Drug trafficking involves the manufacture, distribution, trafficking, and sale of illegal drugs under both state and federal law.
The California State and Federal Government prohibit the sale and distribution of illegal substances, including:
- Methamphetamine (meth)
- LSD (acid)
- “Club drugs” like ecstasy or “G”
- Illegally-obtained prescription drugs
- Other illegal substances
Penalties for drug sales and trafficking crimes vary greatly according to factors such as:
- The quantity of the controlled substance involved in the transaction
- The kind and quality of substance
- Intent of the person possessing, or distributing, the controlled substance
- State versus federal charges
- Criminal history of the accused
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigates and enforces federal drug trafficking penalties under Federal law. In state court, drug sales and trafficking cases will be investigated by local law enforcement agencies. In some cases, federal and state law enforcement agencies may work together to prosecute these types of offenses.
Fourth Amendment Issues: Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures by the Government.
Defendants accused of drug sales and trafficking frequently use the Fourth Amendment to challenge the legality of how law enforcement officials obtained the evidence used to support the government's case. If the government's conduct violated the Fourth Amendment, then the evidence against the alleged drug trafficker may be deemed inadmissible. Without the necessary evidence to prove the criminal charges, the government may have to dismiss its case.
If you have been charged with a drug crime, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney at White Goldstein. Our lawyers can advise you whether the evidence the prosecutor is using to support the charge may have resulted from an illegal search or seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Potential Penalties for Drug Sales and Trafficking
California has enacted the Uniform Controlled Substances Act as part of its Health and Safety Code. Under the Heath and Safety code, you can be prosecuted for: possession with intent to sell drugs, drug transportation, drug sales, and drug cultivation
Possible penalties include:
- Formal or informal probation period
- County jail or state prison time
- Drug counseling and rehabilitation: Proposition 36, Deferred Entry of Judgment, (DEJ)
- Registration as a narcotics offender with local law enforcement
- Mandatory drug testing
- Court fines and fees
- Forfeiture of assets (cash or real estate) derived from drug sales
In federal cases, the penalties are more severe than state court because of the existence of mandatory minimums.
Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences
In 1984, Congress created the U.S. Sentencing Commission to create a system of sentencing that could be applied with some uniformity by federal judges around the country.
The Commission has established minimum sentences for certain drug trafficking crimes as a way to deter criminal activity involving drug trafficking. The Commission also has stated its desire to override judges' unfettered discretion and to reduce disparities in sentencing of different individuals charged with similar drug trafficking crimes.
For example, under current law, a person who is accused of manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing (or possessing with intent to do one of these acts) 100 kilograms or more of marijuana faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in federal prison. If the same person is alleged to have committed one of these acts involving 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana, then he or she now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
If you are charged with drug manufacturing, distribution, trafficking, or possession with intent to do one these acts, you will face 5 year and 10 year mandatory mpossiinimum prison sentences, which may be imposed, based on the alleged quantity of:
Conspiracy and Quantity
Conspiracy is a complex area of criminal law. A conspiracy is basically an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime.
Activity in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy is considered illegal. In a conspiracy, every member of the conspiracy is liable for the criminal acts of each member. For example, a doorman at a crack house is liable for the entire quantity of crack sold by the organization that runs the crack house. This means that even someone playing a minor role in the conspiracy can be liable for more serious crimes. In other words, conspiracy laws for drug trafficking result in low-level players receiving longer sentences because they are liable for all the acts of the co-conspirators.
If you are accused of being involved in a drug trafficking criminal conspiracy, you need an experienced conspiracy defense attorney to help protect your legal rights.
Safety valve is a term used in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that lists factors relating to the crime, or the defendant, which may justify a sentence below the mandatory minimum. In order to qualify for Safety Valve, the following five factors must be present:
- No one was harmed during the offense
- The defendant has little or no history of criminal convictions
- The defendant did not use violence or a gun
- The defendant was not a leader or organizer of the offense
- The defendant provided the prosecutor with truthful and complete information about the offense
If, and only if, the offender meets all five criteria, may the court sentence the defendant below the mandatory minimum.
In addition to Safety Valve, a defendant may be able to lighten his or her sentence if they provide “substantial assistance” to federal prosecutors (Assistant United States Attorneys or AUSAs), who are trying to indict and convict high-level drug traffickers. Substantial assistance requires that defendant provide truthful information to the AUSA which assists the prosecution in the defendant's own case, or in a case against another criminal defendant.
We Can Help
Drug trafficking is a serious offense. The attorneys at White Goldstein are skilled and experienced defenders of people accused of drug trafficking in both State and Federal Court. Contact White Goldstein at 877-779-3946 today for a free confidential consultation to learn how you can protect your freedom.
The Drug Crime & Criminal Defense attorneys at White Goldstein have extensive experience throughout Southern California — handling drug cases in Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, Santa Barbara County, San Bernardino County, San Diego County, and Ventura County.
In Los Angeles County, White Goldstein routinely handles drug cases in:
Airport Court (LAX), Alhambra, Antelope Valley (Lancaster), Antelope Valley Juvenile, Bellfower, Beverly Hills, Burbank, Catalina, Central Arraignment (Bauchet), Compton, Downtown Los Angeles (CCB), Downey, East Los Angeles, Eastlake Juvenile, El Monte, Glendale, Hollywood, Inglewood, Inglewood Juvenile, Long Beach, Malibu, Metropolitan (Hill Street), Newhall, Norwalk, Pasadena, Pomona, Torrance, San Fernando Valley, Santa Clarita (Valencia), Van Nuys, West Covina, and Whittier.