Federal Methamphetamine Trafficking
Under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 960, the federal crime of Methamphetamine Trafficking is committed when a person knowingly or intentionally manufactures, distributes, or dispenses 5 grams or more of methamphetamine or 500 grams or more of any substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.
Conspiracy to Traffic in Methamphetamine
Conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine occurs when two or more people work together to manufacture, distribute, or dispense methamphetamine unlawfully.
Importantly, conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine can, and usually is, charged against minor participants such as a driver, a drug mule, or a street dealer connected to a methamphetamine distribution network.
The government charges minor participants with Conspiracy to Traffic in Methamphetamine because under 21 U.S.C. § 846, the penalties for Conspiracy to Traffic in Methamphetamine are the same as actual Methamphetamine Trafficking, which results in minor participants cutting deals to testify against major participants in order to avoid the enhanced Methamphetamine Trafficking penalties.
Penalties for Methamphetamine Trafficking
Federal law imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences and large fines on people convicted of Methamphetamine Trafficking. And unless the United States Attorney General agrees to waive the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, the penalties for Methamphetamine Trafficking are as follows:
- Trafficking in 5 to 49 grams of methamphetamine / 50 to 499 grams of a methamphetamine mixture
- Trafficking in 50 grams or more of methamphetamine / 500 grams or more of a methamphetamine mixture
Trafficking in 5 to 49 grams of methamphetamine / 50 to 499 grams of a methamphetamine mixture
Under federal law, the crime of trafficking in 5 to 49 grams of methamphetamine or 50 to 499 grams of a methamphetamine mixture is a Class B felony, punishable by five to forty years in prison to be followed by four years of supervised release and up to five million dollars in fines.
Under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, trafficking in 5 to 49 grams of methamphetamine or 50 to 499 grams of a methamphetamine mixture carries a base offense level between 24-28, but a judge is required to impose a minimum prison sentence of five years in prison, unless the defendant qualifies for the safety valve or the government requests a downward departure.
Trafficking in 50 grams or more of methamphetamine / 500 grams or more of a methamphetamine mixture
Under federal law, the crime of trafficking in 50 grams or more of methamphetamine or 500 grams or more of a methamphetamine mixture is a Class A felony, punishable by ten years to life in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and up to ten million dollars in fines.
Under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, trafficking in 50 grams or more of methamphetamine or 500 grams or more of a methamphetamine mixture carries a base offense level between 30-38, but a judge is required to impose a minimum prison sentence of ten years in prison, unless the defendant qualifies for the safety valve or the government requests a downward departure.
Defenses to Methamphetamine Trafficking
Entrapment occurs when an undercover law enforcement officer or confidential informant induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit. If it can be shown you were entrapped, the court can dismiss the charges against you.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Often, law enforcement exceed the scope of their authority and require people to submit to a vehicle, home, or body search when they otherwise would not be required to; coerce people into agreeing to a search; arrest people without probable cause; or obtain search warrants in bad faith.
If any of these can be proven through the filing of a Motion to Suppress, the courts will suppress the resulting evidence as having been illegally obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States; which can lead to an outright dismissal of the case.
The prosecutor can only prove you possessed methamphetamine for the purposes of trafficking in one of two ways:
To prove that you actually possessed methamphetamine, the prosecutor has to show the methamphetamine was found on your person. So if the methamphetamine was found in your personally owned car while you were driving, the prosecutor would have a case involving actual possession of methamphetamine.
On the other hand, if the methamphetamine was found in a place where more than one person had access, the prosecutor would have a much more difficult time proving you possessed the methamphetamine because they would have to comply with the law of constructive possession.
The law of constructive possession requires the prosecutor to prove each of three distinct elements before you can be convicted:
- Knowledge of the methamphetamine's presence;
- Knowledge the substance was methamphetamine; and
- Dominion and control over the methamphetamine.
Below are scenarios where it could be argued the prosecutor could not meet their burden of proving constructive possession.
Scenario 1: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found methamphetamine in the trunk, they would be unable to convict you of Methamphetamine Trafficking unless they had some proof that you knew the methamphetamine was there.
Scenario 2: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found a methamphetamine package in the back seat, but in plain view. They would be unable to convict you of Methamphetamine Trafficking unless they had some proof that you knew the package contained methamphetamine.
Scenario 3: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend takes a package with methamphetamine in it and places it in the passenger side door pocket. The police then stop you, see your friend's package, and arrest both of you. As long as there is not evidence you were working in conjunction with your friend, they would be unable to convict you of Methamphetamine Trafficking because, even though you knew the methamphetamine was there, your friend is the only person who had dominion and control over it.
While not technically a defense, Substantial Assistance is the most commonly utilized method to avoid the minimum-mandatory sentencing required for the crime of Methamphetamine Trafficking.
The prosecutor is authorized by statute to ask the court to reduce or suspend a sentence of any person who is convicted of drug trafficking when the person provides substantial assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any other person engaged in trafficking in controlled substances.
This remedy is routinely offered pursuant to a "Substantial Assistance Contract" that requires you to "assist" law enforcement in arresting a specific amount of individuals involved in trafficking drugs within a limited period of time.
However, if you are unable to deliver the specified amount of people, you will be required to serve the applicable mandatory minimum prison sentence; regardless of how hard you tried to "assist" law enforcement.
Contact Federal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby
The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.