Federal drug trafficking charges are far more serious than other drug crimes. If you have been charged under federal law, you face experienced prosecutors, a well-built case against you, and up to 40 years in prison – or even life. Or Los Angeles federal drug trafficking attorneys won’t let you face these charges alone.
The Simmrin Law Group’s attorneys have focused their entire careers on federal charges and know how to fight even the toughest prosecutors. Our firm works to bring back the best possible verdict for you, whether in or outside the courtroom. In many cases, we may be able to help you avoid prison time or even walk away with no penalties.
What Makes a Federal Drug Trafficking Charge Different?
If you are charged with drug trafficking under the Federal Criminal Code, you will face a difficult legal battle with severe consequences—including up to 40 years in prison on a first offense. Drug offenses may be charged as federal crimes if they were committed on federal property (including airports) or if you were believed to be in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), a federal law.
In most cases, this means you were investigated and arrested by a federal agency such as the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency). Most of the time, though not always, the DEA focuses on large-scale drug operations, not smaller possession cases.
Federal drug crimes are not just different under the law, however. They are also different in how they are prosecuted. Conviction rates are very high in federal court because the prosecution has all the resources of the specialized government agency that targeted you. The DEA works almost exclusively on drug crimes. It has the labor force and proficiency to arm the prosecution with a powerful case.
If you are facing a federal drug trafficking charge, you need more than just a lawyer. You need an experienced federal crimes attorney who understands the way the DEA and federal prosecutors work and knows what kind of defense can win in federal court. A federal criminal defense attorney from our firm can listen to your story and help you navigate your case.
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How Does the Federal Schedule of Controlled Substances Work?
The CSA lists certain drugs on a “schedule” of how dangerous or restricted they are. Not all these drugs are completely illegal, but all are controlled by the law in some ways—for example, restricted to prescription use or hospital use only. There are five categories on the schedule, ranked from Schedule I to Schedule V.
The substances that are more restricted are supposedly more addictive (physically or psychologically) and more prone to abuse. The more restricted substances tend not to have any current, accepted medical uses, although this could be because the federal government makes it difficult to research their medical properties in the first place.
Here is a short version of the “schedule” with examples of drugs in each category:
- Schedule I – High risk of abuse and addiction with no accepted medical uses:
- Schedule II – High risk of abuse and addiction with few or restricted medical uses:
- Schedule III – Moderate risk of abuse and addiction with accepted medical uses:
- Anabolic steroids
- Vicodin or other painkillers with hydrocodone
- Schedule IV – Lower risk of abuse and addiction with accepted medical uses:
- Schedule V – Lowest risk of abuse and addiction with accepted medical uses:
- Cough syrups containing codeine
- Antidiarrheals containing low levels of opium
Your sentencing will depend on the schedule and amount of the drug that you were arrested for. The prosecution may try to pin you with a more severe charge. A federal drug trafficking lawyer in L.A. can help you understand your charge and defend you from harsh sentencing.
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What Is the Difference Between Distribution and Trafficking?
While distribution and trafficking often go hand-in-hand, there is a difference between the two. According to 21 U.S. Code (USC) § 841, it is a federal law to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute an illicit drug.
But what makes one crime distribution and another trafficking? While the two terms are commonly used interchangeably, there can be a difference:
- Distribution is the movement and sale (or possession with intent to sell) of any drug as defined by 21 USC § 841. This can still be a federal crime and lead to serious charges.
- Trafficking is the distribution or intent to distribute a certain weight of drugs. Many people associate trafficking with crossing state lines. While that does make the charge a federal one, trafficking can be within state lines as well. The term trafficking is often used to signify a certain severity of the crime defined by the amount of the illicit substance.
Sometimes, a prosecutor might try to use your circumstances to elevate your charges and give you higher penalties than you deserve. If that happens, a federal drug trafficking attorney in Los Angeles can represent you. We know how to deal with the prosecution and make sure you don’t get a heightened charge.
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How Does California’s Decriminalization of Marijuana Affect Federal Drug Charges?
The short answer is that it doesn’t.
This is an ongoing source of controversy. Several states, including California, have decriminalized or legalized marijuana to various degrees. Under California marijuana law, it’s legal for adults 21 and older to have small amounts of marijuana for personal recreational use (or medicinal use).
However, this does not change federal law. Federal law lists marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance. Until and unless there is nationwide, federal legalization of marijuana—or the DEA reclassifies marijuana – federal agents will prosecute marijuana cases from California.
Additionally, drug trafficking itself remains illegal under California law, even for marijuana. State authorities will cooperate with federal authorities to prosecute these cases. If you were charged for trafficking marijuana and think you don’t deserve it, our criminal defense attorneys can help.
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What Are the Penalties for a Federal Drug Trafficking Conviction?
Most federal drug trafficking cases are prosecuted under 21 USC § 841. This law sets different penalties for different amounts of drugs, but the DEA tends to focus on cases with larger amounts. The lower end of most DEA cases, for example, would include:
- 1-9 grams of LSD
- 5-49 grams of methamphetamine
- 5-49 grams of cocaine base
- 100-999 grams of heroin
- 500-4,999 grams of cocaine
- 100-999 marijuana plants or 100-999 kilograms of marijuana leaf mixture
For these amounts, the penalties would be:
- First offense: Five to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million ($5 million for marijuana)
- Second offense: 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $4 million (20 years to life and $8 million for marijuana)
Penalties get substantially higher as the amounts involved go up, and fines are much higher if the case involves an organization rather than an individual. There are also extra penalties if anyone was killed or seriously hurt in relation to the trafficking.
A harsh penalty doesn’t have to happen, though. A federal drug trafficking lawyer in Los Angeles could be able to reduce your sentence. When you get a free consultation with our team, we can tell you what consequences you may be facing and how we can help.
How Do You Beat a Federal Drug Trafficking Charge?
Your federal trafficking charges aren’t set in stone, and there is a possibility that you could get them reduced or dropped altogether. To do that, you need to take certain steps to ensure that you have a strong case and there is nothing for the prosecution to use to incriminate you. Your drug crimes lawyer in Los Angeles can help ensure that you are prepared for any tactics the prosecution may attempt to use against you.
To beat a drug trafficking charge in California, these are some steps you should take:
- Know your rights: It is your right to remain silent during your arrest and trial. Depending on your circumstances, there are other steps that the authorities have to take. If they fail to do so, they have violated your rights. If that happens, it could invalidate your charges.
- Don’t say anything you don’t need to: Officers and the prosecution will try to get you to say something that incriminates you. So they’re not able to twist your words and use them against you, only tell them what they absolutely need to know.
- Talk to a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as possible: The most important step towards beating your charge is getting an experienced lawyer on your side. They will know what to say and do to get you the best deal possible. Trying to take your case on alone significantly decreases your chances of beating your charge.
When you meet with one of our Los Angeles federal drug trafficking lawyers at Simmrin Law Group, they will walk you through the next steps for your case. Once you agree to hire them, they will get to work immediately.
How Much Does a Federal Drug Trafficking Lawyer Cost?
No two federal drug trafficking cases are the same, and the price of your defense will depend on your circumstances. Most defense attorneys charge an hourly rate, but their fees may change depending on your case. Factors that can affect your lawyer’s fee could include:
- How long your case takes to resolve
- The difficulty of your defense
- Extra fees and services
- Your attorney’s experience level
The fact is that better attorneys cost more. That doesn’t mean you should settle for a cheap lawyer, though. Often, the cheapest lawyers don’t cost much because they cut corners and don’t have much experience defending people accused of drug charges.
It’s almost always worth it to pay for a quality criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles. The money and time that you could save by avoiding severe fines and jail time mean lawyer fees pay for themselves over time. Our team can tell you what you’re likely to pay during your initial consultation.
Talk to a Los Angeles Federal Drug Trafficking Attorney for Free
Drug trafficking is not a minor charge, especially in the hands of the feds. Let the Los Angeles federal drug trafficking lawyers at Simmrin Law Group be the heavy hitters on your team. We will give you a FREE consultation and start building your defense. Fill out the form to the right or call us atto get your complimentary case evaluation today.