Drug trafficking is both a federal and state felony and carriers much harsher consequences than drug possession. Drug trafficking is also called drug distribution. This crime covers the illegal selling, importing or transporting controlled substances, such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana and some prescription medications.
Under both state and federal law, drug trafficking charges can apply to anyone no matter how small-scale the operation is.
When does drug trafficking become a federal crime?
The following factors determine whether drug trafficking becomes a federal offense:
- Federal officers made the arrest (i.e. national park police or the Drug Enforcement Agency)
- Large sums of money
- Money laundering
- Illegal prescriptions and Medicare fraud
- Possessions of large quantities of illicit drugs
- Transportation of controlled substances between state lines
- Death cases linked to areas outside of the state
The decision to press state or federal charges often depends on what the prosecuting attorney or the investigating agency decide. The choice between the state or federal criminal system matters greatly because the federal sentencing minimums for drug-related charges are more harsh and strict.
What are the consequences?
The penalties vary depending on the type and amount of drugs and the size of the trafficker’s operation. Some perpetrators might not even realize that they have the amount of drugs on them that they do. For example, law enforcement agents can weigh entire edibles as drugs and this could lead to an unexpected felony.
Sentences might increase depending if “enhancements” such as selling narcotics in a school zone, are present. Drug trafficking convictions also add the risk of additional consequences such as seizure of assets related to the drug business and possible deportation or other immigration consequences.
Overall, drug trafficking is one of the most serious criminal offenses and comes with steep prison sentences and penalties that can change someone’s entire life.