Drug Trafficking – A Federal Offense

Criminal Defense Lawyer Portland, Maine

Drug trafficking or distribution may be charged as a state or federal offense and carries a potentially lengthy sentence upon conviction.  The jurisdiction in which a drug trafficking offense is charged is very significant since generally speaking the sentences imposed in federal drug cases are far harsher than in similar state cases.

Whether a drug trafficking case is brought in the state system or the federal system depends on a number of factors including whether investigating agency is the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or a state drug investigative agency, on where the charge occurs and on the circumstances in the case.

Title 17-A, statute 1103 contains  drug trafficking law in Maine.  The crimes range from Class A felony charges to Class D misdemeanor charges depending on the type and quantity of drug involved.  The class of the crime determines severity of the sentence which ranges from up to 30 years (Class A) to 364 days (Class D).

What Makes Drug Trafficking a Federal Offense?

As noted above, drug trafficking may be charged as either a federal and state offense. Ordinarily the state district attorney handles run of the mill cases.  The federal government through the U.S. Attorney’s Office will usually prosecute a case when the following circumstances are present:

  • A large quantity of drugs is involved
  • The arrest was made by a federal agent
  • Large quantities of drugs were transported from out of state
  • A death occurred as a result of the criminal activity
  • Medicare or Medicaid fraud is part of the trafficking scheme
  • An illegal prescription scheme is at the root of the alleged offense

21 U.S. Code 841 contains the provisions of federal drug crimes.  The severity of the charge depends on the drug type, quantity involved and whether a defendant has a prior felony drug conviction.

What are the Federal Sentencing Guidelines?

The sentence imposed for a federal drug conviction is calculated pursuant to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  Just as with the typed of offense charged, the severity of the penalty depends on the type of substance, the amount involved and a defendant’s criminal record. Here are some examples of potential prison sentences for federal drug trafficking:

  • Less than 100g of heroin, up to 20 years for a first offense or up to 30 years for a second offense.
  • Less than 28g of crack or less than 500g of cocaine, up to 20 years for a first offense or up to 30 years for a second offense.
  • 5 to 49g of meth, five to 40 years for a first offense or 10 years to life for a second offense.

Effective Federal Drug Trafficking Defenses

If you are accused of drug trafficking, it’s imperative to defend yourself with the help of an experienced federal drug crimes defense attorney. In 2013, there were more than 22,000 federal drug cases and more than 96 percent of those individuals were sentenced to prison.

Although the conviction rate is very high, there are effective defenses that can be mounted. How the case is approached and ultimately handled will make a significant difference in the outcome. Thus it is imperative that a person charged with a federal drug crime seek representation with an experienced federal drug attorney such as the Law Office of Richard S. Berne.

If you’ve been arrested and/or charged with a federal drug crime, please contact the Law Office of Richard S. Berne today at 207-871-7770.