced if you crossed state or national borders; how extensive the drug operation was; and what your exact role was in it.
Q: What if I was not actually selling the drugs in my possession?
A: Drug trafficking charges do not depend on if you actually tried to sell the drugs. All that matters is if you had the drug in your possession and how much you had.
Q: Can I get probation in a drug trafficking conviction?
A: It is possible, but normally only as part of a plea bargain. You will need to be on probation for at least 12 months, and it could last three years or more.