It is a drug crime to sell, distribute, or otherwise handle any illegal narcotic, or to use a legal drug in any way deemed illegal. However, there are circumstances that can elevate a drug crime from a state-level issue to a federal crime. In particular, at a certain point, most drug crimes can constitute the federal crime of drug trafficking if requirements are fulfilled.
Creating, moving, selling, or handling drugs can be drug trafficking depending on these factors:
- Amount, weight, or measurements: The primary factor law enforcement agents – specifically Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents – will consider when determining if a suspect can be charged with the federal crime of drug trafficking is how much of a drug is found in a person’s possession. If a suspect has drugs in amounts well beyond what an individual would need for individual use, it may trigger federal charges.
- Potential value: The DEA and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tries to keep on top of the average sale price of a certain amount of each type of common “street level” drug. A suspect found to have enough of a substance that could potentially fetch a high price if sold may be labeled a drug trafficker.
- Presentation or storage: Drug trafficking is generally considered a more professional form of drug distribution. Investigators tend to look for signs of thoughtful presentation or careful storage of narcotics to determine if it is linked to a drug trafficking ring.
- Affiliations: A person’s known affiliations and accomplices can also escalate a drug crime to a federal drug crime. For example, if the son of a known criminal boss is arrested with cocaine in his possession, it might be assumed he was participating in drug trafficking to some degree.
- State lines: A drug crime or a string of drug crimes that take place in more than one state will generally be considered federal drug trafficking, no matter how small in scale the crime. This is true of most crimes as well.
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Criminal penalties related to a drug crime conviction will be severe. Imprisonment can range from a year to a life sentence. Fines usually start in the several thousands of dollars but could reach millions depending on the scale of the narcotics seized. A person must act quickly in order to protect their name and future freedoms from destruction at the unforgiving hands of the law.
Pissetzky & Berliner, LLC and our Chicago drug crime attorneys have been providing comprehensive and steadfast criminal defense service to the people of Illinois for more than 15 years. If you need a legal team you know you can depend on, through thick and thin, do not hesitate to contact our office at your first opportunity.