If you are charged with drug trafficking in California, you can expect the prosecutors and judges to deal harshly with the crime. It’s imperative for you to get an experienced drug trafficking lawyer on your side. Although the state’s statutes don’t draw a distinction between dealing and trafficking, there are some distinctions you should realize.
Trafficking is usually on a larger scale than dealing. There’s the sale of large quantities of drugs instead of just hand-to-hand sales of drugs for money. Often, there are additional charges, such as smuggling drugs across the borders, manufacturing drugs, or money laundering. Law enforcement likes to go after large-scale drug trafficking rings that end up making headlines in the news. But that isn’t always the case. Any time you transport, import, sell, furnish, or give away an illegal drug, you’re vulnerable to drug trafficking charges. That means you could find yourself facing serious charges even though you only played a minor role.
What Amount of Drugs Is Considered Trafficking?
The amount of drugs considered trafficking and the potential penalties depend on the type of drug being distributed. It also depends on the type of activity, whether the individual has a previous criminal record, and whether there are any additional sentencing enhancements permitted by the state’s law.
– Transporting, transferring, importing, or selling a controlled substance may result in felony sentencing of three to five years. If the drugs are transported from a county in CA to a non-contiguous county, an additional sentence of three to nine years may be added.
– If the crime involved hiring or employing minors for the purpose of selling or distributing controlled substances, or the selling of controlled substances to minors, the defendant may receive a sentence of three, six, or nine years in state prison.
– It is legal for adults aged 21 or older to transport less than 28.5 grams of marijuana or less than 8 grams of marijuana concentrate.
– Transporting, transferring, importing, or selling chemicals that are used to manufacture methamphetamine or PCP or the drugs themselves may result in a sentence of sixteen months to six years in prison.
The state also allows prosecutors to seek greater punishments when the defendant has committed prior offenses. Additional sentencing enhancements may be added when the drug trafficking takes place within 1,000 feet of a school, school-related program, or on the playground during operation. Offenders who are four or more years older than the minor also face one, two, or three additional years in state prison.
Importing drugs from Mexico or other countries, or bringing them across the state border, can result in federal charges. Most of these come with a minimum of 10 years in prison. In cases where large quantities of drugs are being trafficked, you may get a sentence of life in prison. The potential punishment makes it important to get a knowledgeable drug trafficking lawyer to defend your rights.
Selling any quantity of “hard” drugs is punishable by up to five years in prison in California. These drugs include:
Others, like ketamine, GBH, or methamphetamine carry a potential sentence of up to four years.
If you are charged with selling large quantities of cocaine base, heroin, or powder cocaine, you can get an additional three years added to your sentence. The maximum sentence you can receive increases as the weight of the drug goes up. The maximum amount of time that can be added on is 25 years with the distribution of more than 80kg.
Which Drugs Are Most Commonly Trafficked in the U.S.?
There are six drugs which make up the majority of those involved in drug trafficking charges. These include:
- Methamphetamine – 24%
- Powdered Cocaine – 24.1%
- Marijuana – 21.5%
- Crack Cocaine – 13.1%
- Heroin – 9.8%
- Oxycodone – 4.6%
An assortment of other drugs makes up the final 3%.
Drug Trafficking Along the Mexico-San Diego Border
Drug trafficking along the border has become a serious issue that largely involves the use of juveniles. Students who cross the border every day to go to school in the U.S. are being highly recruited.
In 2017, 84 juveniles were arrested smuggling narcotics across the border. This year, 41 identical cases occurred during the first six months. The promise of easy money makes the opportunity too good for young teens to pass up. To make matters worse, fentanyl is becoming more common. This drug is so potent, that absorbing it through the skin is enough to cause death.
The drug cartels have teens recruiting teens. Many of those who have been caught and arrested say they did it for a friend. Others say a friend recruited them and they did it for the money. The District Attorney’s Office prosecutes those aged 17 years and younger. Penalties vary from fines, weeks or months spent in juvenile hall which the parents must pay for, and mandatory admission into rehabilitation programs.
Penalties that may have the biggest impact include losing their SENTRI passes that allow them to cross the border to go to school. They can also miss out on opportunities to receive loans for college, serve in the U.S. Military, or to become naturalized American citizens. The impact is on the entire family.
Drug traffickers over the age of eighteen are often recruited in Tijuana in nightclubs. The U.S. Attorney’s Office typically prosecutes these cases. For these offenders, the punishment may include a few years in prison. They can also have a felony on their record for the rest of their lives.
It isn’t just juveniles carrying drugs across the US-Mexico border. Drug cartels utilize tunnels, vehicles, drug mules, boats, aircraft, trains, donkeys, and couriers to get drugs into this country. The people they recruit for drug trafficking take the risk of getting caught and prosecuted in return for money.
Some Surprising Facts About Drug Trafficking from Mexico
All six of the most common drugs trafficked come from Mexico to some degree. Many people don’t realize that Mexico is the primary supplier of marijuana to this country. It is thought to be the top money-maker for the Mexican drug cartels.
Mexico doesn’t make cocaine, but they do transport cocaine from Columbia to the U.S. They also continue to be the largest supplier of methamphetamine to our country. The proximity between Mexico’s border and California has led Mexican cartels to set up labs and manufacture meth on the Mexican and American borders.
Asia and the Middle East have long been the primary producers of heroin to the U.S. Recently, more black tar and brown heroin from Mexico has been spotted here. It’s no surprise that the Southern District of California reports a high number of drug trafficking offenses each year. If you end up on the other side of a drug trafficking charge, having an experienced drug trafficking lawyer on your side can greatly impact the outcome.
Drugs are a global problem and they exist across our country. People who run drug cartels recruit traffickers of any age to make more money. They aren’t concerned about the people whose lives they ruin.
People make mistakes; it’s in our nature. That doesn’t mean you should have to pay the ultimate price for yours. Our drug arrest system is often unfair, subjecting first-time offenders and people who feel they are out of options to the longest sentences. Without a good drug trafficking lawyer, you may become one of the statistics plaguing our state today.
- An estimated 1,572,579 arrests were made for drug law violations in the US
- Of those, 84.7% were arrested for possession of a controlled substance
- 3% were arrested for the sale or manufacturing of a drug
- The majority of traffickers were male and an average of 36 years old
- Nearly half had little or no prior criminal history
- About 70% were U.S. citizens
- From 2011 until 2015, the number of people sentenced for heroin trafficking in this country nearly doubled
- The number of people arrested for heroin-related offenses in 2015 was 6,353
- Of that number, 84% were for conspiracy, possession, and distribution.
Getting the Best Outcome for Your Drug Trafficking Case
A number of factors determine what your punishment for drug trafficking will be. Your most valuable tool is a drug trafficking lawyer who knows the laws of your state well. Depending on the facts of your case, he can use a number of tactics to reduce your sentence or to have your case dropped.
Drug enforcement officers often make mistakes during the investigation of a crime or during your arrest. Your lawyer will look at areas where they may not have been within the law. Some examples of the tactics they will use to get you the best outcome include:
- Showing that the arresting officers ignored the state’s rules of search and seizure
- Proving that the officers violated California’s entrapment laws by setting you up
- Showing that officers used information from invalid confidential informants
- Demonstrating that officers provided false information to a judge to obtain a search warrant
- Proving that officers exaggerated or lied on the police report
- Arguing that officers arrested you without evidence that you were guilty of the drug trafficking charges
- Arguing that the drugs you possessed were only for personal use
The fact is that innocent people often get caught up in drug trafficking raids. Transporting a small amount of a drug across the street results in the same serious penalties as transporting large amounts of drugs across the border.
Your choice in a drug trafficking lawyer is one of the most important ones you will ever make. Experience and knowledge of California’s drug laws are crucial for getting the best outcomes for your case. Some of the potential outcomes include plea agreements, acquittals, or dismissals. Your attorney will help keep you from spending years in prison that you don’t deserve.
How to Choose a Drug Trafficking Lawyer
Even the most experienced and well-liked lawyer won’t help if they aren’t experienced in the right areas of the law. You need someone who understands both the state and federal drug laws that you are facing. If you are facing drug trafficking charges, then felony charges are a very real likelihood. You don’t have to have a prior criminal record to end up spending time in prison. Once you are convicted, you will have a permanent criminal record that will impact every area of your life.
Choose an attorney who has a good reputation and a high success rate. You want to know that they have been successful with cases similar to yours. A good lawyer will work with you, keep you informed, and do everything within their means to get the best outcome for your case. Testimony from previous clients is the best indicator of what you can expect.
Schedule a Case Evaluation
The majority of people arrested for drug trafficking have no previous drug offenses. That means they have never had to hire a drug trafficking lawyer before. The best choice for you is someone with whom you feel comfortable. Scheduling a case evaluation is a good way to see if an attorney is a good ‘fit’.
A case evaluation is a meeting where the lawyer looks over the evidence in your case. He will discuss the evidence for and against you. If you decide to hire them, they will guide you on what to do going forward. He will tell you the possible strategies for getting your charges dropped or reduced. He’s there to help make sure the punishment you receive doesn’t surpass the seriousness of the crime.
Being arrested for a drug crime is a serious and terrifying experience. You might feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Before you say or do anything, find a drug trafficking lawyer who will stand up and fight for your rights!
If you’ve been arrested for drug trafficking in California, don’t wait! Call Rudolph, Baker & Associates LLP. We are experienced attorneys who will fight aggressively for your rights. We know the drug trafficking laws in California. We’re here to get the best possible outcome for you.