If you are caught transporting a large quantity of drugs and prosecutors believe you intended to sell or distribute them, you can be charged with trafficking. If you are arrested for any drug charge, what you say to the police could drastically affect your case. Refuse to answer any questions after you have been arrested until you contact an experienced drug transportation lawyer in San Diego.
Transporting Vs. Trafficking in California
Transporting drugs in a car, truck, boat, or any other vehicle is not a separate drug crime under California state law. If you are caught transporting drugs, the most critical factor in your case will be your intention for the substance. If you were not involved with any drug sales crime and were merely moving your personal supply from one place to another, you were not trafficking narcotics. While you could still be charged with drug possession, you will not be facing the more serious felony charge of trafficking, covered by California Health and Safety code 11352 (HS).
Making the distinction between a person’s personal stash and a quantity large enough to sell or distribute is often an arbitrary call on behalf of the criminal prosecutor. You could even be accused of felony distribution for carrying a large amount of drugs on your body, even though no vehicle was used at all. Fortunately, your San Diego drug transportation defense attorney may be able to turn a trafficking charge into a possession charge by arguing that the drugs were solely for your own consumption, not for distribution.
These cases don’t always have to involve illegal drugs. If you are in possession of large quantities of prescription drugs such as Fentanyl or other Oxycontin and you do not have a valid pharmacist’s license, you can still be accused of attempting to distribute under this law. Unfortunately, arguing that these substances are legal will only harm your defense, as police will use this as proof that you knew what you were transporting. Always contact an attorney as soon as you have been arrested with any controlled substance.
Evidence in Trafficking Charges
Other factors beyond quantity will be considered when determining whether or not to file trafficking charges. This information will also be used as evidence against you and may include whether or not you possessed packaging materials, scales, and statements you made about the substances. Even if you mistakenly try to defend your possession of the drugs in a way that can be used as evidence for a trafficking charge in San Diego, your drug distribution attorney can still help you come up with a solid defense to fight the accusations. You might have a particularly effective defense if the police violated your constitutional rights during your arrest or the search and seizure of your property.
Drug Trafficking Penalties in California
Sentencing for drug trafficking crimes will vary based on the substance, the quantity found and your criminal record, but it is always a felony that cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor. Transporting drugs through one or two contiguous counties (for example, from San Diego to Orange County) carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. If you transported a controlled substance through a non-contiguous county, you would face more serious charges, with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. For example, your charges may be enhanced if you took controlled substances from San Diego County through Riverside County and into San Bernadino County. If you took the drug through another state, across the federal border, through an airport or if the DEA was involved in your arrest, you will likely face felony charges.
You may also be charged with related drug crimes, including drug possession for sale, drug sales, and more. Drug trafficking allegations could also result in other criminal charges, such as money laundering. You could even face child endangerment charges if you had a minor under 18 with you while transporting the substance.
Fighting Felony Drug Crimes in San Diego
When applicable, one of the best ways to fight this charge is to argue that you only had enough of the drug for personal use and not for sale. If your San Diego criminal defense lawyer can successfully make this argument, you can often have these drug crimes charges reduced to a drug possession charge. Possession charges are even eligible for a diversion program, meaning the conviction will not appear on your criminal record. If it is unlikely your San Diego drug distribution attorney can successfully argue the drugs were for personal use, there are still many defenses he can use to fight these criminal accusations, ranging from illegal search and seizure to police entrapment.
Charges related to the transportation or trafficking of large amounts of drugs are very serious and should only be handled with the help of a top San Diego drug distribution lawyer like Peter M. Liss. If you were caught transporting drugs, please contact his offices by calling (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.