Federal drug trafficking charges are extremely serious due to the criminal penalties that can be imposed. If you are convicted of a federal drug trafficking offense in Utah, such as trafficking marijuana, heroin, or OxyContin, you face harsh mandatory minimum sentencing. You could be imprisoned for years, in addition to being fined thousands or even millions of dollars. You will also have a felony criminal record, which can make it difficult to find housing, obtain employment, or qualify for loans, while also preventing you from legally owning or purchasing firearms.
If you are under investigation by the DEA, the FBI, or other federal agencies, you need an aggressive and dedicated criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling federal charges like interstate drug trafficking. At Overson Law, PLLC, Salt Lake City drug lawyer Darwin Overson has more than 16 years of experience handling federal charges involving Schedule V, Schedule IV, Schedule III, Schedule II, and Schedule I controlled substances. To set up a confidential legal consultation completely free of charge, contact Overson Law online, or call our law offices 24 hours at (801) 758-2287.
When is Drug Trafficking a Federal Offense?
Various drug offenses are prohibited by both state and federal laws. For example, Utah’s drug law, which is called the Utah Controlled Substances Act (Utah Code, Title 58, Chapter 37), broadly prohibits the possession, sale, distribution, manufacture, cultivation, or transportation of various scheduled substances, including prescription medications plus assorted drug paraphernalia. These acts are also illegal under federal laws, such as 21 U.S. Code § 841(a), which states that, in general, it is “unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally… manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance.”
This raises an important question: why are some drug cases prosecuted in federal court, rather than state courts? While each case is unique, it depends on factors like:
- The type and quantity of the substance involved in the offense
- Whether elements of organized crime or racketeering are allegedly involved
- Whether the offense involved the crossing of state lines, such as interstate trafficking
- Whether the offense took place on federal property
How Much Prison Time Do You Get for Drug Trafficking?
Federal crimes carry harsher sentences than state crimes – especially when it comes to drug offenses, which are subject to mandatory minimums that force judges to impose prison time. According to United States Sentencing Commission statistics on federal drug trafficking offenses, “Most drug trafficking offenders were sentenced to imprisonment (95.6%)” in 2017, with an average sentence of 70 months (five years and 10 months).
“However,” as the same report also pointed out, “the average sentence varied depending on the type of drug trafficked in the offense.” Federal drug crimes involving methamphetamine resulted in the longest sentences on average (88 months, or seven years and four months), followed by:
- Crack Cocaine – 80 months (six years and eight months)
- Powder Cocaine – 72 months (six years)
- Heroin – 65 months (five years and five months)
- OxyContin (Oxycodone) – 44 months (three years and eight months)
- Marijuana (Cannabis, Weed, Pot) – 27 months (two years and three months)
Along with meth, these five substances constitute the majority of federal drug trafficking crimes. Other controlled substances that can give rise to federal trafficking charges, categorized by drug schedule, include the following:
- Schedule IV Substances – Ambien, Valium, Xanax
- Schedule III Substances – Anabolic steroids, GHB, ketamine
- Schedule II Substances – Adderall, cocaine, Dilaudid, fentanyl, meth, methadone, OxyContin
- Schedule I Substances – Heroin, LSD (acid), marijuana, MDMA (ecstasy), peyote
Other Drug Trafficking Penalties
In addition to lengthy prison sentences, federal drug convictions can also lead to massive fines. As with sentencing, fines depend on the quantity and substance involved, along with your criminal history, if any, and whether any victims were injured or killed. If you have a history of prior offenses, a second or third conviction will result in harsher penalties than a first-time offense. Examples of potential fines for drug trafficking crimes include:
- $100,000 for Schedule V drugs
- $250,000 for Schedule IV and Schedule III drugs
- $1 million or greater for Schedule II and Schedule I drugs
Other consequences of a federal drug trafficking conviction may include:
- Having a felony record
- Losing eligibility for certain loans, scholarships, or government benefits
- Losing professional licenses and certifications you need for your job
- Losing the right to own or buy guns
Felony Federal Drug Trafficking Defense Attorneys in Salt Lake City, UT
Before you speak to federal agents or criminal investigators, make sure to retain an experienced federal drug charges lawyer in Utah. Your attorney will uphold your constitutional rights while developing a strategy to negotiate for reduced penalties or fight the charges head-on. For a free consultation with a federal drug trafficking attorney in Salt Lake City, call Overson Law at (801) 758-2287, or contact us online today.