Federal Drug Trafficking

by | Sep 6, 2018 | Blog Posts, Federal Criminal Defense | 0 comments

Federal Drug Trafficking Chargesfederal drug trafficking

Federal drug trafficking is a term that is often misunderstood by the general public.  When people hear the term trafficking, they often associate with movement.  That movement can come in the form of buying, selling, or distributing.  At first glance, this would seem to make sense but legally, that is not what it means.  The term trafficking refers to the quantity of drugs in question, not what happens to them. Trafficking charges can come from possession, if the quantity in question makes it applicable.

In general, the federal government take drug crimes very seriously and punishes them very severely. Penalties include strict mandatory minimum sentences. The laws and penalties regarding federal drug traffic are outline in 21 U.S. Code 841.   

When does drug trafficking become a federal crime?

  • Typically, it is not just the amount, but also some other factors that causes trafficking to become a federal crime instead of a state crime. Usually there must be the presence of interstate transactions for it to be considered a federal crime. For more about what makes a crime federal instead of state click here.

Amounts necessary to constitute a charged of federal drug trafficking.

  • Powered Cocaine – 500 Grams
  • Crack Cocaine – 5 Grams
  • Marijuana – 100 Kilograms/100 plants
  • Heroin – 100 Grams
  • Methamphetamine – 5 grams

**Keep in mind these are minimums to be considered drug trafficking, higher amounts will often lead to higher penalties.

Sentencing for drug trafficking

Drug trafficking in the state of North Carolina has very straight forward sentencing. Similarly, South Carolina drug trafficking is also pretty straight forward.  Federal drug trafficking however is much different.  In general, the minimum sentence for a first-time offense is five years.

The federal sentencing guidelines for drug trafficking impose both minimum and maximum penalties for those convicted of a drug trafficking crime.  The sentence is that a federal drug trafficking defendant ends up receiving is very factor specific. A 5-year sentence is very low for federal drug trafficking convictions and is uncommon.

Someone with a first-time offense of federal drug trafficking though has a minimum of 5 years, he can serve up to 40 years in prison.

Factors to be considered:

  • Was someone injured during the commission of the crime?
  • Was someone killed during the commission of the crime?
  • Was a gun used during the commission of the crime? (click here to learn about firearm enhancements)
  • Did the crime occur in a school zone?

If the defendant has a prior conviction, the minimum term of imprisonment becomes 10 years, and depending on the factors named above, the sentence can be life imprisonment.

Fines for federal drug trafficking

In addition to prison time, mandatory fines are also applicable in federal drug trafficking cases.

  • First time offense – $5 million
  • Subsequent offense – $10 million

Substantial Assistance for federal drug trafficking

Providing the federal government with “substantial assistance” regarding another federal drug trafficking case may be a way for a defendant to receive a sentence reduction, under certain circumstances. Click here to learn about substantial assistance and sentence reductions in federal court.

If you have been charged with federal drug trafficking you should contact a federal criminal defense immediately.  At Gilles Law, we handle federal drug trafficking charges and other federal charges.  If you have been charged with a federal crime in North Carolina or have been charged with a federal crime in South Carolina, contact us.


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