The Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (Title 21 of the United States Code) is a federal law that makes it a crime to bring controlled substances into the country or take controlled substances out of the country without the proper licenses and permissions from the U.S. Attorney General. If you have been accused of unlawfully importing or exporting illegal drugs or controlled substances, no matter how small your role in the operation, you could end up being charged with a federal offense and sentenced to years in federal prison. The consequences of federal drug importation and exportation crimes are severe and can impact the rest of your life. Contact our knowledgeable defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Pro today to find out the best way to defend against drug importation or exportation charges in federal court. We offer prospective clients a free consultation and case evaluation, so don’t hesitate to call.
Skilled Federal Drug Importation and Exportation Attorneys
Any time you are facing criminal federal charges for a serious drug-related offense like drug importation or exportation, you need a defense attorney on your side who is familiar with the intricacies of federal criminal law and the federal sentencing guidelines and can represent your case in the most effective way possible. As a former prosecutor, Daniel R. Perlman brings a unique and valuable perspective to federal criminal cases, which you can use to your advantage in fighting your drug importation or exportation charges. Our defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Pro understand how devastating federal drug crime allegations can be for your personal and professional life and we are ready to help you mount a compelling defense in your federal drug importation or exportation case. When you hire our firm, we will immediately get to work examining the facts of your criminal case and ensure that you understand the charges against you and the options available to you under the law. Contact our firm today to schedule a no-cost initial consultation.
Importation or Exportation of Controlled Substances
It is against federal law to illegally import drugs into or export drugs out of the United States, whether you have a prescription for the drug in question and it is for your own personal use, or whether it is an illegal drug intended for commercial sale. If you are caught importing or exporting drugs without authorization, your actions may constitute the federal crime of drug importation or exportation, which is covered by Title 21 of the United States Code, Sections 951-971. It is important to understand the scope of federal drug importation and exportation laws and how they can apply to you. For instance, you could face charges of illegal drug importation or exportation even if the drugs in question didn’t actually enter or leave the United States. For the purposes of bringing criminal charges under the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act, the act of loading the drugs on a ship to leave the country, possessing the drugs in a warehouse prior to shipping, or manufacturing the drugs to be exported is enough to warrant criminal charges.
What are Controlled Substances?
Controlled substances are drugs, substances or chemicals whose possession, use or manufacture is regulated by the federal government. Under the Controlled Substances Act, controlled substances are categorized into five different schedules based on their accepted medical use and potential for abuse or dependence. These schedules are as follows:
- Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use (heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, LSD)
- Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse and their use may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence (cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin)
- Schedule III drugs have a moderate to low potential for dependence and their abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV drugs (testosterone, anabolic steroids, Tylenol with codeine)
- Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse and the risk of use leading to dependence is also low (Xanax, Valium, Ambien)
- Schedule V drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV drugs (cough medications, Lomotil, Lyrica)
Federal drug law is complex and even if you think you know everything there is to know about the law, you could still be at risk for breaking the law and facing criminal prosecution. For example, even though the medical and recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in California, the drug remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, and if you are caught importing marijuana into California from another country, you could still be charged with the crime of drug importation in violation of federal law.
Drug Importation or Exportation vs. Drug Trafficking
If you are facing criminal charges for importing or exporting illegal drugs, you may be wondering how this charge differs from the charge of drug trafficking, a federal offense governed by the Controlled Substances Act. The truth is that drug trafficking and the import or export of illegal drugs are similar crimes and some defendants suspected of taking part in multiple components of a drug operation end up being charged with both federal offenses, among others. For instance, if you are suspected of importing large quantities of narcotics or unapproved prescription drugs into the United States, you could face charges for both unlawful drug importation and drug trafficking. There is one major difference between drug importation or exportation and drug trafficking though; the former charge specifically involves the act of bringing an illegal drug or controlled substance into the United States or out of the United States into another country, while the latter charge covers a much wider range of actions, including unlawfully manufacturing, selling, transporting, importing or exporting controlled substances or illegal drugs.
How is Unlawful Drug Importation or Exportation Punished?
Illegally importing or exporting drugs is a federal offense that falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government and the criminal penalties associated with this crime are dictated by the federal sentencing guidelines, meaning there are mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for the crime. The severity of the sentencing for the crime of illegal drug importation or exportation depends on a number of factors, including the type and amount of the drugs the defendant is accused of importing or exporting, the defendant’s criminal record and whether or not a firearm was used in the commission of the crime. Section 960 of the U.S. Code sets forth the penalties for three main categories of drug-related criminal offenses:
- Importing or exporting a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 825 (labeling and packaging), § 952 (importing controlled substances), § 953 (exporting controlled substances), or § 967 (smuggling controlled substances);
- Possession of a controlled substance aboard a vessel or aircraft in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 955; and
- Possession with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 959.
Under 21 U.S.C. § 960, any person caught importing 100 grams or more of a substance containing heroin or 500 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine shall be sentenced to a minimum of five years or a maximum of 40 years in prison. If that person has a prior conviction for a serious drug felony or serious violent felony, the sentence increases to 10 years to life in prison. As a more serious offense, any person caught importing one kilogram or more of a substance containing heroin or five kilograms or more of a substance containing cocaine shall be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years or a maximum of life in prison. If that person has a prior conviction for a serious drug felony or serious violent felony, the sentence increases to 15 years to life in prison.
Drug Importation/Exportation Defense
Because the unlawful importation and exportation of controlled substances and illegal drugs is associated with drug cartels and large-scale drug trafficking operations, these crimes are heavily prosecuted by the federal government. But just because you have been accused of illegally importing or exporting drugs does not mean the prosecution can prove that you committed the crime. The burden of proof in a drug importation or exportation case is beyond a reasonable doubt, which means the prosecution must prove each element of the crime to the extent that there can be no other reasonable explanation for the evidence presented at trial. To sustain a conviction for the unlawful importation of a controlled substance under 21 U.S.C. § 952 (importing controlled substances), for instance, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You played a role in bringing a controlled substance into the United States,
- You knew the substance in question was controlled (whether or not you knew which controlled substance was being imported or its quantity doesn’t matter), and
- You knew the controlled substance would enter the United States.
Defense Strategies for Illegal Drug Importation Charges
Even if the evidence against you seems overwhelming, there are strategic ways in which you can fight drug importation or exportation charges, which is why you need a knowledgeable defense attorney in your corner who is familiar with federal drug laws and the various ways in which drug-related charges can be defeated. The following are some possible defense strategies your attorney can use to defend you against drug importation or exportation charges in federal court.
- You weren’t aware of the drugs
- You thought the substance in question could be lawfully imported
- You didn’t know the controlled substance would enter the country
- The prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt
- The evidence against you was obtained as a result of an illegal search
- You committed the crime under duress
Why Hire a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney?
As you can see, the unlawful importation or exportation of illegal drugs or controlled substances is a crime that is punished harshly in the United States and federal criminal charges related to such acts should not be taken lightly. If you have been accused of illegally importing or exporting a controlled substance, you need to do everything you can to protect your rights and defend yourself against the charges, and that includes hiring a reputable criminal defense attorney who can provide you with the legal guidance you need to successfully beat your charges. Attorney Daniel R. Perlman has years of experience defending drug-related cases in both state and federal court and his team of defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Pro represents clients throughout California and the rest of the United States.
Being charged with any crime can be a frightening and stressful experience, but federal drug charges are particularly serious, and the federal government tends to prosecute such crimes to the fullest extent of the law. At Federal Criminal Defense Pro, our qualified criminal defense lawyers can give you your best chance at successfully fighting drug importation or exportation charges. From the very start of your criminal case, Daniel Perlman and our accomplished team of defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Pro will ensure that your legal rights are protected and we will stand by your side every step of the way, handling the federal authorities on your behalf, negotiating with the prosecution and representing your best interests in court. Our legal team has experience handling a wide variety of drug-related cases in federal court and we know what it takes to win a federal drug importation or exportation case.
Contact Federal Criminal Defense Pro Today
The United States has strict laws in place governing the importation and exportation of drugs and other goods and while the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act allows for the importation of certain controlled substances for medical, scientific or other legitimate purposes, importing or exporting controlled substances or illegal drugs without authorization can result in serious federal drug charges. If you have been arrested for a federal crime like drug importation or exportation, your first course of action should be to contact a knowledgeable and aggressive federal criminal defense attorney to represent your case. At Federal Criminal Defense Pro, we believe that all defendants in federal criminal cases are entitled to competent and assertive legal representation and we will use every resource at our disposal to obtain the best possible outcome in your federal drug case.