What amount of drugs is considered trafficking? Penalties for drug possession

Due to unfavorable social and health effects of controlled substances and drugs, state and federal laws have harsh penalties for anyone who is involved in the offense of drug trafficking. Though, no matter what charge one may face, drug trafficking is one of the serious drug-related offenses. Although the severity of the crime is dependent on the quantity of the trafficked drug. Therefore, it is important to understand what amount of drugs is considered trafficking.

For instance, trafficking 20 pounds of marijuana or cultivating 300 or more grams of marijuana plant will make you eligible to count under drug trafficking charges in some regions of the United States.

On the contrary, you may need 28 grams or more of cocaine to get charged for drug trafficking. However, whatever substance you possess or distribute, every situation can bring serious penalties that may affect your career and professional life and bring the potential of disturbing your whole life expectancy. How? Keep reading to comprehend the intricacies that are involved in the drug trafficking charge and everything surrounding it.

What constitutes the meaning of drug trafficking?

drug trafficking
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Contrary to people’s belief, drug trafficking and controlled substance trafficking means to possess a drug greater than the legal state weightage limit, not transporting the drug or controlled substance from one state to another. It also translates to conspiring the number of drugs or illicit substances larger than the threshold weight set by the states.

Drug trafficking charges depend on possession, conspiracy, and constructive possession. States have set different threshold levels for penalties and criminal convictions. As for South Carolina drug trafficking law, it contains the most severe drug penalties compared to any criminal offense. Offenders of drug trafficking charges often get the minimum prison sentence as a mandatory conviction.

Some state laws also define drug trafficking as transporting, importing, selling, and purchasing illegal substances. Another way to define the offense is drug distribution. The charge of drug trafficking does not only involve the offense of possession, sale, and delivery but the trade of illegal substances. Someone involved in the sale of banned prescription drugs like hydrocodone products, opioids, and pain killers can also be convicted for the drug trafficking charge.

Comparatively, the trafficking of drugs involves more serious penalties than that of drug possession as most of the time it is referred to as a felony. The United States has federal legislation in place to control drug trafficking, however, every state has regulations to prevent the commission of illicit drug crimes as well. Some state regulations carry first-degree felony charges for drug trafficking.

While convicting the charges on a defendant, other than purchasing, distributing, and manufacturing the illicit drugs, measurement and weight play a vital role. Although drug trafficking and drug possession are two different crimes and one can face different charges depending on the criminal execution. 

In addition to that, if you possess drugs beyond the threshold weight set by your state, then it can attract the offense of drug distribution. For this reason, if convicted, you will be charged with drug trafficking even if you were not involved in trading or manufacturing the illicit drug. 

These legislations may appear overly harsh though, however, the main purpose of the regulations is to discourage people from getting involved in drug trafficking or related charges.

Drug trafficking and simple drug possession

No matter how solid-state legislations are for drug trafficking and possessions in place, it is important to note here that if you are incarcerated for drug trafficking or possession charge, state prosecutors have to prove that you were possessing the drug exceeding the threshold limit. Also, they have to prove that you had the intent to sell or distribute the drugs. Oftentimes, it is even easy to prove the possession of the drug to get a first-degree felony charge but to prove that the offender had intended to distribute the drug gets intricate for the states in most situations.

In cases where the evidence proving the intent to distribute drug offenses lacks, states usually rely on expert testimony. With the help of experts, they will get the chance to find out other signs of drug trafficking or evidence that shows the intent of trafficking. This is often called indicia of sale. This includes;

  • Baggies
  • Scales
  • Ledge
  • Cash
  • A large number of drugs
  • Witnesses
  • Transitioning of people coming in and out of a place

When states fall behind in proving the guilt of drug trafficking intent or the possession of a drug exceeding the threshold, there will be only a lesser charge of possession of the drug.

Penalties for drug possession with the intent to distribute

The penalties for the possession of the drug with the intent to distribute depends on some important factors;

  • The legitimacy for the sale of the drug in question
  • The quantity of the drug
  • Prior criminal convictions
  • The additional charge related to a drug trafficking offense

The legitimacy for the sale of the drug in question

Some states penalize defendants with drug possession charges harsher than the other states. Such as Arizona, the type of drug plays an important role in deciding the convictions against a defendant. Following are some of the drugs that do not include in the drug trafficking convictions;

  • Methamphetamine – the possession of the drug methamphetamine entails the special conviction process. If someone is convicted of possession of Methamphetamine with the exceeding amount of Arizona legislation threshold, the defendant will not be granted probation and would be incarcerated but will be convicted with a jail sentence. The penalty of class 2 felony for the sale of methamphetamine includes:
  • The minimum of five and the maximum of fifteen years in prison
  • Probation/early release/parole would not be allowed unless the defendant does not serve 100% of the conviction regardless if the person committed the offense for the first time.

Possession of the concentrates of marijuana drug with the intent to distribute

Trade of marijuana does not consider the offense of the possession of marijuana with the intent of distribution under the Arizona laws 13-3405 but is taken under the possession and distribution of the narcotics drugs with class 2 felony charge. This is because THC has been removed from the marijuana concentrates while processing.

This is why marijuana concentrates are considered narcotics drugs instead of marijuana. Penalties for the sale of narcotics within felony 2 class contains;

  • Supervised probation (only if the possession of the drug is under threshold)
  • Prison time between three to twelve years.

Possession of the prescription drug with the intent to distribute

The defendant will be subjected to the conviction of a class 4 felony crime for the sale of prescription drugs. If the sale of prescription drugs involves dangerous drugs or narcotic drugs, the punishment can be raised to a class 2 felony. Penalties for the class 4 felony includes;

  • Supervised probation (only if the quantity of the prescription drug is under the state threshold)
  • Prison time between one and 3.75 years

Possession of the vapor releasing substance with the intent to distribute

According to AR 13-3403, the sale of vapor releasing substances is a class 5 felony offense. Penalties for which involves;

  • Supervised probation (only if the quantity of the vapor releasing substance is under the threshold level)
  • Prison time between .5 and a maximum of 2.5 years

What amount of drugs is considered trafficking?

 If a defendant is arrested with an excessive amount of drugs than the state statute threshold level, the defendant would not be eligible for probation and have to complete the prison sentence. Under Arizona law 13-3401 (36), the amount according to the threshold are;

  • Cocaine – 9 grams
  • Heroin – 1gram
  • Amphetamine – 9 grams
  • PCP – 4 grams
  • Methamphetamine – 9 grams
  • Crack Cocaine – 750 grams
  • Marijuana – 2 pounds
  • LSD- 5 mm or 50 units

Put simply, if a defendant is found selling the drugs exceeding the amounts set by the state threshold level, he must complete the incarceration time behind the bars rather than probation.

Prior criminal convictions

Even if a defendant is convicted for drug trafficking for the first time, a mandatory sentence against the offense will be imposed on the defendant according to Arizona law.

Although if a defendant has a prior criminal conviction history, then a drug trafficking charge can result in harsher penalties.

The additional charge related to a drug trafficking offense

Although it is impossible sometimes to have criminal convictions for drug trafficking alone. It entails several additional charges that may result in severe ramifications. These additional charges may involve (but are not limited to);

  • Possession of drugs as a felony crime
  • Money laundering
  • Felony firearms possession
  • Manufacturing of drugs

If a defendant’s property such as money, home, property, cars, weapons, or other valuable items are seized as a result of a drug trafficking charge, a criminal proceeding of forfeiture would be expected. However, these criminal proceedings will be completely separated from any criminal conviction.

Convictions associated with possession of an illicit drug

The number of charges either federal or state for the offense of drug trafficking greatly varies depending on where you live and the amount of drug someone is convicted with. Also, depending on the severity of the criminal activity or the lingering consequences, a defendant can be convicted for years and sometimes decades behind the bars. 

Minimum mandatory sentencing

There is a mandatory sentencing charge for someone who is found for drug trafficking. This entails the meaning that a defendant will be charged with a mandatory jail time regardless of his prior criminal history before he is actually sent to serve the probation time or parole.

For instance, if there is a mandatory charge of serving four years in prison in your state and you are convicted with fifteen years of sentencing against a drug trafficking charge, then you can plead for parole or probation after serving the mandatory charge of four years.


Sometimes just to accept that you were involved in the execution of drug trafficking, your prosecution may be able to offer a plea bargain. In return for the acceptance, you will get a probation sentence where you have to follow specific court-given guidelines.

Being on probation you cannot break any rule listed by the court in the probation guidelines, you can move freely within the defined territories in the probation. A probation officer will supervise your activity, if he finds you traveling outside the state without permission or committing a crime, then your previous penalties can be restored and you can end up in jail to serve the remaining jail time.

Depending on the criminal history and the crime, probation can last up to one to three years.


State and federal laws discourage drug trafficking offenses by applying hefty fines and charges. States most of the time impose fines that are between $25,000 to $100,000 which can be raised depending on the case.

On the contrary, the penalties for a federal drug trafficking charge can result in a fine that can be even higher than $10 million.

Immigration and drug trafficking

If you are someone who is a US immigrant, allegations of drug trafficking can bring serious penalties and immediate deportation. A similar rule is applied to any citizen who migrated to the United States, if found guilty, they will be deported with the ban on reentering the region. If he or she has a family living in the US, they automatically become ineligible for applying for a resident visa or US citizenship.

Can you count on a drug trafficking attorney?

As said, depending on the severity of the crime against drug trafficking conviction, the penalties can land you in jail for decades behind the bars. This is why and for several reasons mentioned in the blog, you should hire an experienced defense lawyer immediately.

Once you are convicted of a criminal offense against drug trafficking, having a lawyer at your side will help you understand your constitutional rights and find out the ways that could lessen the charges. Also, he will work to obtain the probation sentence.

It is also important to understand that probation will only be granted if a defendant follows the jail time properly adhering to the jail rules and without putting himself/herself in any kind of odd executions during his jail time. 

Hiring a criminal defense attorney immediately is important to represent you in court to get the maximum positive benefits and favorable outcomes. Before you choose a defense attorney, it is also essential to look at proven positive records and experience in fighting criminal cases for drug trafficking.

As it is comprehensible from the above discussion that a drug trafficking charge can be severe and can land you for decades behind the jail. A single drug trafficking conviction can affect your whole professional life and career. Whether you are convicted for the first time or not, having legal representation will be mandatory. Protect your rights and enhance the chances of getting out of the court charge-free.

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