In its endless fight against the ongoing “war on drugs,” the federal government has instituted extremely harsh penalties for drug-related convictions like drug smuggling, drug trafficking, and drug importation and exportation. Each of these crimes falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government and carries a potential sentence of years in prison or a life sentence, depending on the nature of the crime and the type and amount of the drug or drugs involved. Drug smuggling is one of the many drug-related crimes subject to the federal sentencing guidelines, which means a conviction carries mandatory prison time. If you are facing drug smuggling charges in federal court, the best chance you have at beating the charges and clearing your name is retaining a knowledgeable and assertive criminal defense attorney licensed to practice in federal court. At Federal Criminal Defense Pro, our drug smuggling defense lawyers know how devastating a drug smuggling conviction would be for you and your loved ones, and we are committed to defending your case to the fullest extent of the law.
Trusted Federal Drug Smuggling Lawyers
It is the primary goal of our law firm to provide the highest-quality legal representation for a wide variety of federal criminal offenses and our trusted attorneys can represent you at any stage of your federal criminal case. Whether you have been arrested for drug smuggling, you have just discovered that you are the target of a federal drug smuggling investigation, you have been formally charged with the crime, or you are about to face trial or sentencing, it is never too early or too late to hire a skilled federal criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and represent your best interests. Any time you are facing federal charges for a major crime like drug smuggling, your freedom and your future are at stake, and no matter how strong the prosecution’s case may seem or how hopeless you think your case is, you deserve the most aggressive and effective defense possible.
We believe that all defendants in federal drug cases have a right to quality, affordable legal representation and for years, our criminal defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Pro have fought for the rights of individuals accused of the most serious drug crimes, including drug smuggling. We have earned a reputation as a top-rated federal criminal defense law firm as a result, and we have a proven record of success handling high-profile criminal cases, including those involving drug-related crimes, white-collar crimes, fraud offenses, violent crimes and other offenses charged and prosecuted in federal court. Our law firm is based in Los Angeles, California, and our trial-tested criminal defense attorneys represent clients in a wide range of criminal cases in California and throughout the United States. We have what it takes to help you get the best possible outcome in your criminal case; all you have to do is call.
What is Drug Smuggling?
Drug smuggling, also known as drug importation, is the crime of transporting an illegal drug or controlled substance from one country to another in violation of federal law. A drug smuggling charge can involve virtually any illegal drug or controlled substance, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, and generally, the more serious the drug and the greater the quantity smuggled, the more severe the penalties upon conviction.
What are Controlled Substances?
Controlled substances are drugs or chemicals whose possession, use or manufacture is regulated by the federal government, and this includes both illicitly used drugs and prescription medications that have the potential to be misused. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, drugs and other substances that are classified as controlled substances are categorized into five schedules based on their abuse potential, whether they have a currently accepted medical use in the United States, and their likelihood of causing dependence when abused. The following are the five schedules of controlled substances in the United States and some examples of each:
- Schedule I – Heroin, marijuana, LSD, and ecstasy
- Schedule II – Cocaine, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, methamphetamine
- Schedule III – Tylenol with codeine, anabolic steroids, testosterone
- Schedule IV – Valium, Ambien, Xanax
- Schedule V – Cough medicines, Lyrica, Lomotil
What Makes Drug Smuggling a Federal Crime?
Crimes involving illegal drugs are prohibited at both the state and federal level, and the unlawful sale, possession, distribution or trafficking of drugs can, therefore, be prosecuted in state and/or federal court. However, there are several factors that can elevate a drug crime to a federal offense, including if the crime was investigated by a federal agency, if it involves an opioid drug or prescription medication (due to the extensive regulation of opioids and prescription drugs at the federal level), if the allegations are significant, or if the drugs in question cross the border or state lines, which is typically the case in a drug smuggling case. Federal drug crimes are largely covered by 21 U.S.C. § 960, which sets forth the criminal penalties for three different categories of federal drug import/export offenses:
(1) importing or exporting a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 825 (labeling and packaging), § 952 (importation of controlled substances), § 953 (exportation of controlled substances), or § 967 (smuggling of controlled substances);
(2) possession of a controlled substance on board a vessel or aircraft in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 955 (possession on board vessels, etc. arriving in or departing from the United States); and
(3) possession with intent to distribute in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 959 (possession, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances).
Penalties for Drug Smuggling Charges
If you are convicted of drug smuggling in federal court, you could face a potential punishment of 10 years to life in prison and up to $5 million in fines, though there are certain circumstances that can significantly increase the criminal penalties resulting from a drug smuggling conviction. For instance, under 21 U.S.C. § 960, if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of a smuggled substance, the punishment increases to 20 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. If the defendant has a prior conviction for serious drug felony or serious violent felony, the punishment increases to 15 years to life in prison and up to $20 million in fines. Furthermore, drug smuggling is subject to the federal sentencing guidelines, which impose minimum and maximum penalties for the most serious federal criminal offenses. The minimum sentence for a drug smuggling conviction under the federal sentencing guidelines is five years for a defendant without a prior conviction and 10 years for a defendant with a prior conviction, and the law indicates that “No person sentenced under [21 U.S.C. § 960] shall be eligible for parole during the term of imprisonment imposed therein.” That means, for a drug smuggling charge, you could be sentenced to a minimum of five to 10 years in prison without parole.
Drug smuggling may also be charged as a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 545 (smuggling goods into the United States), which states that any person who “fraudulently or knowingly imports or brings into the United States, any merchandise contrary to law, or receives, conceals, buys, sells, or in any manner facilitates the transportation, concealment, or sale of such merchandise after importation, knowing the same to have been imported or brought into the United States contrary to law—” is subject to a potential punishment of up to 20 years in prison. Because of its association with other criminal offenses and unlawful acts, like money laundering, organized crime, racketeering, violent crimes and terrorism, drug smuggling is often charged in conjunction with other crimes, and any additional charges tacked onto a drug smuggling charge can result in increased penalties upon conviction.
Defending Against Drug Smuggling Charges
Serious drug-related crimes like drug smuggling are investigated by the DEA, the FBI and other powerful federal agencies and are prosecuted in federal court by the U.S. Attorney’s office, which has the strength of the federal government behind it, and this can make drug smuggling charges especially difficult to defend against. That being said, no matter how serious the charges against you may seem, you are still legally presumed innocent until proven guilty and it is up to the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In the case of drug smuggling charges, the government must establish each element of the crime to the extent that there can be no other reasonable explanation for the evidence presented at trial except that you committed the crime of drug smuggling. If your defense attorney can propose a different version of events that challenges the prosecution’s evidence and raises reasonable doubt as to your guilt, you may be able to obtain an acquittal at trial.
Drug Smuggling Defense Strategies
Drug smuggling is an extremely serious offense and facing drug smuggling charges in federal court may seem like the end of the world, but no criminal case is completely without hope. There is always a defense to federal drug smuggling charges if you act quickly to retain an attorney who understands the complexities of federal drug law and can advise you on the best defense strategy for your specific case. The following are some possible defenses to federal drug smuggling charges:
- You were an unknowing participant in the drug smuggling crime
- You were a victim of entrapment
- You believed the substance in question could be brought into the country legally
- You have been falsely accused of drug smuggling
- You are the victim of mistaken identity
- The prosecution obtained its evidence against you during an illegal search of your property
- The prosecution doesn’t have enough evidence to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt
- You committed the drug smuggling crime under duress
How a Reputable Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Pro know that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to criminal defense, especially when it comes to federal drug crimes, and when you hire our firm, we will conduct our own investigation into the charges against you in order to determine the best course of action for your particular criminal case. We will also deal with the federal authorities on your behalf, negotiate with the prosecution, file the appropriate motions to challenge the evidence against you, and aggressively represent you at trial. It any criminal case, it is our main priority to get the charges dismissed altogether. Barring that, we will do everything in our power to secure a reduction in charges or minimize the consequences of a conviction. As a former prosecutor himself, attorney Daniel R. Perlman is familiar with the techniques and strategies prosecutors use to win criminal cases and he knows what it takes to devise a credible and persuasive defense strategy that can defeat the prosecution’s case. He brings valuable experience and a unique perspective to criminal defense, and he is prepared to put his expertise to work for you in your federal drug smuggling case. Contact our federal criminal defense team today for a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.
Consult Our Federal Drug Smuggling Defense Lawyers Today
The consequences of a drug smuggling conviction are many and severe. Not only can a drug smuggling conviction result in years in prison or a life sentence, it can also cost you millions of dollars in fines, and even if you are never found guilty of the crime, simply being accused of illegally smuggling drugs can cost you your job and ruin your reputation, among other collateral consequences. If you have been arrested for a federal crime such as drug smuggling, or if you believe you are the target of a drug smuggling investigation by the federal government, don’t wait to be charged with the crime to hire a federal criminal defense attorney to represent your case. The sooner you retain our legal services, the sooner we can begin working on your defense and the stronger your case will be. With the knowledge and expertise of our drug smuggling defense team on your side, you can ensure that your rights and assets are protected and significantly improve your chances of avoiding a life-changing criminal conviction.