Imagine this. You get busted by the local cops. They say you’re going to be charged with trafficking drugs. They do their best to scare you. At some point, someone new comes in and tell you you’re going to be charged by the feds. What does this mean? Is it a scare tactic? Are they allowed to do this?
If you are charged with drug trafficking in Minnesota, most of the time your offense will be handled at the state level – but not always. Sometimes, federal prosecutors will decide to take the case.
Why? Does it matter?
In this post, we’ll explain why law enforcement officials may charge you at the federal level versus the state level, and why it’s so important to fight your charges with an experienced Minnesota criminal lawyer.
Minnesota Drug Trafficking Charges
Both Minnesota state laws and federal laws consider drug trafficking a serious offense. It is the sale, transport, import and/or manufacture of illegal controlled substances. The penalty level varies according to the both the amount and type of the drug in question. If children were targeted as consumers or present during the sale or manufacture, penalties can be raised.
Something important to note: you can be charged with drug trafficking even if the district attorney does not have direct evidence that you distributed or manufactured drugs. This is because drug trafficking charges depend heavily on the amount of drugs in question. If the cache of drugs is large enough, the district attorney can assume that you had the intent to distribute the drugs rather than restrict them for personal use. In other words, to traffic them.
Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
How do the courts decide if your charges will be filed at the state or federal level?
Technically, the federal government has the power to take on any offense that exists as a drug crime under federal law. Typically, however, they won’t move a case up to the federal level unless the drug transporting operation involves two or more states or countries.
Additionally, a Minnesota-only drug trafficking case may be moved up to federal court if the trafficking ring is large enough, or if the alleged drug dealer is a key player in a large operation within the state.
If your case is tried at the federal level, you will be subject to tougher penalties and minimum mandatory sentences, along with required parole terms.
Here is the basic tier of which drug charges can be tried at the federal level.
Cocaine – 500-4999 grams
Cocaine base – 5-49 grams
Fentanyl – 40-399 grams
Fentanyl Analogue – 10-99 grams
Heroin – 100-999 grams
LSD – 1-9 grams
Methamphetamine – 5-49 grams pure or 50-499 grams mixture
PCP – 10-99 grams pure or 100-999 grams mixture
A federal conviction for any of these will result in harsh penalties – even for a first offense
You could serve up to 40 years in federal prison, and there is a five-year minimum mandatory sentence. If serious injury or death occurred, your sentence could be up to life in prison with a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence. You will also be required to pay between $2 million and $5 million in fines.
Federal Trafficking Charges Drastically Increase the Stakes of Your Case
As you can see, while charges are serious at the state level, federal cases are a whole different beast. You will need to have someone on your side who is not only familiar with drug statutes, but also federal criminal procedure.
Ignore this at your peril.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).