According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug trafficking is defined as the “illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws”. While state and federal laws can be somewhat vague on what constitutes trafficking, in Minnesota a trafficking charge generally comes down to the amount of narcotics one is alleged to be in possession of. Under section 152.021 of the Minnesota Statutes, possession of the following amounts of narcotics are grounds for one to be charged with drug trafficking:
- 25 or more grams of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine
- 500 or more grams of a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine
- 500 or more grams or 500 or more “dosage units” of amphetamine, hallucinogens, or phencyclidine (PCP)
- 100 or more kilograms of marijuana
While similar to the charge of “possession with intent to distribute” in that both are considered First Degree Controlled Substance Crimes, the charge of trafficking is generally seen as the more serious crime, and as such is subject to harsher criminal penalties. While any First Degree Controlled Substance Crime conviction can carry a prison sentence of 30 to 40 years and up to $1 million in fines, those charged with trafficking are much more likely to receive the upper end of these sentences if convicted. Further complicating matters for those accused of trafficking is the fact that it can be a federal crime as well. If the accused is suspected of crossing state lines for any reason related to his or her purported trafficking, or if the alleged activities took place in more than one state, they can be charged with federal drug trafficking in addition to any state charges. The addition of a federal charge brings with it the possibility of even harsher penalties (up to 40 years in prison and $5 million in fines for the same amounts listed above), as well as the increased resources of the federal government in the prosecution of the case against the accused.
For those facing a drug trafficking charge on either the state or federal level, things may seem incredibly bleak; however there are options and opportunities at your disposal. First and foremost, in order to be convicted of trafficking, the accused must be proven to have been aware of the presence of the narcotics allegedly in his or her possession. It is important to remember that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. In a trafficking case this means that the prosecutor or State’s Attorney must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was indeed aware of the narcotics allegedly in his or her possession, as well as an intent to distribute said narcotics. In some cases the prosecution may believe their evidence to be insufficient to accomplish this, and as such will offer to reduce the charges to possession with intent to distribute, or even simple possession, in exchange for a guilty plea. In these instances competent legal representation is paramount, and is of great benefit to the accused.
Such representation should be sought in any such case, as a capable defense team greatly increases the accused’s chances at avoiding a lengthy prison sentence. Being accused of a crime as serious as drug trafficking can seem hopeless, and facing the prosecutorial power of the state and/or federal government may feel overwhelming. It is vital, however, to remember that in such cases the accused has numerous statutory and constitutional rights; the most important of which is the presumption of innocence. There are myriad options available to those charged with such crimes, and with a qualified, proficient, and capable legal team to navigate these avenues and guide the accused through the judicial process the chances of a favorable outcome are greatly increased.
Anyone who has been accused of drug trafficking should not give up hope, nor should they let the police or the judicial system intimidate them. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and everyone has options. The law firm of Villaume & Schiek can help determine which course of action may be right for each specific situation, and begin the process of planning a defense strategy. The sooner one begins his or her defense preparations, the better their chances are. If you or someone you love has been accused of drug trafficking, please do not hesitate to contact us right away. We will explore each and every option available together, and guide you through this process in a cordial, professional, and understanding manner. The presumption of innocence is the backbone of the American legal system, and Villaume & Schiek will fight to preserve your rights, and get you the fair and just process you deserve.