Most drug crimes – particularly possession of a controlled substance – are usually criminal charges brought in state courts. That does not mean the federal government lacks the ability to bring drug charges. While a United States Attorney could bring charges for any drug offense, they typically save their budget for prosecuting large-scale drug operations. Large scale drug trafficking, or perceived large scale drug possession, is one of the offenses the federal government frequently pursues with great zeal and abundant resources. Chances are if you or a loved one is arrested for federal drug possession and or trafficking, the DEA and FBI have been investigating for months prior to the arrest.
If you are facing trafficking charges in the Houston area, your future is on the line. A conviction could lead to a lengthy federal prison sentence among other consequences. To learn how you could fight back against these charges, call criminal defense specialist attorney Doug Murphy right away.
Federal Drug Trafficking Laws
Trafficking drugs involves the movement or transportation of a controlled substance. This offense does not cover the transportation of small amounts of drugs for personal use. Trafficking is the shipment of large quantities of a controlled substance in conjunction with the drug trade.
Trafficking charges involve the transportation of drugs banned by the Federal Controlled Substances Act. The act categorizes every drug into schedules. These five schedules include:
- Schedule I: These drugs carry the highest risk of dependency and the lowest medical value. They include LSD, peyote, and heroin.
- Schedule II: Like schedule I drugs, these substances are highly addictive. They have more legitimate medical uses than Schedule I drugs, though. They include Vicodin and Ritalin, among others.
- Schedule III: Schedule III drugs have moderate risks for dependency. The schedule includes drugs like steroids and ketamine.
- Schedule IV: These drugs are not known for their high risk of dependency and most have some degree of medical use. Examples include Xanax and Valium.
- Schedule V: The lowest tier of drugs, this schedule includes substances including codeine cough syrup.
Transporting, delivering, distributing, or possessing a controlled substance or the intent to do any of those things could lead to a conviction for drug trafficking.
Penalties for Drug Trafficking in or out of Texas
There is not a single statute or law that governs the penalties for drug trafficking. Instead, a patchwork of statutes provides the penalties for this offense. The sentence you might get upon conviction depends on several factors, including the drug you are alleged to have trafficked, its amount, and your prior criminal history.
For example, large quantities of Schedule I or II drugs like LSD, methamphetamine, or cocaine could lead to a lengthy prison sentence – even for a first-time offender. A conviction for trafficking these drugs carries a minimum of 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $10 million. There is no maximum, meaning a judge could sentence you to life in prison on these charges. The minimum sentence rises to 20 years for a second offense, and it carries a potential $20 million fine. For third offenses, a life sentence is the norm.
For Schedule III controlled substances, a trafficking conviction carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Additional offenses could see the maximum sentence go up to 20 or 30 years, respectively.
Trafficking Schedule IV drugs is punishable by at most five years in prison for a first-time offender with a fine of up to $250,000. A second offense carries up to ten years behind bars and a $500,000 fine.
For Schedule V drugs, a trafficking conviction could cost you $100,000 in fines as well as up to a year in prison for a first offense. A second offense could lead to a 4-year term behind bars.
Collateral Consequences of Federal Drug Trafficking Charges in Texas
On top of the penalties written into federal statute, there are also collateral consequences that could impact your life. These consequences can follow you long after you have completed your sentence. Examples of collateral consequences for a trafficking charge include:
- Losing the right to own a firearm
- Losing the right to vote
- Denial of your citizenship application
- Negative effects on custody rights
- Difficulty obtaining employment
- Challenges in obtaining housing
- Loss of professional licenses
- Cancellation of scholarships or college financial aid
When you work with an experienced federal drug crimes lawyer, you are doing more than fighting back against a potential prison sentence. If you win an acquittal at trial, you could also avoid these collateral consequences.
Defenses to Federal Drug Trafficking Charges in Texas
Building a winning defense in a federal drug trafficking case takes time, effort, and skill. That is why it is never in your best interest to delay the selection of your attorney. By working closely with your attorney, you could help them develop the best defense available in your case.
When a defense is especially strong, it is possible your lawyer could have the charges against you dismissed entirely. In other cases, the United States Attorney might agree to reduce the charges. For example, a trafficking case could be amended to become a simple possession charge. When this happens, the possible penalties drop substantially.
One of the strongest defenses in a drug trafficking case is based on constitutional grounds. You are protected by certain legal rights, including the rights guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects you from unlawful searches and seizures. If your rights are violated, the prosecution cannot use any evidence uncovered against you. In trafficking cases, this commonly occurs during a traffic stop. If police stop your vehicle with probable cause, anything they find could be excluded from trial. Other defenses could include:
- Mistaken identity
- Lack of evidence
- Mistake of fact.
Call a Houston Drug Trafficking Lawyer Today
If you are facing federal drug trafficking charges in Houston, it is not time to panic. Rather, it is time to act. With the right legal counsel, you could obtain a favorable outcome in your case. In some instances, this could mean seeing the charges dismissed entirely.
Attorney Doug Murphy is widely regarded as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Houston and throughout Texas. His extensive experience taking on these charges could put you in the position to prevail at trial. To learn more, contact the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. right away.