Although the lines can be blurry, drug trafficking charges are usually brought against people who do more than sell drugs to a few acquaintances. Drug trafficking can be charged in regard to any kind of sale, transport or importation of a controlled substance, but the charge is generally reserved for people caught with large amounts of a drug.
If you’re accused of drug trafficking, you could be charged in state or federal court – or both. However, it is uncommon to be charged by both the federal government and the state of Michigan, absent special circumstances. Instead, the government that thinks it can prove the more serious charge is likely to take the lead.
Whether the state of Michigan or the federal government has accused you, the penalties could be extremely serious.
What charges can I expect?
The most commonly used federal statute for drug trafficking is 21 USC § 841(b)(1), “distribution/ manufacturing/ possession with intent to distribute.” In Michigan, you might expect to see charges under statute 333.7401 (possession with intent to manufacture or deliver) or 333.7407 (distribution).
The way these statutes work is to assume that anyone caught with more than a certain amount of drugs is assumed to have the intent to distribute them. There is generally no need to prove the person’s intent; the amount of drugs involved is sufficient.
The drug trafficking statutes apply to any type of controlled substance. These are listed on federal and Michigan “schedules” in the laws. Some drugs are always illegal to possess or distribute, while others are legal for prescription sale but not for general consumption.
What are the penalties for drug trafficking?
The penalty you might face depends on a number of factors, including:
- What type of drugs were involved
- The quantity of drugs involved
- Whether the drugs were moved across state or international boundaries
- Whether the drugs were distributed near a school
- Whether the drugs were distributed to someone under 21
- Whether someone was injured or died as a result of using the drug
- Whether you maintained a drug-involved premises
- Whether you were involved in a conspiracy to distribute the drugs
- Whether the trafficking was the result of a continuing criminal enterprise
- Whether you have a prior criminal record
There could be other factors involved in your specific case.
Both Michigan and the federal government rely on sentencing guidelines to determine the sentence. These work by creating a base penalty for the offense and then upping that penalty when there are aggravating factors, such as those listed above.
A common example is a federal charge under 21 USC § 841(a)(1), which refers to low-grade trafficking. This charge might apply to someone who possessed only 5 grams of methamphetamine, or even 1 gram of LSD. The base penalty for this type of drug trafficking is 5-40 years, depending on what aggravating factors exist.
What it is important for you to know is that the prosecutor might make a case for many years of prison time. Your defense attorney can help you figure out what the likely penalty would actually be.
Are there any effective defenses to a drug trafficking charge?
Yes. One is if your rights were violated during the investigation or when law enforcement searched your property. If they didn’t have a warrant or probable cause for the search, any evidence they found could be inadmissible against you.
Your defense attorney will explore many possible defenses based on the specific facts of your case.
Please note: You will be under significant pressure to confess, name others involved in the scheme, and plead guilty. Don’t do any of those things without talking to your lawyer first.
If you have been accused of drug trafficking, exercise your rights to remain silent and immediately contact a criminal defense attorney with significant experience.