Drug offenses have become a hot-button issue, and that’s especially true at the federal level because the Attorney General has taken a hardline stance on how to punish people convicted of these charges. In fact, large-scale drug arrests have become a daily occurrence in large cities, including Dallas. One recent example of drug trafficking in Dallas involved a police raid at a home owned by former NBA star Chris Bosh, in which police seized items that indicated an ongoing drug operation. (1)
The question for defendants charged with trafficking is, “What are the legal standards that turn a drug possession charge into a charge for trafficking, which is a much more serious crime?”
What Is Drug Trafficking?
In every state, drug trafficking is a serious criminal offense. It is defined as the transporting, distribution, sale, or importation of controlled substances like cocaine, heroin, meth, and party drugs like Ecstasy. A person can commit the crime of drug trafficking even if the drugs belong to someone else. It simply does not matter who “owns” the drugs. If a person has possession of drugs, even if they belong to someone else, and intends to transfer them to someone else, that is enough.
Federal and state laws define controlled substances under different schedules, including: (2)
Schedule I – Drugs that are highly addictive, and that is not used for medical treatment in the U.S. This includes heroin, marijuana, and Ecstasy.
Schedule II – Drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. This includes Vicodin, cocaine, methamphetamines, oxycodone, fentanyl, and Ritalin.
Schedule III – Drugs that have a moderate or low likelihood of addiction. This includes Tylenol with codeine, ketamine, anabolic steroids, and testosterone.
Schedule IV – Drugs with little potential to cause addiction or dependence. This includes Xanax, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, and Ambient.
Schedule V – Drugs with no potential for addiction, and a low potential for abuse. This includes Robitussin AC.
Defendants caught dealing drugs that fall under the categories of Schedule I and Schedule II are typically charged with felony trafficking.
Drug trafficking often carries stiff penalties, and in some instances it is a charge that is added to a drug possession offense, making it even more likely that a prosecutor will seek the highest prison sentence allowed by law.
In the past, drug trafficking was considered a street-level offense perpetrated by urban drug dealers, but more recently, the sale and distribution of prescription drugs by medical professionals has become more prevalent.
That’s especially true now that the U.S. is embroiled in an opioid crisis that has become a national public health emergency. (3)
The truth is, whenever there is a new opportunity for people to make money selling drugs, it’s likely that they will push into that new arena and do whatever it takes to maximize their profits.
In Dallas, drug trafficking is a violation of the Texas Controlled Substances Act. Any person who knowingly and intentionally delivers or sells a controlled substance as defined under the four drug schedules in the state can be charged with a felony offense of trafficking. (4)
Penalties For Drug Trafficking
The penalties for drug trafficking depend on the number of drugs that a defendant sold, and the type of drug that was sold.
In Texas, for example, a prison sentence for trafficking can range between 6 months and two years for selling a small quantity of a Schedule I drug, to a life term for running a large-scale drug operation, especially if that operation also distributed drugs to minors.
Texas is a state with some of the toughest drug laws in the country, and law enforcement officials have been waging a border war on drugs for years, trying to stop the influx of drugs coming north and controlled by Mexican cartels.
The state spent $800 million on border security in 2015, expenses triggered in part by the fact that there are about 1.6 million Texas residents with drug abuse issues. (5)
Drug Trafficking Defenses
Experienced lawyers can craft drug trafficking defenses that can give their clients a chance to fight the charges.
These defenses include:
Mistake of Fact – This refers to the fact that the defendant was unaware that the shipment they were carrying in a delivery truck, for example, was, in fact, illegal drugs.
Under Duress – Defendant was forced to distribute illegal drugs under the threat of bodily harm to himself or herself, or family members.
Other Use – This refers to the fact that the illegal drugs, chemicals or substances were intended for non-human use.
Attorneys To Defend Drug Trafficking In Dallas
Hiring attorneys to defend drug trafficking in Dallas is the legal right of anyone accused of this crime. Criminal lawyers have the expertise to examine every aspect of a client’s case and mount a vigorous defense.