Importing or exporting an unauthorized controlled substance across international borders, a crime known colloquially as “drug smuggling,” is a far more serious crime than simple drug possession, and a conviction for this federal offense carries severe, long-lasting penalties, including a mandatory prison sentence and considerable fines.
Being charged with the federal crime of unlawfully importing or exporting a controlled substance requires immediate intervention by a skilled drug crimes defense attorney in order to build a successful defense and avoid a conviction that could ruin the rest of your life.
Contact our criminal defense lawyers at Seyb Law Group today to discuss your possible defense options.
AFFORDABLE DRUG SMUGGLING DEFENSE ATTORNEY
The federal government is in the midst of fighting a “war on drugs,” and federal agencies like the FBI and DEA are always on the watch for illegal drugs being moved from state to state or being imported to or exported from the United States.
Because of this, defendants who end up in federal court for drug-related offenses like drug trafficking and importation or exportation of a controlled substance are often made an example of, to the extent that convicted offenders are often sent to federal prison to serve a sentence of five, 10 or 20 years or more. Even after serving a federal prison sentence for importing or exporting a controlled substance, convicted offenders must then live with the consequences of being a convicted felon and having a criminal record.
As you can see, the legal consequences of a drug-smuggling conviction can follow you for the rest of your life, which is why you need an attorney on your side who has experience defending federal drug crimes and who can help you navigate the complex federal criminal justice system.
Being arrested for a federal drug crime may feel like the end of the world, but it is important to understand that an arrest for importing or exporting a controlled substance is not the same thing as a conviction.
Our drug crimes defense attorneys have more than 60 years of combined criminal defense experience and we understand how devastating a conviction for illegal importation or exportation of a controlled substance would be for you and your family.
We can help you aggressively defend yourself against these drug charges.
IMPORTATION & EXPORTATION OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE
Importing or exporting a controlled substance is the crime of moving illegal drugs or unauthorized prescription drugs into or out of the United States without having legal permission to do so.
To unlawfully import a controlled substance means to bring an illegal drug into the country, typically with the intention of selling it.
Similarly, to unlawfully export a controlled substance means to transport an illegal drug from the United States to another country.
Federal law prohibits the unauthorized importation and exportation of controlled substances and any person who imports or exports or attempts to import or export, illegal or illegally obtained drugs into or out of the United States may be arrested and charged with a federal crime.
Under federal law, a “controlled substance” is any drug or chemical whose possession, manufacture, or use is regulated by the federal government pursuant to the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.
This includes illicit drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine, and certain prescription medications with a high potential for abuse and addiction, like OxyContin and Vicodin, among other drugs.
There are some cases in which a person may smuggle large amounts of illegal drugs into the country as part of a large-scale operation with the intention of selling the drugs in the United States, which may result in federal drug trafficking charges.
Importing/Exporting a Controlled Substance 21 U.S.C. § 952 & § 953
Generally speaking, pursuant to Section 952 of Title 21, United States Code, it is against the law to import to the United States any controlled substance or narcotic drug listed in Schedules I through V of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, coca leaves, or any ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine – drugs commonly used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
The list of drugs covered under this law is long and inclusive and is not limited to just the most well-known “street drugs” like marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.
It also includes prescription drugs, which some people may try to import from other countries where they cost less than they do in the United States, or unintentionally bring across the border, not realizing they are breaking the law.
The main provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 952 – Importation of controlled substances state the following:
- It shall be unlawful to import into the customs territory of the United States from any place outside thereof (but within the United States), or to import into the United States from any place outside thereof, any controlled substance in schedule I or II of subchapter I, or any narcotic drug in schedule III, IV, or V of subchapter I, or ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine [with certain exceptions].
- It shall be unlawful to import into the customs territory of the United States from any place outside thereof (but within the United States), or to import into the United States from any place outside thereof, any nonnarcotic controlled substance in schedule III, IV, or V [with certain exceptions].
Generally speaking, pursuant to Section 953 of Title 21, United States Code, it is against the law to export from the United States any narcotic drug listed in Schedules I through IV of the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, any non-narcotic controlled substance listed in Schedules I or II, any non-narcotic controlled substance in Schedule III or IV, or any controlled substances in Schedule V.
More specifically, the main provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 953 – Exportation of controlled substances state the following:
- It shall be unlawful to export from the United States any narcotic drug in schedule I, II, III, or IV [with certain exceptions].
- It shall be unlawful to export from the United States any non-narcotic controlled substance in schedule I or II [with certain exceptions].
- It shall be unlawful to export from the United States to any other country any non-narcotic controlled substance in schedule III or IV or any controlled substances in schedule V [with certain exceptions].
PENALTIES FOR A DRUG IMPORTATION OR EXPORTATION CONVICTION
Under the federal legal system, the criminal act of unlawfully importing or exporting illegal drugs has its own sentencing guidelines, which include mandatory prison time for a conviction.
The actual punishment resulting from a drug-smuggling conviction can vary a great deal, depending on the specific details of the case, namely the type of controlled substance, the quantity of the substance, and the defendant’s criminal history.
The following are some examples of first-offense federal drug importation crimes and their respective penalties:
- Unlawfully importing less than 100 grams of heroin – Imprisonment in federal prison for up to 20 years and up to $1 million in fines
- Unlawfully importing between 28 and 279 grams of cocaine, crack or coca leaves – Mandatory imprisonment in federal prison for five to 40 years and up to $5 million in fines
- Unlawfully importing any amount of marijuana under 50 kilograms – Imprisonment in federal prison for up to five years and up to $250,000 in fines
- Unlawfully importing 50 grams of pure methamphetamine or 500 grams of a mixture – Mandatory imprisonment in federal prison for 10 years to life and up to $10 million in fines
FEDERAL DRUG SMUGGLING DEFENSE
The United States government takes a tough stance on federal drug crimes like importing or exporting a controlled substance, and you could find yourself facing serious drug smuggling charges in federal court without even realizing you committed a crime.
That being said, it is important to remember that just because you have been charged with a crime does not mean you will automatically be convicted.
Just like in any other criminal proceeding, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty of the crime and the burden of proving the crime lies with the federal prosecutor.
In order to convict you of the federal offense of unlawfully importing a controlled substance, for example, the prosecutor must establish the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- That you knowingly brought the controlled substance into the United States, and
- That you knew it was a controlled substance or an illegal drug.
Best Defense Strategies in Federal Drug Smuggling Cases
Some possible defense strategies your attorney may use in court to fight federal drug smuggling charges include the following:
- Duress, compulsion or coercion – If your attorney can prove that you were forced to commit the crime against your will, even if all the other elements of the crime can be met, you cannot be convicted of unlawfully importing or exporting a controlled substance.
- Illegal search and seizure – If the evidence against you was obtained during an illegal search and seizure, your attorney may be able to get the evidence thrown out.
- Mishandling of evidence – If the government failed to follow proper procedure in handling evidence relating to your case, your attorney may be able to get the drug smuggling charges dismissed.
- You are prescribed the controlled substance – If you were charged with unlawfully importing a drug that you were actually legally prescribed by a doctor, you would not be criminally liable under federal drug smuggling law.
HOW HIRING A DRUG SMUGGLING DEFENSE ATTORNEY CAN HELP
Regardless of what the controlled substance is that you are accused of unlawfully importing or exporting, the federal government will prosecute the crime aggressively, and if you face these federal charges without the help of a defense attorney who has experience with the federal criminal justice system, you could end up paying exorbitant fines and serving a lengthy prison sentence with no possibility of parole.
Federal agencies like the FBI, the DEA, and Homeland Security have massive budgets and extensive resources at their disposal that they can use to gather incriminating evidence against you and paint a convincing image of your alleged guilt in court, and you can’t beat these powerful federal law enforcement agencies on your own.
It will take the help of a knowledgeable and aggressive defense attorney willing to do everything in their power to help you refute the charges.
Facing federal charges for importing or exporting a controlled substance can be stressful and overwhelming, but a criminal conviction is by no means a guarantee, especially when you have a drug crimes defense attorney on your side who can help you take on the federal criminal justice system.
No matter what federal drug crime is being charged, a defendant who is represented by a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney willing to fight tooth and nail will get the best results in his or her case, possibly including reduced charges and fewer penalties or even an acquittal or dismissal, depending on the specific circumstances of the case.
Our top priority at Seyb Law Group is to give each of our clients the personalized attention their case deserves, and our legal team is committed to helping you get the best possible outcome based on your unique situation.
CONTACT OUR FEDERAL DRUG CRIMES DEFENSE ATTORNEYS TODAY
It is a federal offense to illegally import to or export from the United States, controlled substances like cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, and other narcotics and unauthorized prescription drugs, and it is also a federal offense to possess and distribute illegal drugs within the United States.
Federal drug-related crimes like drug smuggling carry harsh penalties that can follow you for years to come, even after you have served the required prison sentence and paid the necessary fines.
If you have been accused of illegally importing or exporting drugs into or out of the United States, your first course of action should be to hire a skilled federal drug crimes defense attorney to represent your case.
Don’t let federal drug smuggling charges ruin your life. Contact our Orange County criminal defense attorneys at Seyb Law Group today.