Is Drug Trafficking a Violent Crime?

Nov 15, 2021 by David J Rozas

Is Drug Trafficking a Violent Crime?
is drug trafficking a violent crime
Although many people believe that drug trafficking is the same thing as drug dealing, the law defines the terms differently. In fact, most states don’t have a law that specifically mentions drug dealing, and instead use other terms for the various drug offenses under which people are charged.

Though laws vary from state to state, as well as on the Federal level, Louisiana law differentiates between drug possession and drug manufacture or distribution, of which the latter is much more serious and carries harsher penalties for every schedule of drug. Drug regulations are a complex area of the law, so in this blog, we’ll try to help you understand the basics.

Drug Trafficking Controlled Substances

When a government, whether local, state, or federal, classifies a substance as “controlled,” it usually means that the use and distribution of the substance is controlled by law. Usually, controlled substances are drugs, and are classified under different levels or “schedules” in statutes. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (1970), the following schedules are defined:

Schedule I

The drug is highly addictive, has no accepted medical use, and is not safe even under medical supervision.
  • marijuana
  • heroin
  • LSD
  • ecstasy
  • peyote

Schedule II

The drug is highly addictive, has medical uses, and may lead to severe drug dependence. 
  • cocaine
  • methadone
  • oxycodone
  • amphetamine
  • pentobarbital

Schedule III

The drug has a low potential for abuse, has accepted medical uses, and moderate risk of dependence.
  • anabolic steroids
  • products with no more than 90mg of codeine per dose (Tylenol with Codeine®)
  • ketamine

Schedule IV + V

Drugs in these schedules have low potential for abuse, have accepted medical uses, and limited potential for dependence.
  • lorazepam (Ativan®)
  • carisoprodol (Soma®)
  • ezogabine
  • cough preparations containing no more than 200mg codeine per 100mL or 100g (Robitussin AC®)

drug possessionDrug Possession vs. Drug Trafficking

You can be convicted of drug trafficking if you manufacture, sell or distribute illegal drugs, though it’s also a crime of weight and measurement. While specific amounts vary from state to state and drug to drug, if you’re found with a specified amount of any illegal drug you can be convicted of trafficking, even if you don’t manufacture, buy, sell, or transport the drugs.

To be convicted of drug trafficking, a prosecutor must prove that you intentionally possessed the law-specified amount of drugs. If you rented a car with a kilogram of cocaine hidden under the seat, you can’t be convicted of drug possession or trafficking, for example. However, you don’t actually need to be trafficking in drugs—that is, selling them, buying them, or moving them—to be found guilty of drug trafficking. Only possessing over the amount specified by law can get you a drug trafficking conviction.

Federal Penalties for Drug Trafficking

While each state has its own laws on drug trafficking, the federal government also prosecutes trafficking. If trafficking activity crosses state lines or involves more than one state, the Federal government can get involved.

Federal penalties for drug trafficking include prison time, fines, and probation. A few applicable penalties for the trafficking of common drugs include:
  • 10 years to life in prison for 1kg of heroin, 5kg of cocaine, or 1000kg of marijuana
  • 5–40 years for 100g of heroin, or 500g of cocaine
  • Not more than 5 years for 50kg of marijuana

State Penalties for Drug Trafficking

Drug possession and drug trafficking charges vary wildly from state to state. In some states, for example, marijuana is legal to possess for personal use, even though it’s still federally illegal in the United States. In Louisiana, however, that isn’t the case. The following table shows a few drugs and the drug's charges & penalties for possession and trafficking.
                                          Substance                     Possession Penalty                     Trafficking Penalty
Heroin + Schedule I Narcotics Imprisonment & hard labor for 4–10 years without probation and a fine of up to $5,000 Imprisonment & hard labor for 5–50 years and a fine of up to $50,000
Hallucinogens Imprisonment & hard labor for not more than 10 years, and a possible fine of up to $5,000 Imprisonment & hard labor for 5–30 years and a possible fine of up to $50,000
Cocaine Imprisonment for up to 5 years & a possible fine of $5,000, with increased penalties for large amounts Manufacturing: imprisonment for 10–30 years & possible fine of up to $500,000; Distribution: imprisonment for 2–30 years & a possible fine of up to $50,000

You can find more detailed information about the various penalties and felony charges for drug possession and trafficking in the state of Louisiana here, or talk to a drug enforcement lawyer.

Find a Criminal Defense Attorney in Louisiana

If you’ve been charged with drug trafficking, you need a criminal justice lawyer to represent your rights in court. Drug trafficking crimes are some of the more serious charges you can face, regardless of the state. They often come with steep penalties, both in terms of prison time and financial burdens, as well as mandatory sentences in many cases. Receiving a drug crime conviction can permanently alter your life.

Because of this, you need to speak to a local drug crime lawyer as soon as possible after being charged, or even being questioned by the police, about a drug trafficking crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney like one of the team at Rozas & Associates will not only know all the details and complexities of drug law, but they will also know how to evaluate the facts of your case, how to apply the law to your defense, and can give you advice about your options. Our results really do speak for themselves, so give us a call, schedule your FREE consultation online, or stop by our law firm in Baton Rouge!

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