Drug Trafficking

What is Drug Trafficking?

Drug trafficking is the manufacturing, possession or delivery of drugs in large quantities. Therefore, a drug trafficking charge depends heavily upon the weight of the controlled substance in question, and not merely upon the possession or act of moving the controlled substance.

Penalties for Drug Trafficking:

Drug trafficking penalties may be imposed at the state level or at the federal level. In either case, the penalties depend upon the circumstances surrounding the charge and upon factors such as the type of drug, the weight, the past criminal history of the offender, or whether the offense involved conspiracy, laundering, or racketeering.

Washington State Drug Trafficking Penalties:

According to RCW §69.50.401, the manufacturing, possession, or delivery of any form of a controlled substance included in the statute's Schedule I or II and classified as a narcotic, flunitrazepam, or amphetamine is considered a class B felony and upon conviction may be imprisoned for a maximum of ten years, fined, or both. The fine may be determined as follows:

  1. A maximum of $25,000 if the crime involved less than two kilograms of the drug; or
  2. A maximum of $100,000 for the first two kilograms and a maximum of $50 for each gram in excess of two kilograms.

According to RCW §69.50.401, the manufacturing, possession, or delivery of any form of a controlled substance included in Schedules I, II, III, IV, or V, but not classified above as a class B felony, is considered a class C felony, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.

For purposes of the State law, the manufacturing, possession, or delivery of controlled substances in large quantities would be considered trafficking.

Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties:

According to federal law, the penalties for drug trafficking may be imposed as follows:

  1. Drug Type and Weight: (i) Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I): less than 100 g; (ii) Heroin (Schedule I): less than 1 kg; (iii) LSD (Schedule I): less than 10 g; (iv) Cocaine (Schedule II): less than 5 kg; (v) Cocaine Base (Schedule II): less than 280 g; (vi) Methamphetamine (Schedule II): less than 50 g pure, or less than 500 g; (vii) PCP (Schedule II): less than 100 g pure, or less than 1 kg; and (viii) Fentanyl (Schedule IV): less than 400 g.
    1. Penalty for First Offense: 5 to 40 years in prison; 20 years to life in prison if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $5 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $25 million if the offender is not an individual.
    2. Penalty for Second Offense: 10 years to life in prison; life in prison if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $8 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $50 million if the offender is not an individual.
  2. Drug Type and Weight: (i) Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I): 100 g or more; (ii) Heroin (Schedule I): 1 kg or more; (iii) LSD (Schedule I): 10 g or more; (iv) Cocaine (Schedule II): 5 kg or more; (v) Cocaine Base (Schedule II): 280 g or more; (vi) Methamphetamine (Schedule II): 50 g or more pure, or 500 g or more; (vii) PCP (Schedule II): 100 g or more pure, or 1 kg or more; and (viii) Fentanyl (Schedule IV): 400 g or more.
    1. Penalty for First Offense: 10 years to life in prison; 20 years to life in prison if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $10 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $50 million if the offender is not an individual.
    2. Penalty for Second Offense: 20 years to life in prison; life in prison if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $20 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $75 million if the offender is not an individual.
    3. Penalty if 2 or more Priors: life in prison; a maximum fine of $20 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $75 million if the offender is not an individual.
  3. Drug Type and Weight: (i) any amount of other Schedule I and II substances; (ii) anything containing Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid; and (iii) 1 g of Flunitrazepam.
    1. Penalty for First Offense: a maximum of 20 years in prison; 20 years to life in prison if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $1 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $5 million if the offender is not an individual.
    2. Penalty for Second Offense: a maximum of 30 years in prison; life in prison if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $2 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $10 million if the offender is not an individual.
  4. Drug Type and Weight: any amount of other Schedule III drugs.
    1. Penalty for First Offense: a maximum of 10 years in prison; a maximum of 15 years if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $500,000 if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $2.5 million if the offender is not an individual.
    2. Penalty for Second Offense: a maximum of 20 years in prison; a maximum of 30 prison if the offense involves death or serious bodily injury; a maximum fine of $1 million if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $5 million if the offender is not an individual.
  5. Drug Type and Weight: any amount of other Schedule IV drugs.
    1. Penalty for First Offense: a maximum of 5 years in prison; a maximum fine of $250,000 if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $1 million if the offender is not an individual.
    2. Penalty for Second Offense: a maximum of 10 years in prison; a maximum fine of $500,000 if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $2 million if the offender is not an individual.
  6. Drug Type and Weight: any amount of other Schedule V drugs.
    1. Penalty for First Offense: a maximum of 1 year in prison; a maximum fine of $100,000 if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $250,000 if the offender is not an individual.
    2. Penalty for Second Offense: a maximum of 4 years in prison; a maximum fine of $200,000 if the offender is an individual; a maximum fine of $500,000 if the offender is not an individual.
Defending a Drug Trafficking Charge:

There are few ways to defend a drug trafficking charge. Since the offense requires knowledge of the possession or delivery, one defense strategy might be to argue that you were not aware that you were in possession of, in control of, or delivering controlled substances. Another defense might be to argue that you were not in possession of, in control of, or delivering the amount required for a drug trafficking charge under the circumstances. Yet another defense strategy is to challenge the evidence gathered against you, how it was collected during the arrest, and any possible constitutional violations. Evidence that was seized during an illegal arrest can be suppressed, which means that the prosecuting attorney cannot use it.