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Is Drug Trafficking Always A Federal Crime?

January 12, 2023

More than 57,000 people were convicted for federal crimes, including drug trafficking, in 2021. Drug trafficking is one of the most serious narcotics offenses. A common question about drug trafficking charges is whether it is a federal offense. Learn the answer to this question below, and contact our Chicago drug trafficking lawyers at the Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman for assistance.

Drug Trafficking Law Overview

Drug trafficking or distribution is a crime under state and federal laws. These laws provide punishments for selling, transporting, and illegally importing illegal substances, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, methamphetamines, and other illicit drugs. In Illinois, drug trafficking is prohibited under 720 ILCS 570 – Illinois Controlled Substances Act.

Drug trafficking is a felony and is a more serious charge than drug possession. If you are caught with large amounts of drugs, you may be charged with drug trafficking because the police think you will sell them. If you are caught with a large amount of cash, too, it also could result in a drug trafficking charge.

Is Drug Trafficking A State Or Federal Charge?

While some drugs are legal in some states, drug trafficking is illegal under Illinois state and federal laws. The situation depends on whether you will be charged with a state or federal crime. For instance, if you are caught with a large amount of drugs in Chicago at the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building, you could be charged with a federal offense because it is federal property.

If you traffic drugs between Illinois and Wisconsin, this also would be a federal offense because the crime crossed state borders. Also, using the US Postal Service to traffic drugs is a federal offense. It also can come down to who arrested you. If a federal officer detains and searches you, it would be a federal charge.

You should talk to your attorney about whether your case will be prosecuted as a state or federal crime. Federal crimes usually receive harsher penalties, and you will spend time in a federal prison rather than a state facility.

Penalties For Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

Up to five years in federal prison for possession of 50 kilograms of marijuana
Overall, federal guidelines for drug trafficking charges are a minimum of five years in prison or 20 to life in prison if there is serious bodily harm or death. However, in Illinois, the judge can sentence you to at least twice the minimum or maximum term for drug manufacture, distribution, and possession.

More Facts About Drug Trafficking Charges

Drug trafficking charges are scary but it helps to have as much information as possible:

Charged As Drug Distribution Under Federal Law

If you are charged with federal drug trafficking, it will be under 21 U.S.C. 841. This statute makes it illegal to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess controlled substances. This law does not mention drug trafficking but falls under the offense of manufacturing or distributing an illegal substance.

Drug Trafficking Definitions May Vary At The State And Federal Levels

Drug trafficking under federal law involves distributing and manufacturing of illegal substances. However, state laws can differ. For example, you could be charged with drug trafficking in a state based on how much of the drugs you possessed when arrested. Trafficking in Illinois is prosecuted separately from distribution, but this also varies by state.

Federal Prosecutor Must Prove Specific Elements

According to federal law, the prosecutor must prove that you knowingly and intentionally distributed or manufactured an illegal drug. Without proving these elements, you cannot be convicted.

However, it will not work if you say you did not try to do so because you only wanted to make and distribute a prescription drug. This is also illegal; you are not allowed under state and federal law to have prescription drugs that are not prescribed to you.

You Can Be Convicted Of Federal Marijuana Trafficking

Some states, including Illinois, are loosening marijuana possession laws. However, marijuana is still illegal at the federal level. So, you can still be charged with federal cannabis trafficking.

There Are Severe Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties

You face severe penalties for federal drug trafficking. The penalties somewhat depend on if it was your first offense. Also important is the schedule of the illegal drug and how much you distributed. Many federal drug trafficking convictions have sentences of at least 10 or 20 years in prison and fines in the millions of dollars.

You Can Lose Federal Benefits

If you are convicted of a federal drug trafficking crime, you could be excluded from federal benefits, including government licenses, student loans, educational grants, and government contracts.

30% of Federal Sentencing Commission Cases Are For Drug Trafficking

The US Sentencing Commission reports that almost 30% of its cases are for drug trafficking. This means federal prosecutors have a lot of skill and experience with these cases. So, you should have an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner.

Some Factors May Increase Your Federal Sentence

You will be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence if convicted on federal drug trafficking charges. Also, there are aggravating factors that can lead to stricter punishment. These include committing a violent crime, possessing a weapon, or being a leader in a drug trafficking case.

Seven Common Drugs For Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

Many drugs can be the subject of a federal drug trafficking charge. However, the US Sentencing Commission reports that at least 95% of these charges involve heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, crack, fentanyl, and oxycodone.

There Is A Statute Of Limitations For Federal Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking charges prosecuted by the federal government have a five-year statute of limitations. The clock on this time starts on the date you committed the alleged crime.

Most Federal Convictions Have A Mandatory Minimum Sentence

You face at least five or 10 years in federal prison for a federal drug trafficking charge. This fact means you need an excellent attorney to construct a strong defense. However, even if you cannot beat the federal charge, your attorney may be able to get you a reduced sentence.

How To Beat A Drug Trafficking Charge

Whether you are charged with a state or federal crime, there are proven strategies to beat a drug trafficking charge. A Chicago drug trafficking lawyer could use one or more of these to build your defense:

Take Advantage Of The Right To Remain Silent

Some people think being honest with the police when they are arrested will help them. This is never the case with a drug trafficking charge. The police want to get as much information from you as quickly as possible. They will use that information to convict you.

You are best off by taking advantage of the right to remain silent when arrested for state or federal drug trafficking. Instead, you should only say that you want to call your drug trafficking attorney.

Illegal Search And Seizure

You could be guilty of federal drug trafficking, but the case could be dismissed if the evidence against you was illegally obtained. For example, the case may not hold up in court if the police enter your home without cause and find large amounts of cocaine, a scale, and hundreds of small plastic bags.

The police must have a search warrant or probable cause to enter your residence. If they do not, your attorney will enter a motion to suppress the evidence that could lead to a case dismissal.

Planted Evidence

It is possible that someone wants you to be caught with large amounts of drugs. If you suspect someone planted evidence, your attorney will investigate the matter.

Mishandled Evidence

The case will be dismissed if there is not enough evidence to convict you of drug trafficking. Sometimes, law enforcement will improperly handle evidence at the crime scene. This brings the integrity of the evidence into question. Minor errors by the police can be beneficial to your case. Your attorney will scour the arrest records to find any chance that the evidence was handled inappropriately.

Contact Chicago Drug Trafficking Lawyers

State and federal laws sometimes overlap, especially in drug cases. However, federal laws typically take priority with drug trafficking. If you are charged with drug trafficking in Chicago, it does not matter if you were arrested at Millennium Park, Cloud Gate, or Shedd Aquarium: Being arrested for drug charges is a scary experience that requires the help of Chicago drug trafficking lawyers with a proven track record. A federal drug trafficking conviction could mean years in prison and hundreds of thousands in fines.

The Chicago drug trafficking lawyers at the Law Offices of Vadim A. Glozman can help if you face a drug trafficking charge. Contact us today for a free consultation.