California has some of the most relaxed drug laws in the United States compared to other parts of the country, but some drug-related criminal offenses still carry severe penalties in California. If you or a loved one is charged with drug trafficking, you could potentially face several years in prison and substantial fines. It’s also possible for some drug trafficking cases to be prosecuted in federal court, and if a federal law enforcement agency is pursuing a conviction for drug trafficking, you face a much more difficult legal battle and much harsher sentencing.
It’s vital to secure defense counsel from a San Diego drug trafficking lawyer as soon as possible if you are arrested for any type of drug trafficking charge. Zentz & Zentz can provide the meticulous and aggressive defense representation you need if you are facing drug trafficking charges in San Diego. We know how local prosecutors tend to handle these cases, and we can also provide the legal guidance you need if your case is prosecuted by a federal agency such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).
Every American has the right to legal counsel when they are accused of a crime. This right is protected by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and defense counsel is available to every defendant no matter what charges they face or their ability to pay. When a defendant is unable to afford a private defense attorney, the court can appoint a public defender to represent them. The majority of public defenders are hardworking and dedicated lawyers, but they have demanding jobs that require them to handle multiple cases at a time. Put simply, you cannot expect much personal attention from even the best public defenders. A court-appointed defense lawyer may only be able to dedicate one or two hours per day to working on your case.
By comparison, a private San Diego drug trafficking attorney can offer a much higher level of defense representation. When you choose Zentz & Zentz to represent you in a drug trafficking case, you can rest assured that you will have the full scope of our professional resources and legal experience at your disposal. Our firm maintains a light and balanced caseload to ensure we can provide every client with the utmost care and attention.
If you are concerned about the potential cost of your legal fees in any drug crime case, it is vital to understand what you risk by attempting to represent yourself or trusting a public defender. Self-representation is never a wise decision. Even if you have some working knowledge of criminal law and the personal flexibility to conduct extensive case law research, you are bound to overlook crucial elements of your case that could make or break your defense. When it comes to public defenders, the best you can hope for with most of them is a plea bargain; they simply do not have the time nor the flexibility to offer much in the way of robust, comprehensive criminal defense through a complex trial.
Zentz & Zentz offer reasonable and transparent billing policies. We’ll help you determine the potential cost of your case based on our rate and the amount of time we anticipate spending to resolve your case. Rest assured that your investment into proper defense representation from an experienced San Diego drug trafficking lawyer will be much less than you stand to face in sentencing without reliable defense counsel on your side.
Drug trafficking is often conflated with drug dealing, but drug trafficking pertains specifically to transporting drugs across long distances for the purposes of selling them in a certain area. For example, an individual who sells drugs to local customers out of their home would likely face a charge of drug possession with intent to sell. If another party sold them drugs to distribute in bulk and brought them to the dealer’s neighborhood from another county or state, this individual would qualify for prosecution on drug trafficking charges.
Illegal drug distribution networks typically involve many different participants in different areas performing separate functions. It’s common for state and federal law enforcement to investigate these networks, and the participants involved could potentially face prosecution in federal court or even conspiracy charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
California was one of the first states to legalize medical cannabis and was later the first state to approve decriminalization of recreational marijuana for adults over 21. However, adults over 21 may only purchase marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries that must abide by strict quality control standards and state regulations. Street sales of marijuana remain illegal in California, and it is possible for an individual to face drug trafficking charges if they illegally transport marijuana across state or county lines for the purposes of illegal private sales.
If you have been arrested on drug trafficking charges, the penalties you face depend on several factors. Primarily, the type of drug you had in your possession, the quantity you possessed, and the distance you traveled with the drug are the main determining factors when it comes to sentencing for a drug trafficking conviction. If your case is pursued by federal authorities, you face federal drug trafficking standards and their associated penalties.
It is important to note that for state criminal cases involving drug trafficking, distance is a more crucial factor than quantity. California law does not enforce specific standards when it comes to quantity in drug trafficking charges, only distance. This means that if you transport a very small amount of heroin or cocaine across county lines, even if you intend it for personal use only, you could potentially face a drug trafficking charge. The penalties for drug trafficking at the state level will also escalate if you transport the drugs across non-contiguous counties, meaning you traveled through three or more counties with illegal drugs in your possession.
If you trafficked drugs into a single county, you could potentially go to state prison for three, four, or five years. However, if you transported the drugs across three or more counties, your potential sentence increases to three, six, or nine years in state prison. California state law also enforces additional penalties for other aggravating factors such as having very large quantities of drugs, trafficking near rehab facilities, or facilitating minors under the age of 18 to assist in a drug distribution operation.
In the event a federal law enforcement agency is handling your drug trafficking case, the penalties are much more severe. In fact, the standards for prosecution are more generous in favor of the prosecution. Carrying the following amounts of drugs across state lines will lead to a minimum of five years in prison:
Penalties for trafficking these substances increase to a minimum of ten years in prison for larger quantities, such as:
If the defendant qualifies for higher penalties after being convicted for a second offense, their minimum sentence increases to 20 years in prison.
Facing drug trafficking charges in San Diego can be a distressing and isolating experience, and it may seem like your situation is hopeless. However, an experienced San Diego drug trafficking lawyer can potentially uncover various functional defenses on your behalf.
You could claim a lack of knowledge if someone placed illegal drugs in your vehicle without your knowledge or consent. Your attorney can help you gather physical evidence that may work to support this defense, such as finding no forensic evidence that you physically handled the drugs. It is also possible to claim coercion as a functional defense. For example, if another party threatened you and forced you to engage in drug trafficking against your will, this could potentially work as an affirmative defense if you can prove the other party’s coercion.
Ultimately, the right defense counsel can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your drug trafficking case. An experienced San Diego drug trafficking lawyer is the best asset you can have in this situation. Even if the prosecution’s case is solid and you know you broke the law, a seasoned defense attorney can help you secure a plea bargain that leads to relaxed sentencing or even reduced charges.
The sooner you obtain defense representation, the sooner you can start building your defense. Time is a critical factor in any criminal case, but you should not rush your decision and accept legal representation from the first available attorney. Take your time to review your options and find the attorney who instills the most confidence in you.
Zentz & Zentz can provide the aggressive defense counsel you need when you are facing years in prison, and our team has the skill and experience to handle the toughest drug trafficking cases in San Diego. If you have been arrested on drug trafficking charges, we can help. Contact Zentz & Zentz today to schedule a consultation with an experienced team of San Diego drug trafficking attorneys.