Drug trafficking is an area of criminal activity that may lead to charges from either state or federal authorities. Federal drug trafficking charges are generally more serious, and involve longer sentences, than state charges.
With drug laws existing at both the state and federal levels, there is significant overlap between the jurisdiction of state and federal authorities when it comes to fighting drug trafficking. Nonetheless, there are some circumstances under which federal charges may be more likely.
When May Federal Prosecutors Bring Drug Charges?
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and U.S. Customs and Immigration officials are charged with enforcing the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This federal law categorizes psychoactive substances into five categories, or schedules, and provides for sentences based on the type and quantity of drug.
You may receive federal drug trafficking charges whenever the offense occurred on federal property. For example, if you grow cannabis on federal lands, you may be charged under the CSA. Your may also face federal charges if a federal officer was investigating your case.
In theory, you may be charged with violating the CSA for almost any instance of drug manufacturing and distribution. In practice, federal authorities will only investigate and prosecute drug trafficking cases involving large amounts of drugs or interstate or international commerce.
Owing to Michigan’s proximity to Canada, anyone trafficking large amounts of drugs may appear to be involved in the international drug trade and attract the attention of the federal authorities.
The Federal Penalties for Trafficking Large Amounts of Drugs
When the federal prosecutors have evidence that you possessed:
- At least 100 grams of PCP or more than 1000 grams of PCP mixture
- At least 1,000 grams of heroin mixture
- At least 10 grams of LSD mixture
- At least 1,000 kilograms of cannabis flowers or more than 999 plants
- At least 50 grams of methamphetamine or 500 grams or more of methamphetamine mixture
- At least 5,000 grams of cocaine or cocaine mixture
- At least 280 grams of cocaine or base mixture
You may receive between 10 years to life in prison for your first offense. If you kill or injure someone in the conduct of the drug trafficking activities, the minimum sentence increases to 20 years. If you acted alone, the fines may reach $10 million. But if you were part of a trafficking organization, the fines may reach $50 million.
Second offenders may receive sentences between 20 years and life. When injuries or death occur as a result of the drug trafficking activities, an automatic life sentence may apply. As for the fines, they increase to $20 million for individuals and $75 million for organizations.
The Midrange of Federal Drug Trafficking Sentences
If a federal prosecutor can show that you possessed:
- 10 to 99 grams of pure PCP or 100 to 999 grams of PCP mixture
- 100 to 999 grams of heroine mixture
- 1 to 9 grams of LSD mixture
- 100 to 999 kilograms of marijuana buds, or 100 to 999 plants
- 5 to 49 grams of pure methamphetamine or 50 to 499 grams of mixture
- 500 to 4,999 grams of cocaine mixture
- 28 to 279 grams of cocaine base mixture
You may face a sentence of 5 to 40 years in prison for your first offense. The fines for individuals may reach $5 million and $25 million for organizations. When a death or serious injury occurs in connection with the trafficking activities, the prison sentence increases to the 20 year to life range.
Second offenders can expect a sentence between 10 years and life. Fines may reach $8 million for culprits acting alone and $50 million for organizations. When the evidence shows that a death or serious injury resulted from the drug offense, you may face an automatic life sentence.
The Lightest Federal Drug Sentences Are Still Very Harsh
If a prosecutor can prove that you possessed any amount of other Schedule I and II substances, such as Vicodin, oxycodone, or ecstasy, or:
- More than 50 kilograms of buds or more than 50 marijuana plants
- More than 10 kilograms of hashish
- More than 1 kilogram of hashish oil
You may receive up to 20 years in prison for your first offense, and fines of $1 million if you were acting alone or $5 million if you’re a member of a trafficking organization. When death or a serious injury results from the drug trafficking activities, a sentence of 20 years to life in prison may apply.
The prison sentence for second offenders can reach 30 years in prison, or life imprisonment when a death or serious injury resulted from the trafficking activities. Individuals may expect fines of up to $2 million while organizations may face up to $10 million in fines.
Although marijuana is classified as a schedule I drug, the CSA provides for specific penalties when an offender possesses small amounts of the drug. If there is evidence that you had:
- 1 to 49 plants or 50 kilograms or less of buds
- 10 kilograms or less of hashish
- 1 kilogram or less of hashish oil
Your first offense may result in 5 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 if you acted alone, or $5 million for organizations. Second offenders may get up to 10 years in prison. The fines may reach $500,000 for individuals or $2 million for trafficking organizations.
How a Michigan Criminal Attorney Can Help Fight Your Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
The penalties for violating federal drug trafficking laws are harsh, so it’s important to hire an experienced Michigan criminal attorney to fight your charges. Maurice Davis has a proven track record of helping his clients successfully defend against drug trafficking charges. In your case, he may able to:
- Show that the federal authorities obtained the physical evidence against you through an illegal search and seizure
- Demonstrate that your constitutional rights were violated when you were arrested, detained and interrogated by the federal officers
- Object to all illegally-obtained evidence, or any testimony, documents, or witnesses not permitted by the rules of evidence
- Argue that there is a reasonable doubt as to whether you knowingly possessed the drugs or had the intent to distribute them
- In the case of a guilty verdict, obtain a lighter sentence by requesting the judge to consider mitigating factors
At Davis Law Group, we are dedicated to defending the rights of every client who retains our services. If you want to know more about how to fight drug trafficking charges, you can call us today at (313) 818-3238 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.