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Criminal Defense Attorney

Drug Trafficking Charges

Individuals who deliver or import drugs across the Texas border face serious consequences under both state and federal law.

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Defending Your Drug Trafficking Case Right Away

Because Texas drug trafficking laws impose some of the harshest penalties in the nation, even a relatively minor trafficking charge can involve serious consequences. That is why it’s important to begin building your defense from the moment you are charged with a drug-related crime.

I have extensive experience handling trafficking cases and will examine every aspect of your case to create an effective defense strategy. Common defenses to trafficking charges include unlawful searches, entrapment, lack of possession, and improper seizure.

In many cases, powerful drug cartels use terror and intimidation to pressure individuals into smuggling drugs into the United States. Additionally, you may have been unaware that drugs were placed on your person or inside your bags.

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Drug Trafficking Is On the Rise

Geography makes Texas a drug trafficking hotspot. Other southwestern states, such as California and Arizona, face similar challenges in minimizing the number of illegal substances that pour across the US border each year.

Millions of dollars’ worth of dangerous, illegal substances across state borders annually. Because it is relatively easy to transport these items across the Texas-Mexico line, drug trafficking is a serious problem in the Lone Star State. As a result, Texas imposes strict penalties on drug trafficking offenders.

Because these substances devastate lives and contribute to violence, the government continues to enforce harsh penalties on those who engage in trafficking. Individuals who deliver or import drugs across the Texas border face serious consequences under both state and federal law.

What Is Considered Drug Trafficking?

“Drug trafficking” is more a term of art than a specific crime. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines drug trafficking as the “global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.”

But within the United States and the State of Texas, drug trafficking is a catch-all term that refers to the illegal distribution–or possession with “intent” to distribute–anything deemed a “controlled substance.”

But what separates simple possession from a more serious trafficking offense? Oftentimes, the circumstances surrounding a suspect’s arrest will lead prosecutors to charge one way or the other. Here are just some of the factors involved:

  • Amount of Drugs Involved – If the police find more drugs on you than a reasonable purpose would take for their personal consumption, you are probably going to be charged with a trafficking offense. In other words, if you have a couple of marijuana joints in your pocket, a district attorney is unlikely to argue you were intending to distribute those drugs to others. But if the police find you carrying a pound of marijuana, that is a different story.
  • Person-to-Person Exchange – Obviously, if a person is actually observed by police giving a controlled substance to someone else–including perhaps an undercover officer–the distributor is likely to be charged with a drug trafficking crime. Where and how you make such a transfer is irrelevant. You could be simply handing drugs to someone in your own house; it is still considered illegal distribution.
  • Transporting Drugs – If police stop your vehicle, even for a routine traffic stop, and subsequently discover illegal drugs in your car, that can lead to a trafficking charge. Of course, this assumes the police conducted their search lawfully; that is, they either obtained a proper search warrant, or the drugs were in “plain view” during the initial stop.

Texas Drug Trafficking Laws

Drug trafficking is prosecuted under the state’s Controlled Substances Act. The Act forbids the possession, manufacture, and distribution of illegal drugs with the intent to deliver them to another. State penalties for drug trafficking vary depending on the type of drug being transported. Drugs are grouped into four categories and two sub-categories ranging from most to least dangerous. Penalty group 1 drugs include the most dangerous substances and carry the most severe punishments.

For example, a person convicted of trafficking in 2 grams of opiates–a Penalty Group 1 drug–can be charged with a second-degree felony under Texas law. This carries a prison term of between 2 and 20 years, as well as a maximum possible fine of $10,000. But if the amount of drugs involved was less than 1 gram, then the offense is charged as a state jail felony, where the possible jail term falls between 180 days and 2 years.

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Drug Trafficking Under Federal Law

Federal drug trafficking law encompasses a variety of drug offenses. Individuals charged with transporting drugs across the United States border face prosecution under federal law. It is also a federal crime to move drugs across interstate lines.

Additionally, federal law prohibits the transport of drugs within a state, which is a crime known as intrastate trafficking. The federal Controlled Substances Act breaks drugs down into five categories and assigns penalties depending on the type and quantity of the controlled substance involved:

  • Schedule I drugs are those that are most likely to be abused by individuals and which have no “currently accepted medical use,” such as LSD, heroin, and ecstasy–and despite its documented medical uses, the federal government continues to classify marijuana and cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance.
  • Schedule II drugs have some medical use unlike Schedule I drugs, but they still have a “high potential for abuse” and may lead to “severe psychological or physical dependence”; the most well-known Schedule II drugs are cocaine, OxyContin, fentanyl, Adderall, and Ritalin.
  • Schedule III drugs have a “moderate to low” potential for abuse or addiction and include many drugs commonly taken over the counter or with a doctor’s prescription, such as anabolic steroids and Tylenol with codeine.
  • Schedule IV drugs carry a low risk for potential abuse or dependence; some of the more commonly used drugs in this category are Xanax, Valium, and Ambien.
  • Schedule V drugs carry the lowest risk of abuse and include many commonly purchased over-the-counter medications.

As with Texas law, federal drug trafficking penalties depend heavily on which schedule a controlled substance falls on. Let’s say a suspect is arrested and charged with trafficking 150 grams of heroin. Since heroin is a Schedule I drug, even a first offense carries a minimum federal prison sentence of 5 years.

If the suspect has a prior drug conviction, that minimum doubles to 10 years. In theory, a judge could give the first-time offender up to 40 years in prison, although in practice there are federal sentencing guidelines that would likely caution against such a lengthy jail term. On the other end of the spectrum, someone caught trafficking a Schedule V drug cannot receive more than 1 year in prison for a first offense.

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How Can You Defend Against a Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is not the equivalent of a traffic ticket. Distributing drugs is almost always prosecuted as a felony. And if federal law enforcement is involved, you are potentially facing decades in prison. So, the first thing you need to do if you are arrested is to contact and work with an experienced Galveston drug trafficking defense attorney who will zealously represent your interests.

Depending on the particulars of your drug trafficking case, there may be multiple possible defenses available. Some of the more common scenarios we have dealt with include:

  • The arresting officer violated your constitutional rights. The two biggest legal issues that come up in drug trafficking arrests are: (1) the police officer conducted an illegal search for drugs, and (2) the arresting officer failed to advise or respect the suspect’s constitutional rights to remain silent and seek the assistance of counsel. If you can prove either of these things are true, it can invalidate most of the evidence gathered against you at the time of your arrest.
  • The prosecution cannot establish “possession”. Before you can traffic in drugs, you must first possess them. It is one thing if you were caught red-handed with the drugs on your body. But what if they were recovered from the trunk of your car or a closet in your house? The prosecution must still establish you had both knowledge that drugs were present and that you actually had control over the location in question.
  • No trafficking actually occurred. Again, while it is also a crime to merely possess certain controlled substances, the penalties for possession are typically far less onerous than those for distribution. It is therefore incumbent on the prosecution to show you actually took some action towards distributing or “trafficking” the drug beyond mere possession.

So if you have been arrested and charged with any type of drug trafficking crime, contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.

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