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Drug Smuggling Defense Lawyers

November 4, 2021 Federal Criminal Attorneys

To beef up the war on drugs and discourage crimes like drug smuggling, the federal government has highly unpleasant consequences in place for anyone unfortunate enough to receive a conviction.

Drug smuggling is prosecuted by the federal government. Under federal sentencing guidelines, penalties can include or exceed five million dollars in fines, a lengthy prison stay or even a life sentence.

What Is Drug Smuggling?

You can be charged with drug smuggling if you transport any illegal drugs or controlled substances from one country or from one state to another.

What Are Controlled Substances?

Controlled substances are any drugs or chemicals that are regulated by the federal government. They include illegal drugs and prescription medicines with high abuse potential.

The federal Controlled Substances Act classifies controlled substances according to five schedules based on three criteria:

  • Potential for abuse
  • Currently accepted medical use in the U.S.
  • Likelihood of causing dependence when abused

Substances that meet one or more of these criteria are classified as controlled substances and listed on one of five schedules:

  • Schedule I: Heroin, LSD, marijuana and ecstasy
  • Schedule II: Cocaine, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and amphetamine
  • Schedule III: Tylenol with codeine, anabolic steroids and testosterone
  • Schedule IV: Valium, Xanax, Ambien and Halcion
  • Schedule V: Codeine cough medicines and drugs like Lyrica and Lomotil

Why Is Drug Smuggling a Federal Crime?

Drug smuggling is illegal at both the state and federal levels, and it can be prosecuted in either court. In order to be considered a federal offense, a drug crime must fulfill one or more of these four criteria:

  • The crime was investigated by a federal agency
  • The offense involves an opioid drug or a prescription medicine
  • The allegations are compelling
  • The drugs involved are moved across international borders or state lines

Under 21 U.S.C. § 960, there are criminal penalties for three different types of federal drug smuggling offenses:

  • 21 U.S.C. § 825: Importing or exporting controlled substances
  • § 952: Importing controlled substances
  • § 953: Exporting controlled substances
  • § 967: Smuggling controlled substances
  • 21 U.S.C. § 959: Possessing, manufacturing or distributing controlled substances

Penalties for Drug Smuggling

A federal drug smuggling conviction could mean spending the rest of your life in prison and $5 million in fines. Under certain circumstances, these penalties can be even more devastating.

If a death or severe injury is caused by a smuggled substance, you could receive life imprisonment and fines of $10 million.

With a prior drug felony or serious violent felony conviction, you might face life in prison and $20 million in fines.

Federal sentencing guidelines impose minimum and maximum penalties for the most serious federal criminal offenses. Under these guidelines, the minimum sentence for drug smuggling is five years if there are no prior convictions.

With a prior conviction, prison time increases to 10 years, and a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 545 increases prison time to 20 years.

If you are imprisoned for smuggling drugs, you will not be eligible for parole throughout the term of your sentence.

Drug smuggling associated with other criminal activities can result in additional charges and even more severe punishments if a conviction occurs.

Benefits of Retaining a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

An experienced criminal defense lawyer might be all there is between you and life in a prison cell. A good lawyer can mobilize a strong defense on your behalf, but it takes time. The sooner you get help, the better.

Drug smuggling charges are typically investigated by the FBI, the DEA and other high-powered federal agencies. These cases are prosecuted in federal court by the office of the U.S. Attorney and propelled by the federal justice system. The upshot is that drug smuggling charges are very difficult to defend.

Nevertheless, the prosecution must still establish each element of the crime to the degree that no other explanation exists for the evidence presented at trial.

Remember, too, that regardless of how bleak your situation appears to you, a practiced federal attorney has defended hundreds of clients charged with drug smuggling. Your perception of the severity of the case may be quite different than that of an experienced attorney.

By presenting a different version of events that casts reasonable doubt about your guilt, a good lawyer can effectively challenge the evidence of the prosecution.

Possible Drug Smuggling Defense Strategies

A clever lawyer is a creative lawyer, and all drug smuggling cases are not equal. There is an infinity of potential defenses, and any one of them might apply to your case. Here are just a few examples:

  • You experienced entrapment
  • You have been falsely accused
  • You unknowingly participated in drug smuggling
  • You thought it was legal to import or export a substance
  • You are a victim of mistaken identity
  • You participated in a drug smuggling scheme under duress
  • There is insufficient evidence to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
  • The evidence against you was confiscated during an illegal search

At the Spodek Law Group, our clients are innocent until proven guilty. We put our knowledge, creativity, experience, talent, expertise and dedication on the line for those who cannot defend themselves.

If you are facing drug smuggling charges, we can help. Call us now to arrange a complimentary consultation at your convenience. We’re ready when you are.

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