When you hear the term “drug trafficking”, it probably conjures images of El Chapo or Pablo Escobar. And while you’re not wrong, you don’t have to be head of a world-famous crime syndicate to be charged with drug trafficking in Texas or elsewhere.
A man in San Angelo, Texas was recently sent to prison for 25 years for drug trafficking – and it turns out that was the lucky outcome. He accepted a plea deal with prosecutors for a reduced sentence for the manufacture and delivery of controlled substances. Based on the amount he possessed when arrested, it could have been a whole lot worse.
In Texas, drug trafficking cases have the potential to be prosecuted under Texas law and federal law as well. That’s why it’s vital to understand what the law says about drug trafficking at both levels, even if you are innocent until proven guilty.
Drug Trafficking: What Is it?
Drug trafficking is when someone distributes, manufactures, or delivers drugs in large quantities.
Under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, four main groups of drugs are trafficked:
However, it’s not the weight of the drugs that determines what can be charged both under Texas law and federal law.
Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
When it comes to the feds getting involved in a drug trafficking case, it depends on the movement of the drugs rather than the amount. Both small and large drug trafficking operations that cross state borders can be charged in a federal indictment.
That means that any drugs transported through the U.S. Postal service or on airlines will likely result in federal charges for drug trafficking. Any time international or state lines are crossed, the case can fall under the federal guidelines for drug trafficking.
Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties
If the case is prosecuted by the federal government, some serious penalties can result.
Schedule I, II, III, IV, and V drugs, with the exception of marijuana, can result in between five and 40 years in prison for the first offense. If serious injury or death occurred as a result of the trafficking, then a minimum sentence of 20 years can be handed down.
On top of this, defendants can be responsible for up to $5 million in fines individually for their part in a drug trafficking scheme.
For second offenses and onward, you can face a minimum of 10 years in federal prison – all the way up to life. Individuals can face up to $8 million in fines, as well.
Texas Drug Trafficking Penalties
You can face both state and federal charges at the same time for drug trafficking. This doesn’t violate the double jeopardy law.
In Texas, the type of drug trafficking plus quantity of drugs found impact the penalties faced.
The least serious penalty is a state jail felony, which can land you in jail for up to six months and require you to pay fines of $10,000.
But you can also face a first-degree felony charge, with sentencing of 15 years to life in prison, plus fines as high as $250,000.
Drug trafficking is a serious and complicated crime. Make sure you understand the charges against you and what your rights are under the law.