Federal Drug Smuggling – 21 U.S.C. § 954
Bringing controlled substances into the United States is referred to as drug smuggling and is a federal crime. If you are being charged with the federal crime of drug smuggling, our federal defense lawyers can and will help. We understand and are knowledgeable and all laws specifying drug smuggling and we are familiar with how the federal system works.
Over the course of the past twenty-five years, I've traveled all over the United States defending my clients on drug-related offenses. Drug smuggling usually involves large quantities of narcotics – whether it be marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl – or any type of drug that is controlled by the government.
When it comes to large quantities of drugs, you can bet the federal government is going to be involved, the FBI, Homeland Security and Secret Service, and they are going to be on watch to make sure that if large amounts of drugs are moving throughout the United States or a particular state, that they are able to apprehend the offender or offenders.
The special tools that the federal government uses when it comes to federal drug smuggling is wire-tapping. It's probably their number one weapon against people who are charged with federal narcotic-related offenses. They wire-tap number phones. In order to do this, they have to get a federal judge to permit the wire-tap. Once the wire-tap is in place they begin to wire-tap people's phones. You can be in a position where your phone is not wire-tapped, but you talk to somebody whose phone is wire-tapped.
Now you're on a conversation. You're saying something either in coded language or not and the feds are looking at you thinking that you're involved in a drug transaction. Sometimes, they are able to pinpoint who the person the target phone number is talking to and sometimes they are not.
They are going to get everybody they can, and if you happen to talk to somebody who has a federal wire-tap on their phone and you say something or get yourself involved in something having to do with smuggling drugs in the United States, the feds will capture you too just like the person that is on the phone.
Title 21 U.S.C. § 954 prohibits the transshipment and in-transit shipment of a Schedule I controlled substances unless for scientific, medical, and other legitimate reasons with written approval from Attorney General.
The movement of drugs across both state and federal borders is considered drug smuggling. The US Drug Enforcement Agency is in charge for investigating cases of drug smuggling. This agency partners with domestic and foreign organizations to investigate and prosecute individuals involved in drug smuggling.
How Long Does it the Government to go After a Drug Smuggling Ring?
This is a great question because I'm seeing all the time now, the federal government will wait months or even years before they make their move. They want to make sure they capture as many people as they can, get as much drugs off the street as they can, get weapons if weapons are involved, and when they make their move, they just don't make their move and grab one person or two people.
They're going to make their move and they're going to grab as many people as they can at the same time because they know once a ring of people that are involved in drug smuggling find out that someone's been captured, they're going to move to either another country or go into hiding and then the feds won't be able to get them.
So, when I see these federal RICO drug cases, I see the people being all arrested at the same time if that's possible for the feds to do. When they get people, they're putting huge bails on them, so they can't get out or they put no bail.
If you're looking at a ten-year mandatory minimum on a federal drug case, the government is going to typically argue that you should get no bail on that case. 18 U.S. Code 1512 defines tampering with a witness, victim, or informant. The federal crime of Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) primarily targets large-scale drug traffickers participating in extensive drug conspiracies.
Bail in a Federal Drug Smuggling Case
When it comes to bail, the feds are different than the state. With the state, you can get a bail bondsman – they have a presumptive bail for every crime – you post the bail you get out. In the federal government, if your crime is serious enough and you're looking at enough time in federal custody, the government can argue for you to be detained, which means that you can't get out. You can't post any bail, you can't put up any property.
Other forms of ways to get in a federal drug smuggling case have to do with doing a signature bond, doing a property bond on a property that you or somebody else owns, but they're going to make sure if they do give you some sort of a bond that the monies being used or the property that's being used is not proceeds of drug smuggling, because if it is they are not going to let you use that to get yourself free.
They're going to put a lot of different ramifications on you if you flee and do not show up for court. So, if you have a federal drug smuggling case, you should contact an attorney who has been doing it a long time, who knows how to fight these cases.
Other ways to fight a case at the federal level regarding to drug smuggling is to do a search or stop motion where you say it was an illegal stop. It violated the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, and therefore, anything that was found needs to be suppressed.
Also, the feds a lot of times will search people's cars, homes, persons, grab drugs, arrest the person without regard to their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. That's when your attorney comes in, files a Motion, argues it, cross-examines and tries to get the case dismissed.
Federal Sentencing Guidelines
Federal Sentencing Guidelines provide mandatory minimum penalties for drug smuggling offenders based on the type and quantity of the drug, and the offender's criminal history. Part of our defense for our clients is to find mitigating circumstances to minimize the penalties.
Drug smuggling charges, regardless of type of amount of drug, may result in some very serious and severe penalties and our federal defense lawyers are here to provide you with a spectacular defense. We fight persistently and aggressively and our client's interest is always our top priority.
Strategies from the Best Federal Drug Crime Defense lawyer
Federal drug crimes are very serious situations. I often see that more than one person gets arrested, and a whole group of individuals has been indicted in federal court. This usually takes the form of people either in gangs and moving drugs or in a conspiracy or an agreement to move drugs.
You need the best criminal defense attorney if you or a loved one is charged with a federal drug crime. I've been handling these cases since the early 1990s, approximately 30 years defending people accused of drug crimes.
Amount of Drugs
First, you must look at the amount of drugs involved to see if any mandatory minimum is triggered. Most federal prosecutions only deal with 10-year mandatory minimums. This means if you have a certain amount of drugs, such as the following:
- fentanyl, or
- any other drug.
A weight chart talks about how much triggers that 10-year mandatory minimum, which means if you get convicted of one of those charges, the judge has to give you at least ten years in federal prison at 85% but can certainly give you more.
Avoiding the Mandatory Minimum
This gives you an idea of how serious some of these cases are. But on the other hand, I get many instances in which the person has no criminal record, and all they do is move the drugs from point A to point B. They got paid a couple of thousand dollars to do it, and now they're facing that minimum of 10 years. There are ways to get around that:
- There's a 5K departure where you cooperate with the government;
- There's a safety valve where you must meet five criteria to get under that 10-year mandatory minimum.
Unfortunately, there are limited ways to get under that 10-year mandatory minimum, so you want to make sure that you hire an attorney who has much experience – who's been down the road you're about to travel and have success.
In 1994, I became a federal criminal defense attorney and started defending people like you. I've done many of these significant drug cases and have much experience. If you need the best, pick up the phone now. Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you.