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When does drug trafficking become a felony offense?

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2024 | Drug Charges

Drug trafficking is a serious criminal offense that can lead to severe legal consequences at the best of times. When the charges escalate to a felony-level offense, however, the penalties can be life-changing in the worst way.

Understanding when drug trafficking crosses the line into a felony offense can make all the difference for individuals to avoid further legal trouble.

Quantity matters

One key factor in determining the severity of drug trafficking charges is the quantity of drugs involved. The law distinguishes between possession for personal use and possession with the intent to distribute. When the quantity exceeds a certain threshold, the offense often escalates to a felony.

Schedule of controlled substances

The type of drug involved plays a significant role in the severity of charges. Controlled substances fall into different schedule categories based on factors such as potential for abuse and medical use. Trafficking in substances from higher schedules often results in more serious charges.

Aggravating circumstances

Certain aggravating circumstances can elevate drug trafficking to a felony. For instance, trafficking near a school or involving minors may lead to harsher penalties. The law takes a dim view of trafficking activities that put vulnerable populations at risk.

Previous convictions

A history of drug-related offenses can intensify legal consequences. Repeat offenders may face enhanced penalties, including longer prison sentences and heavier fines. The legal system aims to deter individuals from engaging in drug trafficking repeatedly.

Interstate or international trafficking

Transporting drugs across state or national borders typically results in more severe charges. Interstate or international drug trafficking is often prosecuted at the federal level, carrying stricter penalties than state-level charges.

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics reports that there are 1.16 million arrests annually for drug-related crimes. While not all of these arrests escalate to a felony charge, it is important for anyone facing drug trafficking accusations to understand the possible consequences.