Drug Trafficking Defense Attorney in Naples
Federal criminal lawyers for major narcotics distribution charges
Federal and state law enforcement agencies direct much of their attention toward investigating suspected drug traffickers. Most people arrested for this offense will face state-level criminal charges. However, various circumstances can cause people to be charged by federal authorities. Federal criminal offenses carry heavy penalties although sentences for state-level convictions produce lengthy prison terms as well. The representation of a Naples drug trafficking attorney can empower a person caught up in the criminal justice system. Without a guide, a defendant may not have clear information about defense strategies or know what to do if offered a plea bargain.
Definition of drug trafficking
Drug trafficking is a more serious offense than drug possession because it involves drug distribution. Evidence that suggests that an individual was importing, transporting or selling a controlled substance or intended to perform those functions makes an offense drug trafficking. Both the state and federal governments have labeled this offense a felony.
Governments designate certain drugs as controlled substances, which either makes them entirely illegal or legal only under restricted conditions. Trafficking charges can apply to the distribution of any controlled substances, such as:
- synthetic opioids and other prescription drugs
When does drug trafficking become a federal offense?
State courts process the bulk of drug trafficking cases. However, many issues can result in federal prosecution, such as:
- arrest by federal officers, like DEA agents
- very large amounts of a controlled substance
- crime taking place on federal property
- cases with large amounts of cash or suspected money laundering
- drugs were transported across state lines or international borders
- prescription drug cases involving Medicare or Medicaid fraud
The possibility exists that a defendant might wage a successful defense against state drug trafficking charges but still be vulnerable to federal charges. This can happen because the state and federal criminal codes are two separate systems. This situation does not violate the prohibition against double jeopardy within the Fifth Amendment.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Proving drug trafficking
Evidence must demonstrate that a defendant was distributing the controlled substance instead of merely possessing it for personal use. Law enforcement officers typically seize all materials and cash in a person’s presence during an arrest. Items that may support charges of trafficking are:
- plastic baggies
- large amounts of cash
- business records
- testimony from people who made drug transactions with a defendant or witnessed it
Almost any time that drug trafficking cases appear in the local news, the details will reveal activities that point to smuggling, manufacturing, transporting or packaging drugs for sale. South Florida has a reputation as a point of entry for smuggled drugs. This case had many of the elements that attract federal investigators, including cross-border drug smuggling, large quantities and witness testimony. The federal criminal complaint accused the defendants of renting Airbnb homes with ocean access and importing more than 800 kilograms of cocaine by boat from the Dominican Republic. Surveillance footage from the rental property along with statements from a confidential informant eventually led to the arrests of the suspects.
Defense strategies will strive to cast doubt on the assumptions made by law enforcement about distribution activities. The credibility of witnesses could be called into question, or a defense lawyer may discover that evidence was seized unlawfully.
Penalties and enhanced penalties
Federal sentencing guidelines consider the quantity of drugs allegedly found in an accused person’s possession for purposes of distribution. For example, between 100 and 999 grams of heroin calls for a prison sentence between 5 and 40 years. Once the amount of heroin reaches 1 kilogram or more, then the prison sentence starts at a minimum of 10 years and can extend up to life in prison.
For second offenses, conviction on heroin trafficking in amounts between 100 and 999 grams increases the minimum prison term to 10 years with the potential for life in prison. A second offense for trafficking 1 kilogram or more of heroin calls for at least a 20-year prison sentence and perhaps life in prison.
The federal criminal code authorizes extremely high fines for drug trafficking. The federal heroin offenses described above could have sentences that extend into the millions of dollars.
Many issues can lead to enhanced penalties, including:
- drug trafficking within 1,000 feet of a university
- serious bodily injury
- prior convictions
- identification as leader of drug distribution ring
- involvement of firearms
- strong legal defense needed
People who detect any sign that state or federal investigators suspect them of involvement in drug trafficking should reach out for legal advice. Joffe Law, P.A. in Naples, Florida, focuses entirely on criminal defense with an emphasis on federal criminal defense. Suspects should not offer statements to police without first obtaining a legal opinion based on the strength or weakness of current evidence. The criminal justice system pushes defendants hard to accept plea deals that leave them with long prison sentences and criminal records. The representation of a drug trafficking lawyer may reveal opportunities to dispute allegations, reduce charges and defend the freedom of the accused.