It is commonly thought that “drug trafficking” and “drug dealing” are the same thing. However, under the defines of the law, that is not the case. Every state has enacted laws to punish the activity of drug trafficking, but depending on the state that the crime is committed, the laws differ widely.
So, if drug trafficking and drug dealing are not the same thing, what exactly does a charge of drug trafficking mean? A person can be charged and convicted of drug trafficking for any or all of the following:
- Manufacturing illegal drugs
- Transporting illegal drugs
- Selling illegal drugs
- Distributing illegal drugs
Two additional important elements that are used to differentiate, between the charge of drug trafficking and the charge of drug dealing, are weight and measurement. In the event that a person is found with a specific amount of an illegal drug (typically more than what is considered by the law as being for personal use) the accused can be charged and convicted of drug trafficking. In this type of situation, it may be true that the person with the drugs in their possession did not manufacture, transport, buy or sell any illegal drugs, however the amount that they possess is in excess of the legally determined amount of drugs that constitutes trafficking.
A drug trafficking conviction required that the prosecutor prove at least one of the following:
- Intent and possession
- Amount of drug exceeding legally determined amounts
- Sale, manufacture or movement of drugs
- Federal drug trafficking
To make the case for intent and possession the prosecution is required to show that not only did you possess the legally required quantity of illegal drugs, they also have to prove that you intentionally possessed them. If the circumstances of the case prove that the accused knew that the drugs were in their possession or that they had control over wherever the drugs were, even if they were not in their personal possession at the time of discovery, they are eligible to be convicted of drug trafficking. The requirement to prove intent and possession is to protect people who are unaware of the fact that they are in possession of drugs. For example, if a person were to discover a large quantity of drugs hidden in the trunk of a car that they had rented, they could not be convicted of drug possession or drug trafficking.
Drug trafficking laws are dependent on the quantity of drugs that a person has in their possession. The specific, legally determined amounts vary for each state, as well as, differing based on the different types of drugs.
In the state of Florida, the minimum amount of drugs required for a drug trafficking charge and conviction are as follows:
- Oxycodone: 7 grams
- LSD: 1 gram
- Cocaine: 28 grams
- MDMA: 10 grams
- Hydrocodone: 14 grams
- Cannabis: 25 pounds or 300 plants
Anytime that a person possess, the minimum legally determined amount or more of, any of these drugs, they can be convicted of drug trafficking in the state of Florida. It is important to note that these amounts are minimums and drug trafficking convictions in regards to amounts that are greater than the minimum may face significantly heavier penalties.
While the sale, manufacture or movement of illegal drugs is considered in drug trafficking convictions, these specifics are superseded by the amount of the illegal drugs found in a person’s possession. What this means is that if a person is proven to have over the legally determined limit, whether or not they sold, manufactured or transported the drugs does not matter.
If any drug trafficking activity involves activity in multiple states or if the activity crosses state lines, the federal government can step in and level federal drug trafficking charges against the person or persons accused of the drug trafficking offense.
The charge of drug trafficking is very serious and if a person is convicted of this charge they will often be convicted of not just years in prison but potentially decades. Just as drug trafficking laws vary significantly from state to state, so too do the severity of the associated penalties. Depending on the state and the gravity of the charges, the penalty for a drug trafficking conviction can include:
Depending on the specific of the case, even first time offenders can be given prison sentences of longer than a year for a drug trafficking conviction. Many trafficking convictions result in sentences of 10 years or more and in fact, life sentences are also possible.
If any fines are included in the sentencing of a drug trafficking conviction, the fines are commonly quite serious. This type of conviction can often result in fines of $25,000 to $100,000, and sometimes the fines will be even higher than $100,000. In fact, in regards to a Federal drug trafficking conviction, there are cases where the resulting fine has been in excess of $10 million.
While a drug trafficking conviction can technically result in probation, this usually will only be the case in the instance of a plea bargain. In these situations, the person accused of the crime will agree to plead guilty to a charge that is not as serious. Typical probation sentences last a minimum of 12 months but it is possible for probation sentences be three years or even longer. During the court required probation period, the accused will be required to meet specific conditions which can include random drug and alcohol testing, not breaking any other laws, being monitored by a probation officer or the inability to leave the state with the explicit permission of their probation officer.
Due to extreme negative impact that drug trafficking has on communities and the public, at large, they often carry mandatory minimum sentences. What this means is that if a person is convicted of a drug trafficking offense which carries a mandatory minimum sentence, they will be required to serve a legally specified amount of time in prison without the eligibility for parole until the legally specified time has passed. An example of this would be, if the convicted receives a sentence of 5 years in prison within a state that has a 3 year mandatory minimum sentence, that person would be be able to be paroled until a minimum of 3 years of prison time has been served.
In the state of Florida, the following are some of the mandatory minimum sentences:
- 7 grams to 14 grams – 3 years prison sentence; $50,000 fine
- 14 grams to 25 grams – 7 years prison sentence; $100,000 fine
- 25 grams to 100 grams – 15 years prison sentence; $500,000 fine
- 100 grams to 30 kilograms – 25 years prison sentence; $750,000 fine
- 1 gram to 5 grams – 3 years prison sentence; $50,000 fine
- 5 grams to 7 grams – 7 years prison sentence; $100,000 fine
- 7 grams or more – 15 years prison sentence; $500,000 fine
- 28 grams to 200 grams – 3 years prison sentence; $50,000 fine
- 200 grams to 400 grams – 7 years prison sentence; $100,000 fine
- 400 grams to 150 kilograms – 15 years prison sentence; $250,000 fine
- More than 150 kilograms – Life Imprisonment without eligibility for parole
- 10 grams to 200 grams – 3 years prison sentence; $50,000 fine
- 200 grams to 400 grams – 7 years prison sentence; $100,000 fine
- More than 400 grams – 15 years prison sentence; $250,000 fine
- 14 grams to 28 grams – 3 years prison sentence; $50,000 fine
- 29 grams to 49 grams – 7 years prison sentence; $100,000 fine
- 50 grams to 200 grams – 15 years prison sentence; $500,000 fine
- 200 grams to 30 kilograms – 25 years prison sentence; $750,000 fine
- 25 pounds to 2,000 pounds – 3 years prison sentence; $25,000 fine
- 300 plants to 2,000 plants – 3 years prison sentence; $25,000 fine
- 2,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds – 7 years prison sentence; $50,000 fine
- 2,000 plants to 10,000 plants – 7 years prison sentence; $50,000 fine
- More than 10,000 pounds – 15 years prison sentence; $200,000 fine
The above list is not a complete listing of Florida’s minimum mandatory sentences for drug trafficking. The complete listing can be found in Florida Statute Section 893.15, which can be found at http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=893.135&URL=0800-0899/0893/Sections/0893.135.html
The charge of drug trafficking is a serious criminal charge that carries significant mandatory sentences and penalties. If a person is charged with a drug trafficking crime, arrested with potential pending drug trafficking charges or even questioned by police in regards to drug trafficking, they should seek legal help from an experienced criminal defense attorney, as soon as possible.