What Is Drug Trafficking?

  • Drug trafficking is the illegal sale, distribution and transportation of illegal drugs and controlled substances.
  • Federal and state laws proscribe varying penalties for drug trafficking.
  • Drug trafficking penalties vary according to the type, quantity and value of the drugs, as well as the criminal history of the defendant.

Drug Trafficking Generally Refers to the Weight of the Drugs – But Not Necessarily So Limited:

  • While distribution and transportation is part of drug trafficking in general, according to the DEA, trafficking refers primarily to the weight of the drugs involved.
  • It is possible for possession of a controlled substance to be charged as a trafficking offense if the weight meets the trafficking criteria.
  • However, anyone that transports drugs for sale within the state or across county lines has committed the offense of transporting drugs – and potentially, trafficking drugs.

Trafficking is a Class A Felony, Federal Penaltie

  • Penalties vary according to the schedule and quantity of the drug, as well as whether it is the defendant’s first or subsequent offense.
  • For the following drugs, federal penalties may include:
  • Methamphetamine (Schedule 2)
  • Heroin (Schedule 1)
  • Cocaine (Schedule 2)
  • Cocaine base (Schedule 2)
  • PCP (Schedule 2)
  • LSD (Schedule 1)
  • Fentanyl (Schedule 2)
  • Fentanyl analogue (Schedule 1)
  • Others (Schedule 1 and 2)
  • Prison: 5 – 40 years
  • If death or serious injury, not less than 20 years or more than life
  • Fine: not more than $2 million if an individual
  • Fine: not more than $5 million if other than an individual

Penalties Vary:

  • Prison: 10 years to life
  • Fine: not more than $4 million if individual
  • Fine: not more than $10 million if other than an individual
  • 2 or more prior offenses: Prison – life

Other Penalties for Drug Trafficking – Forfeiture, Suspensions, Sanctions:

  • Assets that are related to drug trafficking proceeds are subject to state or federal forfeiture upon conviction
  • Assets may include cash, vehicles, boats, planes, real and personal property, holdings, investments, accounts and more
  • In many jurisdictions, the offender’s driver’s license is suspended or revoked for a period of months or years
  • Professional licensure may be suspended or revoked
  • Permanent criminal record
  • Court sanctions often include drug testing, drug counseling, strict supervised release
  • Convicted felons may not possess or use a firearm
  • Many other restrictions generally apply, according to the relevant state or federal law involved

Drug Trafficking Definition

Drug Trafficking Defined According to the Ohio State Bar Association:

  • “Drug trafficking is knowingly selling or offering to sell a controlled substance. A person also commits the offense of drug trafficking by shipping, transporting, delivering, or preparing a controlled substance for shipment/transportation/delivery when the person has reason to believe the recipient intends to sell the controlled substance.”

Money Does Not Have to Be Exchanged in a Drug Trafficking Offense:

  • According to Ohio law specifically, “The seller can still be convicted of drug trafficking even if no money changes hands.

Ohio’s Definition of “Sale”:

  • “… Sale includes barter, exchange, transfer and gift.”

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Michael S. Berg
Attorney At Law