Federal Drug Crimes

Nearly half of all inmates in federal prisons (48 percent) are serving time for drug offenses, according to the Department of Justice. Aggressive pursuit by the Drug Enforcement Administration and harsher penalties for drug offenses have contributed to a troubling rise in federal drug arrests, which has a negative impact on thousands of Americans every year. On the state level, many jurisdictions have moved toward decriminalization of minor drug offenses, but federal drug law remains harsh as ever, including mandatory minimum sentences that can put minor offenders behind bars.

Don’t let federal drug charges define you. If you are facing federal drug charges, contact The Law Office of Peter Blair. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.

Legal Definitions

While state-level drug laws may deal with drug possession and low-level drug dealers, federal drug laws are typically reserved for higher-level operations and more serious offenses. Federal drug crimes include:

  • Drug trafficking: This crime has a rather broad definition, including manufacturing drugs, dispensing drugs, distributing drugs, or possessing drugs with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense them. (It is important to keep in mind that you must knowingly do these things. If the accused had no knowledge that he or she was trafficking drugs, he or she cannot be found guilty for doing so.) Essentially, the definition of “trafficking” includes most activities that aren’t involved in the simple possession of drugs for personal use.
  • Drug importation/exportation: Bringing illicit substances into the U.S. or taking them out of the country carries special penalties with it. It is important to note that drug importation and exportation charges can apply, even if the U.S. is not the final destination for the product. Importation and exportation charges can also apply to boats, aircrafts, and other vessels within a certain range of the U.S. coast; in other words, so long as the federal prosecutor can prove that you intended for the drugs to reach or leave the U.S.
  • Drug manufacturing: This federal charge can apply to any individual who is involved in the production chain of an illicit substance. In order to be convicted of drug manufacturing, a federal prosecutor must prove that you possessed the materials, as well as had the intent to manufacture drugs. For example, it is not enough to prove that you had pseudoephedrine in your home; rather, you must have laboratory equipment or other methamphetamine-related materials as well to prove intent to manufacture.
  • Drug distribution: This charge is similar to drug trafficking in that is penalizes the selling, transportation, and importation of controlled substances. The penalty for this type of federal offense will depend on the amount of drugs involved, the type, and where the drugs were taken from/to.

Penalties, Punishment & Sentencing

Penalties for federal drug crimes vary widely depending on the unique circumstances of the case. Sometimes federal drug charges come out of a long-term “sting operation,” which means there is a large amount of evidence that investigators have collected over many weeks or months. Other times, one single act or event can trigger federal drug charges; these cases might be easier to defend against because there is less evidence involved.

Federal drug charges often carry minimum sentencing requirements, depending on the “Schedule” (i.e. category) of the drug and the circumstances of the case. For example’s sake, here are the sentencing guidelines for federal drug trafficking charges for Schedule I substances:

Schedule I drugs, which include heroin, fentanyl analogue, and LSD. A first offense carries a minimum penalty of 5 years in prison and a maximum of 40 years. If the trafficking led to death or serious bodily injury, the minimum penalty is 20 years in prison and the maximum is life in prison. A first offense also carries a maximum fine of $5 million for individuals and $25 million for group offenders. A second offense carries a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. If the trafficking resulted in death or serious bodily injury, the penalty is life in prison. A second offense also carries a maximum fine of $8 million for an individual and $50 million for a group.

However, keep in mind that the amount of drugs trafficked will affect the maximum penalties. For example, trafficking 1 kilogram or more of heroin (a Schedule I drug) carries a minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life. If death or serious bodily injury occurred, it is punishable by at least 20 years in prison. On the second offense, trafficking large amounts of a Schedule I drug carries a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum individual fine of $20 million.

Legal Defenses

Federal charges are often more difficult to defend against because federal prosecutors have vast resources and experience in the federal court system. In addition, federal prosecutors do not have to deal with the over-crowding or scheduling difficulties that present themselves in lower-level courts.

However, this is not to say that federal charges are insurmountable. There are plenty of legal defense options available to you, and an experienced federal drug crime lawyer can help you figure out the best option for your unique case. Defenses against federal drug charges may include:

  • Lack of evidence: The federal prosecutor must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the offense and intended to do so. This may include physical evidence, witness statements, and more.
  • Lack of intent: It is important to understand that you must knowingly commit one of these offenses in order to be guilty. Without the intent to traffic, manufacture, or distribute, you cannot be found guilty.
  • Improper police conduct: An experienced defense attorney will look into the way the case was handled by police. Everything from search and seizure to interrogation must follow federal investigation protocol; failure to adhere to these standards can result in your case being thrown out.

Contact the Law Offices of Peter Blair

Federal drug crimes carry a huge stigma, and you deserve aggressive representation to clear your name. You are more than the charges against you, and an experienced criminal defense attorney like  Peter Blair can help you determine the best course of action for your defense.

When facing federal criminal charges, it is in your best interest to be proactive. The sooner you act, the better your chance of minimizing jail time or avoiding a conviction altogether. Mr. Blair can help develop a sound defense strategy that gives you the best chance at a favorable outcome, and he will fight for you and your freedom.

Don’t let these charges define you. If you are facing federal charges, contact The Law Office of Peter Blair. Call (619) 357-4977 or contact us online to schedule your free and confidential consultation.