Criminal offenses such as drug possession or trafficking involve substances that are defined by the 1972 Controlled Substance, Drug, Device, and Cosmetic Act. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime explained that drug trafficking is “global illicit trade” associated with cultivating, manufacturing, distributing or sales of prohibited substances. Roughly 275 million people in the world between the ages of 15 and 64 are estimated to abuse controlled substances each year, indicating that there is a high demand for trafficking activity.
Data Regarding Drug Trafficking
According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, there were approximately 19,240 cases of drug trafficking across the country in 2017. In Pennsylvania, there were 511 such cases, which equates to a rate of 35.6 offenses per 100,000 people. This rate was roughly 20% higher than the national average of 28.5 offenses per 100,000 people. The chart below shows the types of drugs involved in these cases.
Here in Bucks County in 2017, there were a reported 2,559 drug-related violations. Many of these cases that originate in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas are eligible for the Bucks County Drug Court. This program works with adult violators on probation or parole, as well as those in the “post-plea, pre-sentence” phase of criminal actions that are non-violent. Those who successfully complete the four-phase diversionary Drug Court program may be eligible to have charges reduced or dismissed.
Drug Trafficking (§7508)
The potential sentencing and penalties for offenses are based on the drug involved such as the three outlined as follows:
- Marijuana: When the amount is between two and ten pounds or ten and twenty-one live plants, the minimum penalties are one-year in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the amount is between ten and fifty pounds or 21 to 51 live plants, the minimum penalties rise to three years in prison and a $15,000 fine. When exceeding 50 pounds or 51 live plants, the minimums imposed are five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- Schedule I and II Controlled Substances: When the amount is between two and ten grams, the minimum penalties are two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the amount is between ten and one-hundred grams, the minimum penalties are three years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Any offense involving over 100 grams is subject to a minimum of five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- Cocaine: When the amount is between two and ten grams, the minimum penalties are two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If the amount is between ten and 100 grams, the minimum penalties are three years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Any offense involving over 100 grams is subject to a minimum of five years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- Other substances with these similar provisions apply to methamphetamines, amphetamines, methaqualone, heroin, and MMDA or MDMA.
The minimum penalties for drug trafficking offenses are heightened when the convicted individual has a prior trafficking conviction. For example, for the first tier of marijuana offenses, the prison time increases from one to two years and fines from $5,000 to $10,000.
Trafficking to Minors (§6314)
If an adult is found to have possessed a controlled substance with intent to deliver to a minor, the will have a minimum of a one-year sentence of confinement imposed. The sentence is upgraded to a minimum of two years under certain circumstances. This applies when the intent is to “promote habitual use” or to engage a minor in other trafficking activities such as delivery or sales. It may also apply when the offense occurs within 1,000 feet of a school or within 500 feet of a bus stop.
Legal Representation for Those Facing Allegations of Drug Trafficking
Those convicted of trafficking in drugs face particularly harsh penalties in today's criminal justice system. Substance abuse continues to indiscriminately plague society and in recent years there has been a surge in fatal opioid-related overdoses. Attorney Joseph D. Lento develops customized strategies of defense for clients and is available to discuss your case. Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.