Drug trafficking or drug distribution refers to manufacturing, selling, moving, or importing illegal drugs. It is often confused with drug possession, but these are two different types of drug crimes. Drug trafficking is considered a federal crime as well as a felony crime in Minnesota.
Is drug trafficking a violent crime? A drug trafficking charge in Minnesota can have serious repercussions on the accused’s life, especially if the case involves a conviction. Often, prosecutors seek maximum penalties in such cases in the wake of increased drug usage plaguing the country.
If you or your loved one has been charged with or are suspected of drug trafficking, you should ensure that you’re adequately prepared to tackle the accusation, while protecting your rights. Working with a reputed drug crime lawyer is always a good idea.
It is important to realize that there are no guarantees to beat any drugs-related charge, and every case is different. Most seasoned lawyers fight hard to try and save the day for their clients.
A Quick Overview of Drug Crime Laws in Minnesota
Usually, federal and state prosecutors can levy drug trafficking charges when they believe that controlled substances have been sold, imported, or moved around. In most cases, these charges involve drugs such as heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. US drug crime statistics reveal that, “Between 2011 and 2015, there was an almost 50% increase in the number of people sentenced for crimes related to heroin trafficking in the U.S.”
A drug trafficking charge can also extend to the unlawful distribution of prescription drugs, such as sleeping pills, pain killers, or products containing hydrocodone, oxycodone, and pharmaceutical opiates.
Often, drug possession charges tend to escalate to trafficking because of the amount of substance found on the accused. This means that a person found with controlled substances even for personal use may have to deal with trafficking charges, and the associated legal sentences. So, someone who may have been found with large quantities of drugs on his/her person for personal use might end up facing a decades-long prison sentence.
In Minnesota, the following drug amounts can trigger trafficking charges:
- 25+ grams of heroin, meth, or cocaine
- 100+ grams of cannabis
- 500+ grams or 500+ doses of amphetamine, hallucinogens, or phencyclidine
- 500+ grams of any other narcotic
Any Minnesota drug crime attorney will tell you that the consequences for drug charges are extremely severe. The state laws here oversee penalties in keeping with the type and quantity of drugs involved, area of distribution, and whether or not children were targeted.
Minnesota Trafficking Charges
Drug trafficking is defined in Chapter 152 of the Minnesota Statutes. A drug trafficking charge can be brought against you if you have been accused of manufacturing or distributing an illegal controlled substance, or if you have been found possessing a large quantity of the substance that exceeds the estimated quantity for personal use.
Sentences for drug trafficking typically range between three and five years to life imprisonment but can be considerably higher when large quantities are involved. In extreme cases, where large amounts of drugs are involved, the accused can be charged with a first-degree felony, which can result in a prison sentence of up to 40 years. More on drug trafficking penalties later.
- Drug Manufacturing Charges
Manufacturing methamphetamines is a first-degree narcotics offense. First-degree drug crimes incur the highest penalties.
- Drug Possession Charges
Possession of illegal narcotics can be a first-, second-, third-, fourth-, or fifth-degree drug offense.
Possessing any amount of a Schedule I, II, III, or IV drug (excepting cannabis amounts not exceeding 42.5 grams) is a fifth-degree drug crime. The best drug crime defense attorneys in Minnesota can negotiate fifth-degree drug charges down in some cases. You may be able to get a gross misdemeanor drug possession charge if:
- It’s your first drug conviction
- You’re arrested with less than 0.25 grams of any narcotic
- You’re arrested with less than .05 grams of heroin
Possession of any amount of a Schedule I, II, or III drug with intent to sell is a fourth-degree offense. These offenses may bring about trafficking charges, too.
Depending on how many grams you possess upon your arrest, you could get a trafficking charge for third-degree possession. Third-degree possession charges include having more than three grams of heroin, 15 kilograms or more of cannabis, and over 10 grams of any other controlled substance.
Possession of 25+ grams of cocaine or methamphetamine, 6+ grams of heroin, 100 doses of a hallucinogen, 25+ kilograms of cannabis or 100 cannabis plants, and 50+ grams of any other controlled narcotic can earn you a second-degree charge.
Having a dangerous weapon when arrested can also advance the offense to a second-degree charge. A drug possession lawyer can help you avoid this consequence and the higher penalties associated with a second-degree drug charge.
First-degree drug charges are the most serious. Possession of 50+ grams of methamphetamine or cocaine, 25+ grams of heroin, 500+ doses of hallucinogens, 50+ kilograms of cannabis, and 500+ grams of any other controlled narcotic are first-degree drug crimes.
- Drug Sale Charges
The sale of illegal drugs can also be a first- through fifth-degree drug crime in Minnesota.
Fifth-degree narcotics offenses include the sale of any amount of cannabis or Schedule IV drugs.
Selling any amount of a Schedule I, II, or III drug automatically triggers a fourth-degree drug charge. Selling a Schedule IV or V drug to a minor is also a fourth-degree offense. Further, fourth-degree charges are common with the sale of any amount of cannabis at a school, park, public housing, or rehab facility.
In Minnesota, it’s a third-degree narcotics offense to sell any amount of cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. It’s also a third-degree crime to sell 5kg or more of cannabis, any amount of other controlled narcotics, or any Schedule I, II, or III drugs to minors.
Second-degree drug offenses include the sale of 17+ grams of cocaine or methamphetamine, 3+ grams of heroin, 10+ kilograms of cannabis, and 10+ grams of any other controlled substance.
Selling 17+ grams of meth or cocaine, 10+ grams of heroin, 200+ doses of hallucinogens, 25+ kilograms of cannabis, or 50+ grams of any other controlled narcotic is a first-degree offense.
Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
Minnesota brings drug trafficking charges on in-state offenses. But as soon as drugs cross over state lines, the government can charge you with a Federal drug trafficking offense.
Drug Trafficking Penalties
In Minnesota, punishments for drug trafficking convictions depend on multiple factors. These factors include which drugs are being trafficked, the amount you’re found in possession of, and any prior drug-related convictions on your record.
Penalties for drug trafficking also increase with aggravating factors. Using or possessing a weapon can also increase drug trafficking penalties.
Minnesota Drug Trafficking Prison Sentences and Fines
The prison sentences served and fines paid in drug trafficking cases depend on the degree of the offense.
First-degree trafficking charges are felonies and come with up to 30 years in prison, up to $1 million in fines, or both. Having prior convictions can increase your punishment. For example, if it’s your second first-degree drug charge, you can earn 4–40 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.
If you’re found with 100 grams or more of an illegal substance, Minnesota enforces a 65-month mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Second-degree trafficking can earn offenders up to 25 years in prison and/or a $500,000 fine. Upon your second second-degree conviction, you’ll have to serve a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence, pay a $500,000 fine, or both. Total prison sentences go up to 40 years for second-time offenses.
A third-degree trafficking charge can get offenders up to 30 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. Fourth-degree trafficking offenses come with 15 years in prison, up to $100,000 in fines, or both. And fifth-degree drug felons with sale convictions can spend up to five years in prison and/or pay a fine of up to $10,000.
Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties
Trafficking drugs across state lines is a serious felony. The state of Minnesota can order these traffickers to spend up to 35 years in prison, pay $1.25 million in fines, or both. Federal penalties for transporting drugs across state lines include $5 million in fines and 5–40 years in Federal prison.
Defending a Drug Trafficking Charge in Minnesota
Considering the above penalties, you don’t want a drug trafficking charge on your record. That’s why you need the best drug crime defense lawyer on your side. Experienced drug crime attorneys in Minnesota employ the following commonly-used defenses to help their clients in attempting to beat a drug trafficking charge.
- Illegal Search and Seizure
Law enforcement authorities need to have probable cause before searching through your personal property to check for possession of illegal drugs. If they did not have a valid warrant or probable cause, it means they violated your Constitutional rights, in which case, your charges may be reduced or dismissed altogether.
- Miranda Violation
Any statement by you on your drug trafficking charge cannot be used against you in court if it was obtained when you were placed under arrest and weren’t familiarized with your right to remain silent. As per the American Constitution, providing any answer to unwarned police questions can be avoided.
- Mistake of Fact
You can defend your charges by stating that you happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And because of this, you were mistaken for the actual offender. This defense can be especially effective if the evidence presented fails to prove that you were involved in the crime in the first place.
- The Lack of Intent
The drug trafficking charge levied against you is rooted in your (or the defendant’s) intent to distribute the controlled substances. The charge may carry no weight if this intent cannot be proven.
For example, suppose you have no knowledge of drugs found in your vehicle. In that case, Minnesota can’t bring drug trafficking charges against you.
- The Lack of Knowledge
When defending your drug trafficking charge, you can also state that you lacked the knowledge that the drugs were on your person to begin with. For instance, you may have been asked to drive a car or a delivery truck from one place to another, without you knowing that the vehicle contained a package of heroin.
- Challenging Proof of Substance
This defense can be employed to refute state-presented evidence. While the state may allege that the substance found in your possession is a controlled substance or an illegal drug, it need not necessarily be so. The state will have to prove to the court that the substance is a drug through scientific evidence. You can then proceed to question the reliability of drug testing with the aim of either suppressing the evidence presented in court or creating doubts on the certainty of said evidence.
- Not Meant for Human Consumption
This defense can work if the material in question is not drugs, but more like cannabinoids used in the production of skin creams. Proving this will render your drug trafficking charge baseless, and it will likely be dropped.
If you can prove that you were trafficking drugs under the threat of you or your family being harmed if you didn’t do so, you may find relief in your case.
- Suppression of Pre-trial Identification
This is a slightly complex one and requires thorough knowledge of the law as well as the Constitution, which does not allow vague and unreliable identification processes. With the help of this defense, law enforcement authorities can be stopped from identifying you (the defendant) in court by proving that the identification procedures (mugshots, witness photos) used by the police were unreliable to begin with.
Consult Our Drug Crime Lawyer in Minnesota for a Positive Outcome
It is crucial for you or any individual who has been charged with drug trafficking to let neither the police nor the judiciary intimidate them. Most importantly, you should never give up hope and remember that you are going to be considered innocent until proven guilty.
The above time-tested defenses are used by most Minnesota drug crime attorneys when defending their clients in drug trafficking cases. If you find yourself in tricky waters, make sure to consult a qualified and experienced lawyer at the earliest.
Call us for a free consultation at (855) 976-2444 today or contact us online. We will help you explore every legal option available and applicable to your case, preserve your rights, and get you the just outcome you deserve.
This article was originally published on July 20, 2020 and updated on August 5, 2021.