Trafficking a Controlled Substance
In state court trafficking is a charge of possessing a large amount of a controlled substance, an amount which alone is evidence that it is not for personal use but rather to distribute or “traffic” in the controlled substance. Possession of large amounts of drugs carries mandatory minimum sentences which are set out by statute. Trafficking does not require that a person be caught distributing the drug, mere possession of these large amounts is considered trafficking.
In federal court large amounts of drugs are charged usually as a conspiracy to distribute and include multiple co-defendants who are charged only after a lengthy investigation involving thorough surveillance. These cases usually involve wiretaps of phone conversations between the co-defendants over a large period of time in which the conversations are recorded. The investigations usually end with the federal agents, after listening to phone conversations and following suspects, intercepting a large shipment of drugs or currency and then charging all those connected to the conspiracy. Conspiracy to distribute charges in federal court cast a wide net in which all involved can be held accountable for the actions of the whole group as long as it is shown that a person acted in some way to advance the purpose of the conspiracy. It is a serious charge in that these cases usually involve a large quantity of drugs carrying a mandatory minimum sentence in federal court. In both state and federal court the mandatory minimum sentence is triggered by the type of drug and quantity.
Trafficking charges in state court carry the following mandatory minimum sentences:
Trafficking in Heroin a class A drug triggers:
- 18 to 36 grams a 3.5 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 36 to 100 grams triggers a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 100 to 200 grams triggers a 8 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 200 grams or more triggers a 12 year mandatory minimum sentence
- The maximum potential sentence for all of the above amounts is 20 years.
Trafficking in Cocaine a class B drug triggers:
- 18 to 36 grams 2 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 36 to 100 grams 3 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 100 to 200 grams 8 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 200 grams or more a 12 year mandatory minimum sentence
- The maximum potential sentence for these offenses is 20 years except for between 18 to 36 grams which carries a maximum potential sentence of 15 years.
Trafficking in Marijuana a Class D drug triggers:
- 50 to 100 pounds a 1year mandatory minimum sentence
- 100 to 2,000 pounds a 2 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 2,000 to 10,000 pounds a 3.5 year mandatory minimum sentence
- 10,000 + a 8 year mandatory minimum sentence
- The maximum potential sentence for these offenses is 15 years.
Trafficking and Conspiracy to distribute drugs are the most severe drug charges in both state and federal court. An experienced criminal lawyer would attempt to challenge the evidence through motions to suppress or to dismiss. Pre-trial motions can be based on a lack of probable cause to obtain search warrants which formed the basis for the surveillance, wiretap or search involved. Challenges of the probable cause for the arrest itself would also be investigated. As always a thorough analysis of the probable cause to search or arrest a suspect needs to be done in every case.