Perhaps you have seen this story about the search for participants in a drug trafficking ring and wondered what exactly drug trafficking is. At its core, it involves a significant quantity of illegal drugs and is a very serious offense with both federal and Florida laws prohibiting it.
Under Florida law, drug trafficking exists when a person knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into the state, or is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, a certain quantity of a controlled substance. If the amount involved is not high enough, the person will likely be charged with possession, which carries significantly lesser penalties.
The specific amount required for drug trafficking depends upon the drug involved. For example, a trafficking charge may be brought for marijuana if the quantity involved is at least 25 pounds or if there are 300 or more plants. Alternatively, a trafficking in cocaine charge may be brought if the quantity of cocaine is 28 grams or more.
It is important to note that, while we typically think of drug trafficking as involving distribution and sale, under Florida law, trafficking exists even if a person simply possesses the requisite quantity of drugs. This significantly increases the likelihood of a drug trafficking charge being brought, as a sale or delivery need not be shown.
Critically, the statute also provides that if a person conspires with another to commit drug trafficking, that person has committed a first degree felony and may be punished as if he or she actually committed the act. In other words, if conspiracy is proven, whether the actual trafficking occurred is irrelevant. Additionally, if the drug trafficking did occur, convictions and sentences for both trafficking and conspiracy may be sought.
The federal government criminalizes drug trafficking under 21 U.S.C. 841. Under federal law, it is illegal to “manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance.” Unlike under Florida law, possession must also be accompanied by intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense.
The penalties for violating the federal drug trafficking law are summarized in this chart prepared by the Congressional Research Service. Both the quantity thresholds and penalties associated with those quantities differ from those under Florida law. As an example, under federal law if the quantity of marijuana involved is in excess of 1,000 kilograms (which is roughly 2,204 pounds), the penalties are a fine of up to $10 million and a prison sentence not less than ten years. Alternatively, under Florida law, 1,000 kilograms of marijuana would fall under the penalty for having between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds. The penalties for that amount of marijuana are a fine of $50,000 and a minimum prison sentence of seven years.
Drug Trafficking Defense Attorney
Drug trafficking is a specialized area of criminal law that carries with it the possibility of severe penalties, including significant prison sentences. If you have been charged with drug trafficking, you will need experienced representation like Farkas & Crowley, P.A. can provide. If you are in the south Florida area, contact us today.