The term “drug trafficking” can be a little confusing. It does not necessarily mean moving drugs from one place to another, although that may be part of the charge. Rather, it means possessing a controlled substance in sufficient quantities that law enforcement could reasonably assume that you intend to sell it to others rather than use it yourself.
Penalties for a federal drug trafficking charge can be severe. However, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the severity of the penalties you face depends on several factors.
The drug schedule of the substance
Drug schedules are categories that organize drugs based on how potentially harmful they are versus how useful they are as medication. There are five drug schedules, which you can differentiate by their Roman numerals. Schedule I substances have no accepted medical uses and a high abuse potential. Penalties for trafficking Schedule I substances are generally higher than for trafficking drugs with lower abuse potential.
The amount of the substance
The more potent a drug is, the more potentially dangerous it is and the less you have to possess to face drug trafficking charges. With some Schedule I substances, you can face trafficking charges for possessing any amount.
Your criminal record
It makes a difference if this is your first drug trafficking offense or if you have a prior history of drug trafficking conviction. Penalties tend to be relatively lighter for a first offense, though still quite severe. For example, for a first offense, you could spend 10 or 15 years in prison rather than 20 or 30 years.
Bear in mind that even certain medications could result in drug trafficking charges if you possess them without a valid prescription.