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Penalties for federal drug trafficking charges

Since Washington loosened its marijuana possession laws less than two years ago, many of us have become accustomed to the idea that some drug laws are not as rigid as they used to be. However, it's important to remember that drug charges remain very serious for most other types of recreational drugs. For other drug related crimes, the penalties can be severe.

Drug trafficking is considered one of the most serious drug crimes under federal law. The exact penalties depend upon several factors, including the amount and type of the drug found in possession of the accused, but those found with more than specified amount of the drug are presumed to be trafficking.

For example, those found with between 500 and 4,999 grams of cocaine mixture can be sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison after a first offense. They can also face a fine of up to $5 million. A second offense can bring a sentence with a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Even for marijuana, the penalties can be severe. Those found with 1,000 kilograms or more (or 1,000 or more marijuana plants) can be sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10 million. For a second offense, the penalties are even worse.

Because these consequences are so serious, it's crucial that those who are accused of drug trafficking have the help of skilled criminal defense attorneys. A criminal defense lawyer who has experience with drug cases can help the accused to understand their legal options and craft a defense strategy.

Source: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, "Federal Trafficking Penalties," accessed Dec. 24, 2015

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