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What are the penalties for federal drug trafficking?

Drug trafficking is one of the world’s most complex crimes, often resulting in a myriad of charges on both a state and federal level. The type of drugs involved, the targeted geographic distribution area and the amount are just a few of the factors the authorities take into account when handing down a sentence for trafficking convictions.

These variable factors can make it difficult to provide a precise list of penalties, but the following represents some of most common drug trafficking sentences.

For the trafficking of drugs like cocaine, heroin, LSD, meth and PSP, a first offense typically means up to 10 years in prison and fines of $5 to $50 million, depending upon the amount of the drug. For a second offense, defendants can expect 10 to 20 years imprisonment along with fines of $8 to $75 million. Additional offenses could lead to life in prison and fines of up to $75 million. If the trafficking behavior resulted in the death of a person, defendants can expect the penalties to be even more severe.

Those who think drug trafficking involving marijuana or one of its derivatives will be approached in a more lenient fashion would be wise to think again. In truth, penalties for trafficking more than 1,000 plants or 1,000 kilograms of harvested product could result in penalties similar to those handed down for cocaine and heroin-related trafficking. Further, the greater the amount of marijuana trafficked, the steeper the associated penalties.

The federal government wants to eradicate drug trafficking inside our nation’s borders, which means big trouble for those facing trafficking charges. Building a proper defense is the first step in overcoming such charges and beating a drug trafficking conviction.

Source:, “Federal Trafficking Penalties” accessed Mar. 03, 2015

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