Is Drug Trafficking Considered a Felony?
Drug trafficking is a crime in every state in the United States. Trafficking laws make it illegal to sell, transport, or import illicit substances, including heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and other controlled substances.
The penalty you receive for drug trafficking depends on numerous factors, including:
- Type of controlled substance
- The amount of the substance you were arrested with
- If it is your first trafficking arrest
- If children were involved in your crime
Regardless of these factors, all drug trafficking offenses are considered felonies. However, in New Mexico felonies are ranked by levels of seriousness. Therefore, you could face a harsher or lesser punishment for your felony depending on the circumstances of the arrest and evidence available.
Drug Trafficking More Serious than Drug Possession in Albuquerque
Drug possession is not the same as trafficking. If you are arrested for possession, this means that you have an illegal or controlled substance in your possession. However, there is no evidence of intent to take it across state lines or sell it. Trafficking means that there is evidence that you intended to sell, import, export, and distribute that controlled substance.
Not Just Illegal Drugs
It is important to note that prescription medications apply to drug trafficking. Therefore, if you are illegally distributing, exporting, or importing prescription medications – including opioid pain medications – you could be arrested and charged with trafficking.
Understanding State versus Federal Punishments
Drug trafficking often involves one party taking controlled substances across state lines; therefore, the federal government may become involved with the case. The penalties you face for drug trafficking depend on whether you are charged in New Mexico, or you are charged with a federal crime. Federal crimes often carry harsher punishments and longer prison sentences.
Also, if you are arrested for trafficking in drug-free zones, such as a schoolyard, you may have an enhanced penalty applied by the state of New Mexico.
New Mexico Uses Mandatory Minimum Sentences
One important fact to know is that New Mexico, like most states, does use a mandatory minimum prison sentence for those convicted of drug trafficking. A mandatory minimum is the statutory minimum prison sentence you must serve. Many people do not understand this concept because they erroneously believe that a judge pretty much has authority to do whatever they want in a courtroom.
However, be advised that when there is a statutory minimum sentence for a particular crime such as trafficking – it is the very minimum sentence that a judge is allowed to give you. It’s written into the law. He or she can go higher – but they cannot go lower.
Also, the compulsory minimum means that you must serve that minimum amount of time before you are eligible for parole.
What Is the Mandatory Minimum?
Mandatory minimum sentences vary depending on the amount and type of drug you are charged with trafficking. For example, if you are carrying fentanyl, you may have a minimum five-year prison sentence as a first-time offender, or a ten-year minimum as a subsequent offender.
The Controlled Substance Schedule
Some controlled substances will increase your penalty more than others. For example, you may receive more years in prison for a Schedule I drug than you would for a Schedule IV drug.
Here are how the schedules are broken down:
Schedule I Substances
- Any Substance that is Currently Illegal to Sell at Retail
Schedule II Substances
- Medications with <15 mg of hydrocodone in each dose
Schedule III Substances
- Medicines with <90mg of codeine per dosage
Schedule IV Substances
Schedule V Substances
- Over-the-Counter Medications
Are There Viable Defenses to Drug Trafficking?
You have options for a drug trafficking defense, but it is best to consult with a drug defense attorney before assuming any of these strategies would work in your case. Every case is unique; therefore, you need someone with legal expertise reviewing the facts and evidence before deciding the right approach.
Some common defenses include:
- Law enforcement did not have probable cause to search the defendant or seize his or her property.
- The defendant was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- The defendant had no intent to traffic or distribute the drugs.
- The defendant was unaware that they were part of a trafficking operation.
- The officers did not have a warrant at the time of their search.
In some cases, drug traffickers will use smugglers for their drugs, but these smugglers are unaware that they are committing a crime. For instance, Rick stuffs illegal substances into a consumer product and asks Tim to take this product to another state or country. Tim has no idea that the product contains illicit substances. This could be a defense, as Tim had no intent to traffic drugs – indeed, he had no knowledge that they were even there.
Speak with a Drug Defense Attorney Today
If you have been arrested for drug trafficking, do not wait to contact a criminal defense attorney. The earlier you get representation, the easier it will be to defend and protect you from lengthy prison sentences and a permanent criminal record.
The team at New Mexico Criminal Law Offices can help you with your case. We leverage years of experience handling drug cases just like yours, and we will not back down even with the strongest evidence. Let us help find the best possible outcome for your case today.
Schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation at 505-375-4764 or contact us online.