Being charged with a drug trafficking offense in Texas is a serious matter. A conviction for drug trafficking can lead to years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. A charge for drug distribution can apply to many different cases involving different types and amounts of drugs. In most cases, the weight and type of the drugs involved can have a direct impact on the severity of the charges. This is because some drugs are viewed by the criminal justice system as being more dangerous than other types of substances.
What Is Drug Trafficking?
Strictly speaking, the law defines drug trafficking as the act of transporting, importing or selling of controlled substances. The law is meant to target drug dealers as well as drug manufacturers of substances like marijuana, cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs.
Drug trafficking laws are applied in cases involving people who are found to be in possession of a certain amount of drugs. This is different from simple drug possession laws. For example, a person who is found with a single marijuana cigarette may face drug possession charges while a person who is found with many pounds of marijuana may face drug trafficking charges.
This is an important distinction because drug distribution charges can be applied in many cases where a person is found with a large amount of controlled substances. Even if that person had no intention of selling or distributing those drugs, he or she may still face drug trafficking charges.
Drug Types and Amounts
Although the possession of any type of illegal drug may lead to drug trafficking charges, some of the most common drugs involved in these types of cases include:
- Powder or crack cocaine
- Prescription drugs like oxycodone
Drug trafficking laws are usually applied when people are caught with a large amount of drugs. For example, a person who is caught with two grams of cocaine may face felony drug possession charges but a person who is caught with over an ounce of cocaine may face trafficking charges. Drug trafficking charges may also apply if a person is caught with:
- Scales or devices for weighing drugs
- Individual plastic bags
- Large amounts of cash
Because drug trafficking laws target drug dealers, getting caught with equipment that is associated with selling drugs can lead to trafficking charges.
Drug Trafficking Penalties
In order to convict a person of drug trafficking, the prosecution must prove that the possession of the drugs was intentional. For example, a person who purchases a car that had been used by a drug trafficker may not have known that the car had illegal drugs hidden inside of it. This would be a case of unintentional drug possession.
Although state charges are usually applied in cases of drug possession, federal charges may be applied in some cases. In Texas, this usually occurs when drugs are transported across state lines. Whether drugs are imported from Mexico or taken to other states, transporting illegal substances across state lines is a federal offense. In these cases, federal charges may apply.
The federal penalties for drug trafficking can be very severe. For example, a person who is found to be in possession of 100-999 grams of a mixture containing heroin can face:
- A minimum of 5 years in federal prison
- A fine of up to $2000
- A person who is found to be in possession of 5 to 49 grams of pure methamphetamine can face:
- A minimum of 5 years in prison
- A fine of up to $2000
Second offenses for trafficking drugs can cause the potential prison term to double. Drug charges at the state level in Texas can be equally severe. For example, possession of between 200 and 400 grams of a Penalty Group 1 substance, like cocaine, is an enhanced first degree felony in Texas, punishable by:
- 10 to 99 years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
All of these penalties can be enhanced if the defendant was found in possession of a firearm or committed any other offenses during the act of possessing large amounts of controlled substances.
Any person who is facing state or federal drug trafficking charges can consult with an attorney to attempt to create a strong legal defense in court.
If you’ve been accused of a drug-related crime in Houston or the surrounding communities, contact The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp for experienced representation.