Is Drug Smuggling a Federal Crime?

Yes, it is. Drug trafficking is both a state and a federal offense. It is classified as a felony and is a more severe crime with harsher consequences than drug possession in Georgia.

Also known as drug distribution, drug trafficking is selling or illegally transporting controlled substances, such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and other illegal drugs. It also applies to the illicit distribution of prescription medicine, often involving pharmaceutical opiates and hydrocodone products.

Anybody caught in possession of drugs may face drug distribution charges if the police find enough reason to believe that they intend to sell them. This is usually the case with people found with a substantial quantity of controlled substances and/or cash during the arrest.

When Does Drug Trafficking Become a Federal Offense?

Local law enforcement agencies carry out most drug-related arrests. Usually, the state maintains jurisdiction, and these cases are tried in the state court. Most of the time, drug trafficking only becomes a federal offense when the following factors are involved:

  • Interstate activity: If the trafficking operation involves crossing state lines or national borders, it becomes a federal offense. This could include moving drugs by car, mail, private courier, or other method.
  • Federal property: If drug trafficking occurs on federal property, such as a national park or a federal government building, it is a federal offense.
  • International involvement: If the trafficking operation involves foreign countries in any way, such as smuggling drugs into the U.S. from another country, it becomes a federal offense.
  • Large quantities: Trafficking in large amounts of drugs, especially those listed as Schedule I or II under the Controlled Substances Act, can trigger federal jurisdiction.
  • Involvement of certain federal agencies: The case can be tried under federal law if federal agencies like the DEA or FBI are involved in the investigation.
  • Other federal crimes involved: If the trafficking is part of a larger criminal operation that involves other federal crimes, such as money laundering or organized crime, it can be tried as a federal offense.

Many federal drug trafficking charges are due to arrests made by a federal officer, whether it’s the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or national park police. There are also plenty of cases where people were charged with a federal drug crime through identification by a 3rd party. Some people facing federal drug offenses pass on information to the authorities for possible leniency.

Whether the drug trafficking case is sorted into the state or federal system, however, often depends on the decision of the investigating agency or the prosecuting lawyer. The choice of the system matters immensely because there is a huge gap between state and federal sentencing. The federal criminal system has stricter and harsher mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related charges.

What Are the Possible Charges for Federal Drug Trafficking Charges?

The federal government prohibits manufacturing, distributing, dispensing, or possessing controlled substances. Drug trafficking offenses on the federal level are triggered when the defendant is found with more than the specified amount for a drug possession charge. Anybody found in violation will be sentenced based on the quantity of the prohibited substance in their possession.

For example, a person possessing 100 grams of heroin and 5 kg of cocaine may be imprisoned for 5 to 40 years. For 1 kg of heroin, 5 kilograms of cocaine, or 1000 kg of marijuana, the defendant may face a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years to life in prison.

The prison sentences increase with the number of illegal substances. The federal drug trafficking penalties can be worse for those with prior convictions or if the case involves death or bodily injury. Prison term enhancements are also applicable to those in possession of firearms. This means the convicted must serve separate prison terms for drug trafficking and firearm offenses.

It’s also a possibility that someone convicted of drug trafficking could also face a civil lawsuit if there were bodily injury, such as death to the consumer. Wrongful death lawsuits in Atlanta are mostly centered around other issues, but dealing with dangerous substances certainly leaves the prospect of a civil suit open.

What to Do if You Are Facing Charges for a Federal Drug Crime

Drug trafficking is one of the more serious criminal offenses a person can commit, whether on a state or federal level. This is particularly true for federal drug crimes, which often carry severe penalties. If you are facing charges for a federal drug crime involving a controlled substance, your first step should be to remain silent and secure legal counsel.

Engaging a seasoned criminal defense lawyer, especially one experienced in drug trafficking cases, is crucial. A lawyer well-versed in federal laws and drug offenses can provide valuable guidance throughout the legal process, and they may be able to argue for reduced charges or dismissal based on legal and factual arguments.

While marijuana trafficking may be viewed differently under various state laws due to increasing legalization, it is essential to remember that federal drug laws still consider it a crime. This complexity reinforces the need for a skilled defense attorney who understands the nuances of both federal and state laws.

Ultimately, facing a federal drug crime conviction is daunting, often resulting in substantial penalties, including those attached to federal drug trafficking convictions. Therefore, securing an expert drug trafficking lawyer should be your top priority.