pulling bag of cocaine out of a suitcase

What Makes Drug Trafficking a Federal Offense?

Drug trafficking charges are some of the most serious criminal charges that one can face. Drug trafficking may be a state or federal crime, depending on the circumstances of the offense. In some cases, the defendant may face both levels of prosecution.

The Legal Definition of Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking involves transporting, distributing, or selling controlled substances. For someone to be charged with drug trafficking instead of drug possession, it must be proven that there is a ‘commercial’ element to the possession. In most cases, that would entail the individual intended to sell the drugs and make a profit. For this reason, most drug trafficking cases also involve a large quantity of drugs.

Drug Schedules and Trafficking

Drug trafficking charges and penalties will be impacted by the drug schedule of the substance involved.

Georgia law divides drug categories into five schedules. Schedule I drugs are considered the most dangerous and Schedule V drugs are considered the least dangerous, but still are illegal to traffic. If charged with trafficking a Schedule I substance, the defendant faces the most serious penalties.

It’s also important to note that drug trafficking of any substance, no matter the drug schedule, will often involve a mandatory minimum prison sentence. This means that if the defendant is convicted of drug trafficking, they will most likely be required to spend a period of time incarcerated. This could be anywhere from one to ten years minimum.

Felony Versus Federal Drug Trafficking

An individual may face state or federal drug trafficking charges. There are a few factors that will impact what type of charges are filed.

Who Made The Arrest?

If a federal officer makes the arrest, then the case will most likely be handled at the federal level. In the same vein, if federal law enforcement investigates the offense, then the defendant will face federal charges. For example, if the DEA is involved.

What Quantity of Drugs is Involved?

Both state and federal drug offenses involve a large quantity of drugs. However, federal cases often involve those with the largest quantity. For example, cases involving over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana would be federal offenses, whereas cases involving 10 pounds of marijuana would be felony offenses.

For more information about quantity guidelines for federal drug trafficking charges, click here.

Where Did The Offense Occur?

Whether or not the defendant crossed state lines when committing the offense is extremely important. All offenses that cross borders are handled under federal jurisdiction. If the defendant took a large quantity of drugs across state or national borders, they will face federal drug trafficking charges.

Were Firearms Present During the Offense?

Under federal law, possessing, brandishing, or discharging a firearm during a drug trafficking crime is illegal. The use of a weapon can lead to federal charges or separate weapons-related charges.

Was Anyone Injured or Killed In Relation to the Offense?

Some drug trafficking offenses put people in harm’s way. If someone was seriously injured or killed during the offense, it may be elevated to a federal crime.

Penalties for Federal Drug Trafficking

As with felony drug trafficking, federal drug trafficking penalties will depend on the drug schedule of the substance involved. Generally, a first offense will require a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. A second offense has a mandatory minimum of ten years. Aggravating factors (like a fatality), repeat offenses, and higher drug quantities can all lead to more severe penalties.

You Need a Federal Drug Trafficking Defense Attorney

You should never fight your criminal charges alone, especially if you are facing federal drug charges. The federal government aggressively prosecutes individuals facing drug trafficking charges, and you need a strong defense on your side.

Attorney Jeff Manciagli has helped countless clients avoid the consequences of felony and federal drug trafficking charges. If you are facing these serious charges, contact Law Office of Jeff Manciagli today at (770) 884-4708 to discuss your case and get the legal guidance you need.