Because any drug crime can technically be made into a federal case, it’s important to know when the federal government is interested making it one.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some examples of trafficking and go over the reasons why feds have taken an interest in these specific cases.
Our goal is to help you understand why your drug trafficking offense may be charged at the federal level instead of at the state level here in Texas – but first we’re going to talk a bit about trafficking in general.
Defining Drug Trafficking – in Texas and Beyond
Drug trafficking is most simply defined as the crime of unlawful importing, transporting, or selling of illegal controlled substances or prescription drugs.
Drug trafficking charges are similar to drug possession charges in that one is accused of knowingly possessing an illegal controlled substance in either case.
What separates mere possession of drugs (for personal use, say) from trafficking them is whether proof of importing or transporting and/or proof that the possessor intended to sell and/or deliver the drugs can be produced. Charging an act as trafficking rather than possession automatically elevates it to felony status.
How Do State and Federal Prosecutors Prove Trafficking?
Essentially, a prosecutor must produce circumstantial evidence indicating that the person in possession of the drugs in question did not solely intend to use them him- or herself.
Examples of physical evidence could include but is not limited to:
- devices for measuring drugs
- packaging that one can reasonably assume is used for distributing drugs (small plastic baggies, for instance)
- business cards
- large amounts of cash
- written or electronic record keeping related to sales
Non-physical proof can be testimony from witnesses who were personally involved in buying or selling of the drugs, or who can confirm the exchange of money and drugs between a defendant and others. Witness testimony that includes details regarding a wider operation is also considered circumstantial proof.
This is a good point to note, because when you’re ready to seek legal counsel, it’s imperative that you reach out to someone with a track record of success dealing with drug charges to help you navigate the murky waters of circumstantial evidence.
Why Your Trafficking Charge Might Be a Federal Case
Legally, federal courts can select – at their discretion – any case involving a federal offense. Because extensive drug laws exist both at the state level and the federal level, with a significant amount of overlap, the truth of the matter is that pretty much any drug charges could be tried at the federal level.
However, the federal government is primarily interested in big cases. Often, they view drug trafficking as a crime of weight and measurement, though there are a few other specifics that may cause it to draw more interest.
Your case is more likely to end up in federal court if your situation involves at least one of the following:
Larger Amounts of Drugs – When you are carrying far more cocaine than what might be considered typical for personal use, Federal prosecutors could suspect a link between you and a more extensive network – like South American trafficking rings where cocaine is primarily produced, or the cartels that traffic them via Central America.
Intrastate Movement – If your charges involve using a national organization like the US Postal Service, or the acts you are accused of being engaged in crossed state lines, it is also reasonable to assume they will draw federal attention – especially considering the fact that Texas has both national and international borders.
Special Interest – Special interests are those topics that currently have heightened media and societal attention. A look at the timeline for the War on Drugs will explain the history of special interests in drug crimes, and current events can always point to a few key areas of federal interest, as well.
Although the more current Opioid Crisis has since overshadowed it, only little more than a decade ago the federal government was strong-arming the trafficking of methamphetamines over state lines in order to curtail that crisis.
When nearly 68% of overdose deaths are attributed to opiates today, it’s no surprise that societal attention has turned to this issue, and the current political climate regarding immigration lends to a harder-lined focus on where drugs like cocaine are produced (primarily South America), and what borders (Mexico/Texas) were crossed to get them into the US.
Ultimately, with penalties skyrocketing, sentences reaching life in prison, and mandatory minimums in place at the federal level, drug trafficking can be one of the most serious charges you can face today.
We are seeing incarceration from drug-related offenses at all-time highs, and without a good understanding of how your Texas drug charges fit with federal interests, you could very well be risking your entire future if you don’t act immediately to start putting together the strongest possible defense the second you get arrested or charged.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.