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State and Federal Criminal Defense Representation

How Does Intent to Distribute Impact Federal Sentencing in California Drug Cases?


Have You Been Charged With Intent to Distribute Illegal Drugs?

The federal courts impose harsh penalties for federal drug crime convictions. If you are charged with a federal drug crime in Southern California, you must be advised and defended by an Orange County drug crimes attorney, and you must call that attorney’s office immediately.

A conviction for a mere possession charge may send you to a federal prison for years. If you are convicted for a more serious drug offense – drug trafficking or intent to distribute, for example – you could serve an even lengthier prison term and pay a costly fine.

What is the Federal Law Regarding Intent to Distribute Illegal Drugs?

It’s a crime under federal law to cultivate, dispense, distribute, or possess with intent to dispense, distribute, or manufacture a controlled substance or counterfeit controlled substance. Controlled substances include marijuana, street drugs like heroin, and prescription drugs such as Oxycontin.

A counterfeit controlled substance is any substance that is falsely identified as a controlled substance or has the labeling or container of a trademark, identifying mark, trade name, number, imprint, or any likeness thereof, of a drug or chemical dispenser, distributor, or manufacturer without that party’s authorization.

How Can You Defend Against a Drug Trafficking Charge?

To win a conviction against you in federal court for drug trafficking, a U.S. Attorney must prove that you specifically intended to traffic drugs. If you didn’t know you were carrying drugs, or if you can prove the drugs were for your personal use, you can’t be convicted for drug trafficking.

If you are charged in federal court with drug trafficking, your Orange County drug crimes lawyer will prepare and present an aggressive defense on your behalf – usually one of the defenses listed here, depending on the details of the case and the specific charge against you:

  1.  Your legal rights were violated by police officers during an interrogation, a traffic stop, a search of your property or vehicle, or an arrest.
  2.  The state’s evidence against you is unreliable or inadequate to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to traffic drugs.
  3.  You had no intention to traffic drugs. Either you were honestly unaware that you were carrying drugs, or the drugs were intended entirely for your own personal consumption.
  4.  The chemical analysis of the substance was inaccurate, and what law enforcement officers found and seized was not in fact a controlled or illegal substance.
  5.  You were entrapped or lured into trafficking drugs by a law enforcement officer or informer. However, entrapment is seldom a successful defense in a trafficking case.

What is Considered During Sentencing?

If you are convicted by a federal court on a drug trafficking charge, that court will consider a number of factors when it imposes the specific penalties for your conviction. Those factors may include but are not limited to:

  1.  your prior criminal convictions
  2.  the type and amount of drugs you were trafficking
  3.  whether the drug trafficking caused a death or serious injury
  4.  whether minors or firearms were involved

What Does the Controlled Substances Act Provide?

The Controlled Substances Act of 1971 regulates the importation, manufacture, possession, distribution, and use of controlled substances in the U.S. The law classifies drugs, substances, and some of the chemicals used to manufacture drugs into five distinct categories or “schedules.”

The schedules are based on whether the drugs in that schedule have an accepted medical use, their potential for abuse, and their potential for addiction as the result of abuse. Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse, while Schedule V drugs have the least abuse potential.

  1.   Schedule I drugs include marijuana, heroin, peyote, and methaqualone.
  2.  Schedule II drugs include Vicodin, cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
  3.  Schedule III substances include anabolic steroids, ketamine, and Tylenol with codeine.
  4.  Schedule IV drugs include Valium, Tramadol, Ambien, Ativan, Xanax, and Darvocet.
  5.  Schedule V drugs include Parepectolin, Lyrica, Motofen, Lomotil, and Robitussin AC.

What Else Should You Know?

Although the federal penalties for drug trafficking convictions vary widely because every case is unique, make no mistake. Every federal drug trafficking conviction entails harsh penalties. For example:

  1.  A first conviction in federal court for trafficking one kilogram of heroin may be penalized with a $4 million fine and ten years to life in prison. A subsequent conviction may be penalized with an $8 million fine and twenty years to life in prison.
  2.  A first conviction in federal court for trafficking five grams of pure methamphetamine is a felony that may be penalized with up to forty years in federal prison and a $2 million fine.
  3.  A first conviction in federal court for trafficking any quantity of any Schedule III drug may be penalized with a $250,000 fine and five years in prison. A subsequent conviction may be penalized with a $500,000 fine and ten years in prison.

What Will a Defense Attorney Do on Your Behalf?

If you are placed under arrest for possessing any significant quantity of a controlled substance, you may be charged with trafficking or intent to distribute. It is imperative for your attorney to begin working immediately on your defense.

In Southern California, an Orange County drug crimes attorney who handles federal drug cases will negotiate with the U.S. Attorney to have the charge or charges against you dropped or reduced. Your attorney may file a motion with the court to suppress evidence or dismiss the case.

You may be offered a plea bargain, but if your federal drug trafficking case goes to trial, your attorney will cast doubt on the government’s evidence against you, present an aggressive and effective defense, and ask the jurors to find you not guilty.

Attorney Diane C. Bass Will Fight for the Justice You Need

If you face a federal drug trafficking charge in Southern California, you must contact an Orange County drug crimes lawyer as quickly as possible. With more than twenty-five years of criminal defense experience, attorney Diane C. Bass knows what it takes to win justice on your behalf.

With offices in Irvine and Laguna Beach, attorney Diane C. Bass will provide a free, in-depth evaluation of your case with no obligation. She defends clients who are charged with drug trafficking and other serious crimes in state and federal courts throughout Southern California.

If you are charged with trafficking drugs in Southern California, your freedom and future are at stake. Get the legal help you need and contact the Law Office of Diane C. Bass as quickly as possible by calling (949) 990-4195.

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