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Federal Drug Trafficking Charges and Potential Defenses

Drug trafficking is a serious federal offense that encompasses the illegal manufacturing, distribution or importation of controlled substances. Also known as drug distribution, these acts pose significant threats to public health and safety, which is why they carry stiff penalties. Anyone charged with such a crime needs to bolster the strongest defense possible.

Federal law addresses drug trafficking through 21 U.S.C. 841, a statute that criminalizes the following acts:

  • Manufacturing — This involves producing, processing or preparing a controlled substance, even in small quantities.
  • Distribution — This includes any act of delivering, selling or transferring a controlled substance, from street-level dealing to large-scale distribution networks.
  • Possession with intent to distribute — This involves possessing a controlled substance with the specific purpose of selling, transferring or delivering it to another person.
  • Importing — This encompasses bringing a controlled substance into the United States from another country.

Additionally, federal law classifies controlled substances into five schedules based on their potential for abuse, dependence, and medical value. Schedule I includes drugs with the highest potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, such as heroin and LSD. Schedule V, on the other hand, includes drugs with the lowest potential for abuse and accepted medical uses, like cough syrup containing codeine. Penalties for trafficking are often more severe for higher-schedule drugs.

While drug trafficking charges carry significant penalties, individuals have potential defenses they can raise:

  • Lack of knowledge — This defense asserts that the defendant did not know the substance they possessed or transported was a controlled substance. This defense can be challenging, as the prosecution only needs to prove the defendant knew they possessed an illegal substance in a certain amount, not necessarily the specific type.
  • Entrapment — This defense claims that law enforcement induced the defendant to commit the crime by pressuring or coercing them. To succeed, the defendant must demonstrate that they were not predisposed to commit the crime and that law enforcement’s actions went beyond mere investigation.
  • Mistake of fact — This defense asserts that the defendant made an honest and reasonable mistake about a fact that negates their guilt. For example, a defendant might claim they believed they were transporting a legal substance, such as vitamins, instead of a controlled substance.
  • Possession for personal use — While not a complete defense, individuals may argue they possessed a small amount of a controlled substance solely for their personal use. This can sometimes lead to lesser charges or diversion programs, depending on the specific circumstances.
  • Illegal search and seizure — If law enforcement obtained evidence through an illegal search or seizure, the defendant can argue that the evidence should be excluded from the trial. This can significantly hamper the prosecution’s case if they lack sufficient alternative evidence.

The effectiveness of these defenses can vary depending on the specific facts and evidence in each case. Additionally, mounting a strong defense often requires extensive legal support. If you’re facing such charges, a qualified drug crime defense attorney can assess the situation and advise on the most appropriate legal strategy.

A drug crime conviction can bring severe and lasting consequences. Tylden Shaeffer, Attorney at Law, P.C. in San Antonio, Texas has the skill and experience to defend your rights and pursue the best possible outcome in your case. To schedule a free consultation, call (210) 227-1500 or contact me online.

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