What is Drug Smuggling?
Drug smuggling or drug trafficking occurs when people illegally import controlled substances into the United States. An individual or group can be charged with drug smuggling any type of controlled substance, even those that are obtained through a prescription given by a doctor or other qualified health professional. These federal criminal cases are often complicated because the law enforcement agencies, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), have spent a lot of time investigating and getting ready to prosecute.
The most commonly prosecuted federal laws against drug smuggling include:
21 U.S.C. § 841 — outlaws knowingly or intentionally distributing, dispensing, or manufacturing a controlled substance as well as possessing any controlled substance with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense.
21 U.S.C. § 846— outlaws the attempt to smuggle drugs or conspiring with others to smuggle or traffic drugs. Under this law, simply the attempt or the agreement to smuggle drugs is enough for a conviction.
Drug smuggling cases are a high priority for the federal government, and the government basically has limitless resources to investigate and prosecute drug smuggling crimes. If you are facing a drug smuggling charge, then it is critical to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
What are the Potential Penalties for Drug Smuggling?
The federal government has complex sentencing guidelines to determine the penalties for those who illegally smuggle drugs. The punishments depend on several factors, including:
- What the individual is accused of doing;
- How many drugs were involved;
- If the person has done this before or has a previous criminal record;
- If there were any kids involved;
- If anyone got hurt or killed because of the alleged drug crime; or
- How many people are involved.
Even first-time offenders can face significant prison time. Other punishments could include losing property, having to pay a big fine, or getting deported if the accused is not a US citizen. Mandatory minimums can also be in play depending on the weight of drugs alleged to have been smuggled into the United States.
What are Some Examples of Illegal Drugs?
Controlled substances are drugs or chemicals that the government regulates. They put these drugs into different groups, depending on how dangerous they are and whether people use them for medicine. For example, heroin is very dangerous and has no medical use, so it is a Schedule I drug. Codeine has some medical uses and is not as dangerous, so it is a Schedule V drug. The most common drugs involved in federal drug trafficking cases are methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and marijuana.
What are Some Common Defenses of a Drug Smuggling Charge?
There are several defenses that can be used if you are accused of drug smuggling or trafficking. Several defenses may be available depending on the answers to some of the following questions:
- Did the police violate your constitutional rights?
- Is this a case of mistaken identity?
- Were actual drugs trafficked?
- Were you forced or coerced into illegal activity?
- Were you entrapped by the police?
- Were you in actual possession of illegal drugs?
- Did you have the intent to sell or distribute illegal drugs?
The answers to these and other questions about the allegations in your case will help determine what potential defenses are available to you. Some drug smuggling defenses can only be put forward before a trial in the form of a written motion, while others can only be made during a trial. Make sure you have your case evaluated by an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to determine what your potential best defenses are and how to proceed with your case.
In What Court Will Your Case Be Heard?
Federal criminal cases are processed in federal District Courts under federal law across the country. In the state of Pennsylvania, there are three federal Districts. These districts are known as the Central, Middle, and Eastern Districts and they are based on location. If your drug smuggling case is alleged to have occurred in central or eastern Pennsylvania, then your criminal case will be processed in either the Middle District or Eastern District Court respectively.
If you oppose a decision or verdict in a federal district court, then you can seek an appeal to a federal court of appeals. Appeals from the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania are heard and decided in the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The only higher remaining appellate court is the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court chooses the cases it hears and decides. There is no right to be heard in the United States Supreme Court. If you have questions about this, then make sure to get an experienced attorney's advice.
How Hiring an Experienced Attorney Can Help
If you have been charged with a crime such as drug smuggling by the federal government, then it is critical to have a defense attorney who has experience with federal drug defense. Federal drug cases are unique in their processing and investigation. You will need an attorney's help to properly evaluate your case to determine your best defense strategy and decide if it is in your best interests to go to trial or make a deal. If you have questions, please contact the Lento Law Firm Team right away.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are being investigated or prosecuted for federal drug smuggling, then it is important to speak to an experienced federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped people defend countless criminal charges in several jurisdictions. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring the Lento Law Firm is the right choice to help defend your federal case.