Every crime in California is defined by a specific code section. Our attorneys explain the law, penalties and best defense strategies for every major crime in California.
Most states define drug trafficking as selling, transporting, or distributing large quantities of illegal drugs. Trafficking is one of the most high-level drug offenses, and what makes it so serious is the large volume of drugs.
Trafficking is sometimes referred to as drug distribution. Drug trafficking is typically charged as a felony and is punishable by several years, even decades, in state or federal prison.
Note that drug trafficking is a state drug crime as well as a federal crime. As to the latter, federal prosecutors usually bring federal drug charges when:
People facing criminal charges involving drug trafficking may contest the charges by asserting a defense. A few common defenses include showing that:
Drug trafficking is generally defined as the selling, transporting, or importation of illegal controlled substances.1
Many states also say that drug trafficking offenses are drug crimes that must involve large quantities of a controlled substance or a large amount of drugs.2
Note also that for a prosecutor to secure a drug trafficking conviction, he/she usually has to prove that you knowingly possessed an illegal drug. In general, you cannot engage in illegal drug trafficking if you:
Common types of drugs or controlled substances that may give rise to drug trafficking charges include:
Prosecutors typically start building a drug trafficking case by showing some type of illegal drug possession.
They then face the burden of producing additional evidence to show that you possessed a drug for trafficking purposes (as opposed to personal use).
This evidence may take the form of:
Drug trafficking is typically charged as a felony (as opposed to a misdemeanor). The specific penalties for the crime may involve a mandatory sentence of several years in state prison and/or substantial fines.3
However, penalties will often vary depending on the particular facts of a case. Defendants may see enhanced penalties if:
If drug trafficking takes place across state lines, then the case is prosecuted under federal law. Federal prosecutors will also bring federal drug charges if:
Federal law defines drug trafficking as knowingly manufacturing, dispensing, or distributing:
Trafficking also comprises possessing drugs (or fake drugs) with the intent to make, sell, or transport them.5
Yes. If you are facing trafficking charges, it is critical that you consult with a criminal defense lawyer.
A state’s drug prohibition laws are often complex. A skilled defense attorney can help break down the applicable laws and help you draft a legal defense that best fits the facts of your case.
Also recall that the penalties for drug trafficking are quite severe. If convicted of the crime, an experienced lawyer can help you minimize the penalties for the offense.
Most attorneys and law firms provide free consultations. A free case evaluation means that you can receive legal advice at no cost.
Further, the communications with an attorney are protected by the attorney-client relationship. This means a lawyer cannot disclose your confidences without first getting your consent.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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