If you are facing drug trafficking charges, it’s imperative that you speak to an attorney right away. Penalties for drug traffickers typically include substantial fines and jail time, and the sentences imposed often start at several years of imprisonment and get stiffer the more drugs are involved. What’s more, trafficking is not a particularly uncommon charge when a person is arrested in connection with drugs. In fiscal year 2017, nearly 67,00 people faced federal drug charges, and, of those individuals, more than 19,000 were chargedwith drug trafficking.
Drug Trafficking Cases Are Often Federal
While drug possession charges that involve small amounts of drugs are generally handled on a state level, trafficking charges involving larger amounts of drugs are often are prosecuted in federal court. The federal government doesn’t play games with drug traffickers and aggressively pursues harsh legal consequences. For this reason, if you are facing drug trafficking charges, you should speak to an experienced attorney as soon as you can.
When it comes to trafficking and distribution charges, the federal government seeks to impose stiff penalties. These penaltiesapply to the selling, transportation, and importation of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs. All of these trafficking charges are felonies, and the government doesn’t even have to prove that you intended to sell the drugs. The trafficking charge is based on the amount of the drugs in your possession, but the amount that triggers a trafficking charge rather than a possession charge depends upon the drug in questions.
Drug Trafficking Charges Carry Significant Penalties
People charged with drug trafficking are quite likely to face prison time. According to the United States Sentencing Commission:
- The vast majority of drug trafficking offenders – 95.6% – get at least some prison time
- Roughly three-fourths of those charged with drug trafficking receive sentences either within the sentencing guidelines, at about 39%, or below the recommended sentence range, at nearly, 24%
- The average sentence for those convicted of drug trafficking, the average sentence was roughly 70 months.
The sentences for drug trafficking can be quite substantial. Getting caught with even a relatively small amount of drugs subject to trafficking charges can result in significant legal penalties. Some of these minimum first-offense sentences include the following:
- For possession of cocaine in the amount of 500 grams to 4,999 grams (or various other drugs in different amounts), the minimum sentence is no less than five years up to 40 years. Fines can be $2 million or more
- For a second-offense, defendants can be sentenced to no less than ten years and no more than life in prison.
- For larger amounts of drugs subject to trafficking laws, a first-offense charge can result in a sentence of 10 years or more, while a second offense can lead the prison time of at least 20 years, and up to life imprisonment. Fines could range from $4 million to $10 million.
Defenses to Allegations of Drug Trafficking
If you are facing drug trafficking charges, it’s easy to feel like there is nowhere to turn. If the authorities found you with a sufficient amount of drugs to justify a trafficking case, it’s hard to see how a judge or a jury may even begin to think that the drugs were not yours or that you did not know they were in your possession.
Fortunately, in many cases, there are legal defenses available that may keep certain evidence out of court or case enough doubt on the prosecution’s case to obtain an acquittal at trial. For this reason, if you have been accused of drug trafficking, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you possibly can. Some of the defenses that an attorney may be able to raise include:
- Alleging a 4thAmendment Violation – The 4thAmendment of the United States Constitution prohibits police from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures of people and property. If they violated your 4thAmendment rights during a traffic stop, a search of your home, or an encounter on the street, any evidence they gathered could potentially be suppressed, meaning that the prosecution could not use it against you. In many drug cases, the suppression of evidence forces the prosecution to drop its case completely.
- Introducing Evidence that Indicates that You Were Not Aware that You Possessed the Drugs –In order to be guilty of trafficking, you must have knowingly possessed the drugs of which you are accused of trafficking. So if someone planted the drugs in your car, home or on your person, you are not guilty of drug trafficking. Of course, directly establishing your mental state at the time of your arrest is impossible, as the court cannot read your mind. For this reason, casting doubt regarding your knowledge of the drugs must be done through circumstantial evidence. Examples of circumstantial evidence that could be used to cast such doubt include the fact that you were driving someone else’s car, a clean drug test, or the fact that a person who is a known drug dealer or trafficker had access to the place the drugs were found shortly before your arrest.
In some cases, there are no defenses available, and a defendant’s best bet is to negotiate a plea bargain. If you find yourself in this position, it is imperative that you retain an experienced defense attorney that knows how to work with prosecutors. A lawyer will be able to spot weaknesses in the prosecution’s case or ways in which you may be able to leverage insider knowledge of a drug distribution organization that could significantly mitigate the consequences you are facing.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Knoxville Drug Trafficking Defense Attorney Today
If you have been arrested for drug trafficking, it’s important that you retain an attorney as soon as you can. The sooner a lawyer is representing you, the sooner your rights will be protected. To schedule a free consultation with Knoxville criminal defense lawyer John Barnes, call our office today at 865-408-7823 or contact us online.