Drug crime is one of the most serious problems facing our country today. The illegal drug trade brings in billions of dollars each year, and most of that money ends up in the hands of criminals. In recent years, in an effort to combat the flow of illegal drugs, law enforcement agencies have shifted their focus from minor possession drug charges to more serious drug trafficking charges. Rather than simple possession or distribution, drug trafficking involves the transportation of large quantities of illegal drugs from one area to another with the intention of establishing a distribution network. Sometimes these drugs are trafficked in from across the border or across state lines.
Potential Penalties for Trafficking Drugs
The penalties for drug trafficking have become increasingly severe as the rate of criminal drug activity has risen. When a person is convicted of a drug trafficking charge, the sentence that they receive is a reflection of the nature of the offense. Factors that can influence sentencing can include the type of drug that was trafficked and the quantity of the drug. For example, a person who is convicted of marijuana trafficking charges can be sentenced to three to 15 years in federal prison and be fined up to $200,000. A conviction for cocaine trafficking charges can also bring a prison sentence of three to 15 years and fines from $25,000 up to $200,000. Heroin trafficking is considered especially dangerous by law enforcement, and the penalties for a conviction reflect that view. A heroin trafficking conviction can carry a prison sentence of three to 25 years and $50,000 to $500,000 in fines.
Additional Penalties for Additional Crimes
The possible penalties can become worse if one or more of the following crimes is associated with the initial charge:
- Money laundering: The illicit drug trade brings in massive profits, and drug distributors attempt to use legitimate businesses to conceal large transfers of cash under the guise of “normal” business transactions.
- Weapons charges: Drug distribution is a dangerous business, and many traffickers are armed at all times. To complicate matters, many of these people may have prior criminal convictions that prevent them from obtaining firearms legally. Illegal weapons and illegal narcotics are often discovered together.
- Transfer across borders or state lines: Trafficking drugs into another state or into the country illegally makes a trafficking offense into a federal crime, and many additional charges are likely to be filed if this occurs.
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