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What Are the Best Defenses for Drug Trafficking Cases?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Jun 30, 2022

Drug trafficking crimes refer to helping others to move drugs. For example, if you're selling meth, you've got to transport it to others to sell, known as trafficking and often called drug distribution.

Trafficking is an illegal act of making, manufacturing, transporting, or selling a controlled substance, including prescription drugs. It's one of the most severe drug-related charges you could face, and state and federal law enforcement authorities aggressively pursue drug trafficking offenses.

Most drug trafficking cases are prosecuted in state courts, but they could be charged as a federal crime if any of the following occurred:

  • Drug trafficking activities involved crossing state lines or international borders,
  • The crime was on federally-owned land, or
  • It was part of a large-scale drug trafficking ring.

Drug trafficking under 21 U.S.C.  841 is the crime of unlawfully manufacturing, selling, transporting, or importing illegal drugs or controlled substances, including narcotics or prescription drugs.

If you are arrested with drug paraphernalia such as scales and baggies, then the prosecutor will likely believe you were involved in drug trafficking.

You could be charged with trafficking for the amount of a drug you have on you. For example, If you carry more than fifty kilograms of marijuana, you could face trafficking rather than possession charges.

Sale or Transportation of Controlled Substances – Health and Safety Code 11352 HS

Health and Safety Code Section 11352 HS makes it a felony to sell or transport controlled substances, which are narcotics or drugs covered by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Put simply, it's a crime to sell, furnish, administer, give away, or transport controlled substances, including cocaine, heroin, hallucinogenic substances such as peyote, and “date rape” drugs such as GHB.

Sale or Transportation of Controlled Substances - Health and Safety Code 11352 HS

Some controlled substances are prohibited by other California statutes, such as methamphetamine and marijuana. For instance, Health and Safety Code 11379 describes the crime of sale or transportation of methamphetamine. HS 1160 defines the sale or transport of marijuana.

Section 11352 is a broad provision to cover illegal drugs which are not explicitly covered individually under other conditions.  Health and Safety Code 11352 HS makes it a crime to:

  • Sell a controlled substance;
  • Transport drugs with intent to sell;
  • Furnish, administer, or give drugs to other people;
  • Making an offer to perform these acts listed above

HS 11352 is a felony drug crime with a sentence of up to nine years in jail and a fine of up to $20,000.

What are the Related Crimes?

  • Health and Safety Code 11351 HS – drug possession for sales;
  • Health and Safety Code 11359 HS – possession of marijuana for sales;
  • Health and Safety Code 11360 HS – sell or transport marijuana;
  • Health and Safety Code 11366 HS – operate a drug house;
  • Health and Safety Code 11370.9 HS – money laundering from drugs;
  • Health and Safety Code 11378 HS – possession of meth for sales;
  • Health and Safety Code 11379 HS – sell or transport methamphetamine.

The Narcotics Unit of the District Attorney's Office was Disbanded

Over the past 30 years, I've defended thousands of drug trafficking cases and come up with some ideas. Especially in today's climate, you have to realize that at least in Los Angeles County, the prosecutor who is in charge as I make this post has disbanded the major narcotics unit of the district attorney's office.

This is enormous because people who were getting caught with large amounts of drugs were spending multiple years in prison. Now that that unit has been disbanded, that has cut down on some of these harsh sentences for those involved with drug trafficking.

On the flip side of that, they still have the same prosecutors in a lot of cases handling the drug trafficking cases, so those prosecutors are still, in some circumstances, trying to seek extensive sentences even though the DA's office is not, as far as their leadership goes, heavily attempting to prosecute and put these individuals away for a long time.

So, you have a little conflict between the leadership of the DA's office in Los Angeles and the prosecutors on the line handling these cases.

Review of the Specific Details of Your Drug Case

So, that sometimes makes it difficult for defense attorneys, especially those who don't know what they're doing and haven't handled a lot of these drug trafficking cases.

That's why you want to get somebody like me who's been doing this for 30 years.  I worked for the DA's office in the early 1990s, and I worked for a superior court judge, and finally, in 1994, I became a criminal defense attorney and started defending people just like you or your loved one, whatever the case may be.

Case Review for Drug Trafficking Charges

So, you've come to the right place.  We have you come in, sit down and go over the case and talk about some angles and ideas that can be used depending on the circumstances of your particular case.

If you don't have a criminal record and it's one of those street narcotics cases where there's an argument that you're using drugs and selling at the same time, sometimes we can get a non-sales case or a non-trafficking-related offense which puts you in a much better position much less likely to be sent to prison.

If, on the other hand, you're dealing with vast quantities of drugs, the feds often get involved. If the feds don't get involved, at least now you're not going to be dealing with the significant narcotics unit because they're not operating anymore, but we still have to deal with the prosecutor.

Special enhancements can still be filed against you in the criminal complaint because there's a massive amount of drugs.  There are weight allegations that can add 5, 10, 15, or 20 years to a sentence.

How Can You Determine What Defenses to Use for Drug Charges?

So, you want to take these drug trafficking charges seriously, even though many drug-related offenses have been watered down. Many of these charges – even possession – that were once felonies are now misdemeanors.  Marijuana has been legalized.

Many things are moving in a positive direction if you're charged with a trafficking offense. When I started, they sent people to prison and gave it out like candy. So, you want to do the best you can to get an attorney who can look at your situation and decide whether you have any defenses:

  • Was there an illegal search?
  • Was there an illegal stop?
  • How did they get to you?
  • Were there wiretaps going on?

There are all sorts of different angles the police can use.  That's number one.  First, decide if you can file any motions. Second, determine if you can fight the case. If you can fight the case, then we set up a trial plan and go to trial, but if you can't fight the case, then we need to work out a resolution.

We need to set up a game plan to mitigate things, get character letters, see any weaknesses in the case that we can mention to the prosecutors, and obviously, do everything we can to bring you the best possible result.

So, if you have a drug trafficking offense and need the best, pick up the phone now.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles, California, and provides a free case evaluation by phone or using the contact form.

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.