The “war on drugs” has been a hot topic for decades but in light of recent political activities, has been thrust even farther into the limelight. Prosecutors are feeling even more pressure to go after offenders, especially those charged with drug trafficking. There is a widespread outcry by the public to harshly punish those convicted of the charge or any associated with the illegal drug trade.

The penalties for drug trafficking can be severe and with so much public and political focus, there is a heightened awareness that keeps the offender in the legal crosshairs. In other words, if you’ve been charged with drug trafficking, the system will work even harder to ensure offenders pay the price for their crime.

And that’s why you need an attorney who is not only experienced and knowledgeable but also committed to protecting your rights.

A drug trafficking charge can follow you for the rest of your life, impacting your relationships, job prospects, education, and professional certifications. There is no area of your life that a charge like that cannot touch.

When You Need Representation for a Drug Trafficking Charge, Look for a Track Record that Speaks for Itself

A drug trafficking charge is serious, but not indefensible. When you are looking for an attorney to represent you, a strong track record speaks volumes. Mr. Litvak has years of experience under his belt, defending individuals charged with drug trafficking. But it’s his track record that truly shows his ability and knowledge. Some of his more prominent drug trafficking defense cases include:

Overview of Drug Trafficking Offenses

Drug trafficking is often prosecuted at both the state and federal levels. It is considered to be one of the most serious state and federal crimes. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime defines drug trafficking as a “global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, and sales of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws.”

It is important to note that the charge of drug trafficking is not the same as the charge for drug possession. 

This covers illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine as well as prescription drugs like opioids. The Drug Enforcement Agency is the investigative body over drug trafficking and individuals who are accused or charged with the crime will be under their scrutiny. 

Drugs are classified according to schedules under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

  • Schedule I – the drug has no accepted medical use, is highly addictive, unsafe under any circumstances, including under medical supervision.
  • Schedule II – the drug has medical uses, is highly addictive, has the potential to lead to severe addiction or dependence.
  • Schedule III – the drug has accepted medical uses, has a low potential for abuse, has a moderate risk of addiction or dependence.
  • Schedule IV and V – the drug has accepted medical uses, has a low potential for abuse, has limited or low risk of addiction or dependence.

If the drug trafficking occurred solely within a state’s borders, it is subject to the laws of that state. If trafficking crossed state lines, it is then subject to federal law as well.

Evidence examined to determine drug trafficking charges, in absence of direct evidence such as an actual drug transaction, typically relies on expert testimony and circumstantial evidence. This can include the possession of one or more:

  • Large amounts of a certain drug
  • Baggies
  • Scales
  • Large amounts of cash
  • High traffic going in and out of the building or house
  • Witness testimony of a drug transaction or trafficking operation

Federal Drug Trafficking Offenses

Federal penalties for drug trafficking are based on the quantity of the controlled substance that was involved in the drug transaction: Quantities of specific drugs that can trigger a drug trafficking charge include:

  • Cocaine – 500 – 4999 grams mixture
  • Cocaine – 5 kilograms or more mixture
  • Cocaine Base – 28 – 279 grams mixture
  • Cocaine Base – 280 grams or more mixture
  • Fentanyl – 40 – 399 grams mixture
  • Fentanyl – 400 grams or more mixture
  • Fentanyl – 10 – 99 grams mixture
  • Fentanyl – 100 grams or more mixture
  • Heroin – 100 – 999 grams mixture
  • Heroin – 1 kilogram or more mixture
  • LSD – 1 – 9 grams mixture
  • LSD – 10 grams or more mixture
  • Methamphetamine – 5 – 49 grams pure or 50 – 499 grams mixture
  • Methamphetamine – 50 grams or more pure or 500 grams or more mixture
  • PCP – 10 – 99 grams or 100 – 999 grams mixture 
  • PCP – 100 grams or more pure or 1 kilogram or more mixture
  • Any amount of other Schedule I & II substances
  • Any drug product containing Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid
  • Flunitrazepam Schedule IV – 1 gram or less
  • Any amount of schedule III drugs
  • Any amount of all other IV drugs (other than 1 gram or more of Flunitrazepam)
  • Any Amount of all Schedule V Drugs
  • Marijuana – 1,000 kilograms or more marijuana mixture
  • Marijuana – 1,000 kilograms or more marijuana plants
  • Marijuana – 100 – 999 kilograms marijuana mixture
  • Marijuana – 100 – 999 kilograms marijuana plants
  • Marijuana – 50 – 99 kilograms marijuana mixture
  • Marijuana – 50 – 99 kilograms marijuana plants
  • Marijuana – less than 50 kilograms marijuana (NOT plants)
  • Marijuana Plants – 1 – 49 plants
  • Hashish – more than 10 kilograms
  • Hashish Oil – more than 1 kilogram
  • Hashish – 10 kilograms or less
  • Hashish Oil – 1 kilogram or less

New York Drug Trafficking Offenses

In New York, all convictions for drug trafficking or the sale of controlled substances are considered felonies. Under New York law, there are several factors that determine the penalty for drug trafficking offenses:

  • The substance that was involved in the drug trafficking offense
  • The quantity of the drug involved in the offense
  • If the intent to sell or actual selling of the substance evident
  • If there were any firearms seized along with the drugs
  • If the charge is a first offense or if there are prior charges against the individual (and the types of charges: violent felonies, felonies, etc.)
  • If the defendant has received any treatment for drug addiction or abuse

The types of drugs are a major determining factor in the penalties a defendant will face. For instance, trafficking a Schedule I or Schedule II drug carries a minimum of 10 years in prison. The higher the quantity of drugs, the harsher the penalties.

Penalties for Federal Drug Trafficking Offenders

Federal drug trafficking penalties carry both prison terms and fines. The penalties are based on the quantity as well as the substance involved.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Cocaine – 500 – 4999 grams mixture
  • Cocaine Base – 28 – 279 grams mixture
  • Fentanyl – 40 – 399 grams mixture
  • Fentanyl Analogue – 10 – 99 grams mixture
  • Heroin – 100 – 999 grams mixture
  • LSD – 1 – 9 grams mixture
  • Methamphetamine – 5 – 49 grams pure or 50 – 499 grams mixture
  • PCP – 100 grams or more pure or 1 kilogram or more mixture
    • First Offense: 
      • Minimum of 5 years – maximum 40 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $5 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $25 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Minimum of 10 years – maximum life. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of life imprisonment. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $8 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $50 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Cocaine – 5 kilograms or more mixture
  • Cocaine Base – 280 grams or more mixture
  • Fentanyl Analogue – 400 grams or more mixture
  • Fentanyl – 10 – 99 grams mixture
  • Fentanyl – 100 grams or more mixture
  • Heroin – 1 kilogram or more mixture
  • LSD – 10 grams or more mixture
  • Methamphetamine – 50 grams or more pure or 500 grams or more mixture
  • PCP – 100 grams or more pure or 1 kilogram or more mixture
    • First Offense: 
      • Minimum of 10 years – maximum life. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $10 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $50 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of life imprisonment. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $20 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $75 million.
    • Two or More Prior Offenses: 
      • Minimum life imprisonment. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $20 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual $75 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Any amount of other Schedule I & II substances
  • Any drug product containing Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid
  • Flunitrazepam Schedule IV – 1 gram or less
    • First Offense: 
      • Maximum 20 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $1 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $10 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Maximum 30 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of life imprisonment. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $2 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $10 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Any amount of schedule III drugs
    • First Offense: 
      • Maximum 10 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, maximum of 15 years – maximum life. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $500,000. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $2.5 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Maximum 20 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, maximum 3 years. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $1 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $5 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Any amount of all other IV drugs (other than 1 gram or more of Flunitrazepam)
    • First Offense: 
      • Maximum 5 years. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $250,000. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $1 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Maximum 10 years. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $500,000. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $2 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Any Amount of all Schedule V Drugs
    • First Offense: 
      • Maximum 1 year. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $100,000. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $250,000.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Maximum 4 years. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $200,000. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $500,000.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Marijuana – 1,000 kilograms or more marijuana mixture
  • Marijuana – 1,000 kilograms or more marijuana plants
    • First Offense: 
      • Minimum of 10 years – maximum life. I
      • f there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $10 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $50 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of life imprisonment. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $20 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $75 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Marijuana – 100 – 999 kilograms marijuana mixture
  • Marijuana – 100 – 999 kilograms marijuana plants
    • First Offense: 
      • Minimum of 5 years – maximum 40 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $5 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $25 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Minimum of 10 years – maximum life. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of life imprisonment. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $8 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $50 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Marijuana – 50 – 99 kilograms marijuana mixture
  • Marijuana – 50 – 99 kilograms marijuana plants
  • Hashish – more than 10 kilograms
  • Hashish Oil – more than 1 kilogram
    • First Offense: 
      • Maximum 20 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of 20 years – maximum life. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $1 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $5 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Maximum 30 years. 
      • If there was serious bodily injury or death, minimum of life imprisonment.
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $2 million. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $10 million.

Drug Types and Amounts

  • Marijuana – less than 50 kilograms marijuana (NOT plants)
  • Marijuana Plants – 1 – 49 plants 
  • Hashish – 10 kilograms or less
  • Hashish Oil – 1 kilogram or less
    • First Offense: 
      • Maximum 5 years. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $250,000. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $1 million.
    • Second Offense: 
      • Maximum 10 years. 
      • Maximum fine if an individual – $500,000. 
      • Maximum fine if not an individual – $2 million. 

Penalties for Drug Trafficking Offenders in New York

All trafficking convictions bear penalties, ranging from 1 to 2.5 years in prison for a fifth-degree conviction for a first-time offender, to first-degree convictions which can carry more severe penalties:

  • Non-major drug trafficker 
    • Minimum 8 years – maximum 20 years. 
    • Post-release supervision for 5 years.
  • Second felony drug offender 
    • Minimum 12 years – maximum 20 years.
  • Major drug trafficker 
    • Minimum 15 years – maximum life imprisonment.

Trafficking Schedule I or Schedule II drugs in any amount in the state of New York carries a minimum prison sentence of 10 years for a first offense. Prior convictions or charges can increase the sentence. Trafficking Schedules III, IV, and V drugs in any amount can carry a maximum prison sentence of 5 years. It can also incur as much as $500,000 in fines for a first offense.

A conviction of drug trafficking can also carry fines from $5,000 or double the gain the defendant received for the sale of the drugs, to $100,000 for operating as a major drug trafficker or for first-degree sale of a controlled substance.

Sentences can also be increased if the defendant was in possession of a weapon when they conducted the sale. Individuals who are in leadership or supervisory roles regarding the sale or trafficking also often receive more severe sentences.

A drug trafficking sentence may be decreased for:

  • Minimal or minor participation in the sale or trafficking of the drugs
  • Meeting sentencing guidelines safety valve criteria

Drug Trafficking Defenses

There are three common defenses to drug trafficking, entrapment, denying possession, and unlawful search and seizure. Your attorney can work with you to determine which is the best course of action in your case.

  • Entrapment – being set up by the police. There are certain factors that can invalidate this defense, such as the defendant’s background (criminal history, criminal drug history). It can also be invalidated if the prosecution has evidence that strongly supports a drug trafficking crime.
  • Deny Possession – did not possess any drugs or the amount accused. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed drugs in the amount they are accused of in their charges. Proving ownership of drugs is often a challenge.
  • Unlawful Search and Seizure – law enforcement officers illegally performed a search of the defendant’s person, belongings, home, or car without the proper warrants. This defense can result in the charges being dropped altogether.

Drug trafficking charges are very serious offenses. They carry stiff penalties and can impact your life for years to come. If you are facing drug trafficking charges in New York or federal drug trafficking charges, you need an attorney who is experienced, knowledgeable, and willing to fight for you. Call The Litvak Law Firm at (718) 989-2908. Your initial phone consultation is free. Don’t wait to see what happens, call today, get representation, and protect your rights.