Federal Drug Trafficking vs. Illegal Drug Importation

drug trafficking attorney
Illegal Drug Importation

Understanding Drug Trafficking under Arizona and Federal Law

Drug trafficking, often interchanged with drug distribution, involves the illicit selling, transporting, or illegally importing of unlawful controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and other illegal drugs.


The Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) 13-3408 identify drug trafficking as a severe crime, punishable under the law, with penalties ranging from heavy fines to lengthy imprisonment.


On a federal level, the United States Code Title 21 Section 841 outlines that manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing a controlled substance is unlawful. Even the mere intention to do so can be met with severe penalties, making drug trafficking a serious crime under federal law.

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Deciphering Illegal Drug Importation Laws in the U.S

Illegal drug importation is a federal crime involving the unlawful transportation of controlled substances into the United States.


The U.S Code Title 21 Section 952 prohibits this act, indicating that no person shall import into the United States from any place outside thereof any controlled substance in Schedule I or II, III, IV, or V.


Such crimes are taken very seriously due to these substances' adverse effects on the nation's public health and safety. The stringent laws are designed to curb the distribution and consumption of these dangerous drugs.

What is the Difference Between Drug Importation Exportation and Drug Trafficking?

Facing criminal allegations related to the importation or exportation of illicit substances may have you questioning the differences between this and drug trafficking charges, an offense regulated by the Controlled Substances Act on a federal level.


Both drug trafficking and importing or exporting unlawful drugs share several similarities, leading to instances where defendants implicated in various aspects of a drug operation may face charges for both federal crimes, among potential others.


For example, suppose you're suspected of importing substantial quantities of illegal narcotics or unauthorized prescription medication into the U.S. In that case, you might confront dual charges for drug importation and trafficking.

However, a fundamental difference distinguishes drug importation or exportation from drug trafficking.


Drug importation pertains explicitly to bringing illegal substances or controlled drugs into or out of the U.S. to another nation.


At the same time, drug trafficking encapsulates a broader array of actions. These include the unlawful manufacturing, sale, transportation, importation, or exportation of controlled substances or illicit drugs.

Comparing Penalties: Drug Trafficking and Illegal Drug Importation

Penalties for drug trafficking and illegal drug importation are severe under Arizona and federal laws. They often hinge on factors such as the type and quantity of the drugs involved, prior convictions, and whether the activity resulted in injury or death.


For drug trafficking, ARS 13-3407 states that a person convicted of trafficking dangerous drugs like methamphetamines could face a Class 2 Felony, with potential jail time of 3 to 12.5 years for a first offense.


Illegal drug importation, as per U.S Code Title 21 Section 960, could result in imprisonment this means that if someone is found guilty, they will have to spend at least 10 years in prison, but it could be as long as life.

If someone dies or gets seriously hurt because of the substance, the guilty person's prison sentence will be at least 20 years, but it could also be a life sentence.


The penalties are notably more severe when larger quantities of drugs are involved.

drug trafficking

The Role of the Controlled Substances Act in Drug-Related Offenses

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) is the federal policy that regulates the manufacturing, importation, possession, use, and distribution of specific substances.


It categorizes drugs into five Schedules, with Schedule I housing the most dangerous drugs with a high potential for abuse and Schedule V the least.


Understanding this classification is crucial in drug-related cases as it plays a vital role in determining the severity of punishments.

How Arizona's Drug Threshold Limits Influence Sentencing

The concept of a "threshold amount" is determined by Arizona state law and differs based on the type of drug.


If you have drugs above these set limits, it's typically seen as more than just personal use. Law enforcement and prosecutors may infer that these drugs were intended for sale, even if there isn't any additional evidence, such as small baggies, scales, significant cash sums, or text messages implying sales activities.


For a guilty verdict of possession with an intent to sell, the prosecution needs to convince the court of the following:

  • The substance you were holding is indeed an illegal drug, not a legal substance.
  • You were aware that these drugs were in your home or vehicle.
  • You had plans to sell those drugs.

Arizona's Standard Threshold Amounts

Arizona law provides specific threshold quantities for various drugs, which include:

  • Heroin: one gram
  • Cocaine: nine grams
  • Crack: three-quarters of a gram
  • PCP: four grams
  • Methamphetamine: nine grams
  • Amphetamine: nine grams
  • LSD: Half a milliliter or 50 dosage units
  • Marijuana: two pounds

For other substances, the threshold is any quantity of drugs with a street value exceeding $1,000.

Interstate and International Implications of Drug Trafficking and Importation

Drug trafficking and illegal drug importation offenses aren't confined within state or national borders.


They often have interstate and international implications.


These cross-border activities could involve different jurisdictions, including federal and international law enforcement agencies, leading to complex legal battles.

drug law

Defense Strategies in Drug Trafficking and Illegal Drug Importation Cases

Defending drug trafficking and illegal drug importation charges requires a robust and strategic approach.


 As a federal criminal defense attorney from Kolsrud Law Office, we employ various strategies based on the case's specific details.

  • Unawareness of the Drugs

    This defense claims you didn't know about the drugs at all. For example, you may have borrowed a friend's car and got pulled over, only to discover illegal substances were hidden in the trunk. If you truly had no idea those drugs were there, this could be a possible defense.

  • Belief in Lawful Importation

    This defense posits that you thought the substance being brought in was perfectly legal. Let's say you were returning from a trip abroad with a traditional medicinal plant, unaware that it's a controlled substance in the U.S.

  • Ignorance of the Substance Entering the Country

    This defense asserts that you didn't realize the drug would enter the country. For instance, you may have lent some luggage to a friend for their overseas trip, and unbeknownst to you, they used it to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

  • Insufficient Evidence from Prosecution

    This defense highlights the lack of convincing proof from the prosecution. Suppose the police found drugs in your apartment complex, and you were charged because you live there. But if no concrete evidence links you to the drugs, you could argue that the prosecution's evidence is insufficient.

  • Illegally Obtained Evidence

    This defense challenges the legality of the search that led to the evidence against you. For example, if the police searched your home without a warrant or your consent and found illegal substances, you might use this defense.

  • Committing the Crime Under Duress

    This defense claims you committed the crime because you were threatened or forced to. For instance, imagine someone threatened harm to your family unless you carried a package containing drugs across the border. In such a scenario, you could argue that you acted under duress.

It's vital to remember that every case is unique, and the strategy for defense should be tailored accordingly.

The Kolsrud Law Office Is On Your Side

At Kolsrud Law Office, we're committed to providing high-quality defense services, upholding our client's rights, and achieving the best possible outcome.


If you're facing federal drug trafficking or illegal drug importation charges, contact us. We can guide you through these challenging times with our deep understanding of Arizona and federal laws.

An award-winning criminal defense attorney Since 2006

Why Choose Josh Kolsrud

With over 100 trials to his name, and years of experience as a state and federal prosecutor, Josh understands the law, the legal process, and your rights. Josh is also committed to representing every client with utmost integrity and dedication



Josh has prosecuted major crimes on the state and federal level, led a successful anti-human sex trafficking operation that saved lives, and argued before countless juries and justices for his clients



Josh is an expert in both Arizona and federal criminal law, and is ready to put that expertise to work for you.



As a prosecutor, Josh saw far too many defendants lose their livelihood due to poor representation. Josh will always give every client his complete attention and effort

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