Federal Oxycodone Trafficking

Oxycodone is the primary ingredient in OxyContin and Percocet.

Under federal law, oxycodone is a Schedule II controlled substance and it is a Class C Felony to distribute oxycodone without a license.

Under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a) and 960, the crime of Oxycodone Trafficking is committed when a person knowingly or intentionally manufactures, distributes, or dispenses oxycodone without a license.

Conspiracy to Traffic in Oxycodone

Conspiracy to traffic in oxycodone occurs when two or more people work together to manufacture, distribute, or dispense oxycodone unlawfully.

Importantly, conspiracy to traffic in oxycodone can, and usually is, charged against minor participants such as a driver, a drug mule, or a street dealer connected to an oxycodone distribution network.

The reason the government charges minor participants with Conspiracy to Traffic in Oxycodone is because under 21 U.S.C. § 846, the penalties for Conspiracy to Traffic in Oxycodone are the same as actual Oxycodone Trafficking, which results in minor participants cutting deals to testify against major participants in order to avoid the enhanced Oxycodone Trafficking penalties.

Penalties for Oxycodone Trafficking

Under federal law, the crime of trafficking in oxycodone is a Class C felony, punishable by up to twenty years in prison, three years of supervised release, and one million dollars in fines.

Under the United States Sentencing Guidelines, a first time offender convicted of trafficking in oxycodone would be assigned a base offense level between 12-38, which carries a guideline range of 10-235 months in prison before taking into account any mitigating or aggravating circumstances.

As of 2016, the average federal sentence imposed for trafficking in oxycodone was 44 months in prison. [1]

Defenses to Oxycodone Trafficking

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, common defenses to the crime of Oxycodone Trafficking include:

Entrapment

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.

Insufficient Evidence

The prosecutor can only prove you possessed oxycodone for the purposes of trafficking in one of two ways:

  1. Actual Possession
  2. Constructive Possession

Actual Possession

To prove that you actually possessed oxycodone, the prosecutor has to show the oxycodone was found on your person. So if the oxycodone was found in your personally owned car while you were driving, the prosecutor would have a case involving actual possession of oxycodone.

Constructive Possession

On the other hand, if the oxycodone 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 oxycodone 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:

  1. Knowledge of the oxycodone's presence;
  2. Knowledge the substance was oxycodone; and
  3. Dominion and control over the oxycodone.

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 oxycodone in the trunk, they would be unable to convict you of Oxycodone Trafficking unless they had some proof that you knew the oxycodone was there.
Scenario 2: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found a oxycodone package in the back seat, but in plain view. They would be unable to convict you of Oxycodone Trafficking unless they had some proof that you knew the package contained oxycodone.
Scenario 3: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend takes a package with oxycodone 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 Oxycodone Trafficking because, even though you knew the oxycodone was there, your friend is the only person who had dominion and control over it.

Substantial Assistance

While not technically a defense, Substantial Assistance is the most commonly utilized method to avoid the severe penalties the crime of Oxycodone Trafficking carries.

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

If the Federal government is prosecuting you for the crime of Oxycodone Trafficking in Florida, contact Orlando Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. Quick Facts on Oxycodone Trafficking, United States Sentencing Commission