Los Angeles Federal Drug Trafficking Attorney

Ambrosio RodriguezAre you facing federal criminal drug trafficking charges in Los Angeles? The consequences of a federal drug conviction will change your life forever. The only way to protect yourself is by asserting the strongest possible defense. Call the Rodriguez Law Group and find out how our Los Angeles federal drug trafficking defense attorneys can help.

Our team includes former prosecutors with more than 17 years of experience navigating the most challenging criminal matters. We know that your future is on the line and we’ll work diligently to protect it. Let our experience benefit you. Give our Los Angeles law office a call today to arrange a free consultation and learn more.

What is Drug Trafficking?

Under California state law, you can face criminal drug trafficking charges if you transport or move illegal drugs across state lines. When you cross state lines, you open yourself up to federal criminal charges. Under federal law, drug trafficking actually encompasses a wider range of illicit behavior.

The United States’ federal drug trafficking law is codified in 21 USC §841. Under this section, it is a crime “for any person to knowingly or intentionally” do any of the following things:

  • Manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance; or
  • Create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.

So, under the federal drug trafficking law, you can face charges if you are found to be in possession of a large enough quantity of a controlled substance that it’s reasonable to think that you have the intent to move or distribute those drugs.

What’s the Difference Between a Controlled Substance and a Counterfeit Substance?

21 USC §841 prohibits actions involving both controlled substances and counterfeit substances. So, it’s important to understand what those terms mean and what they might include.

Controlled Substances

Controlled substances are drugs and compounds that are regulated by the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). A controlled substance will be classified into one of five categories, or schedules, depending on its potential for abuse and any known medicinal purposes.

Schedule I: Controlled substances with no currently accepted medical uses and a high potential for abuse. Includes heroin, LSD, peyote, marijuana, and ecstasy.

Schedule II: Controlled substances with a high potential for abuse and dependence. Includes many narcotics (methadone, oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, opium), stimulants (methamphetamine, Adderall, Ritalin), cocaine, and pentobarbital.

Schedule III: Controlled substances with a moderate potential for abuse and dependence. Includes narcotics with no more than 90 mg of codeine per dose, as well as ketamine and benzphetamine.

Schedule IV: Controlled substances with a low potential for abuse and addiction. Includes Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, and Restoril.

Schedule V: Controlled substances with the lowest potential for abuse and addiction, typically prescription medications containing little-to-no narcotic drugs. Includes many cough medicines and ezogabine.

Prohibited conduct involving controlled substances is illegal at the federal level, regardless of any legalization efforts in California or other states.

Counterfeit Substances

The federal government defines a counterfeit substance as “a controlled substance which, or the container or labeling of which, without authorization, bears the trademark, trade name, or other identifying mark, imprint, number, or device, or any likeness thereof, of a manufacturer, distributor, or dispenser other than the person or persons who in fact manufactured, distributed, or dispensed such substance and which thereby falsely purports or is represented to be the product of, or to have been distributed by, such other manufacturer, distributor, or dispenser.”

In other words, a counterfeit substance is something that’s designed to look like or mimic the appearance of a controlled substance. The counterfeit substance does not have to alter the body or mind. So, you can potentially face federal drug trafficking charges for trafficking something that’s not an illegal drug if you’re trying to pass off fake drugs or a knockoff of some sort.

Penalties for Federal Drug Trafficking Offenses in California

Drug trafficking is always a felony offense. However, the penalties will ultimately depend on the type and quantity of controlled substances (or counterfeit) involved. If you have a criminal record, that can also influence the severity of your sentence.

Schedule I & II Controlled Substances

Here’s a brief overview of the penalties for some drug trafficking offenses involving Schedule I and Schedule II drugs.

For a first offense, you’ll face between 5 and 40 years in federal prison if you’re convicted of trafficking:

  • Cocaine (between 500 and 4,999 grams)
  • Cocaine base (between 5 and 49 grams)
  • Fentanyl (between 40 and 399 grams)
  • Heroin (between 100 and 999 grams)
  • LSD (between 1 and 9 grams), and
  • Methamphetamine (between 5 and 49 grams pure or 50 and 499 grams of a mixture).

You can also face up to $2 million in fines ($5 million if multiple parties involved).

For a first offense, you’ll face between 10 years and life in prison if you’re convicted of trafficking:

  • Cocaine (5 kgs or more)
  • Cocaine base (50 grams or more)
  • Fentanyl (400 grams or more)
  • Heroin (1 kg or more)
  • LSD (10 grams or more), and
  • Methamphetamine (50 grams or more pure or 1 kg or more mixture).

Fines can reach up to $8 million (or $20 million if not an individual).

Trafficking Marijuana

Even though marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance, trafficking this substance has its own penalties.

For trafficking cases involving 1 to 49 plants or a mixture of less than 50 kg:

  • First Offense: up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines
  • Second Offense: up to 10 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.

For trafficking cases involving more than 10 kgs of a mixture or 50 to 99 plants:

  • First Offense: 20 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines
  • Second Offense: up to 30 years imprisonment and a fine up to $2 million.

For trafficking cases involving 100 kg to 999 kg of a mixture or 100 to 999 or more plants:

  • First Offense: between 5 and 40 years in prison and up to $2 million in fines
  • Second Offense: between 10 years and life in prison and $4 million in fines.

For trafficking cases involving 1,000 kg or more of a mixture or 1,000 or more plants:

  • First Offense: 10 years to life in prison and up to $4 million in fines
  • Second Offense: 20 years to life in prison and up to $8 million in fines.

The fines are significantly higher when more than one person is involved in a federal drug trafficking scheme.

Defending Federal Drug Trafficking Charges

When you’re arrested on federal drug trafficking charges in California, it’s important to understand that a conviction is not a foregone conclusion. Before you can even be charged, prosecutors have to convince a grand jury to issue an indictment. This basically requires the government to prove that it has probable cause to support the case against you. Even if you’re indicted, the government has to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s a might greater burden of proof and it can be very difficult to meet.

You can make the prosecutor’s job even more difficult by launching an aggressive defense led by a qualified attorney. At the Rodriguez Law Group, we’ll carefully examine the details of your alleged crime, review your interactions with the government and law enforcement officials, and determine any defense strategy that might be successful.

Strategies that are often employed in federal drug trafficking cases include:

  • Lack of required knowledge and/or intent
  • Mistaken identity
  • False accusations, and
  • Violations of your Constitutional rights (e.g., unlawful arrest, illegal search and seizure).

Our Los Angeles drug crimes attorneys won’t just offer defenses on your behalf, but also attack the government’s case and any evidence it might have to support the charges. If we can get evidence thrown out or undercut its value, we can make it difficult for the prosecution to satisfy its burden. Prosecutors, fearing a loss in court, might be inclined to offer a plea or drop the charges altogether.

Call Our Federal Drug Trafficking Attorneys Now

Federal drug trafficking charges aren’t usually filed alone. These types of charges often accompany other allegations, including money laundering, RICO violations, and conspiracy. You’ll need to make sure that you have a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney on your side with extensive experience handling all of these federal matters. Contact the Rodriguez Law Group to discuss your case today and learn more about how we can help you fight to safeguard your future.