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Trafficking & Selling Drugs: What's the Difference?


If you have been accused of committing a drug crime, for which you have been subsequently arrested and charged, you need to exactly what the prosecution is claiming you did if you want to adequately defend yourself. In particular, it can be understandably easy to mix up the legal definitions of trafficking drugs and selling drugs. They both involve drugs exchanging hands so they are similar, but the details of the crimes are what sets them apart.

  1. Drug sale: Law enforcement agencies generally consider the sale of illegal drugs a “street level” crime, or a commonly-occurring criminal violation that affects only a handful of people. If you are convicted of selling an illicit or controlled substance to another person, you can expect low-level felony charges, such as more than a year in jail and several thousand dollars in fines. You will be prosecuted but the overall commotion generated by your case will not be widespread.
  2. Drug trafficking: Actually moving drugs from one place to another, either for storage or to prepare for a large sale, is typically considered a high-level felony and a much more serious crime than the end result of selling drugs on the street. If law enforcement catches you allegedly trafficking drugs, you need to prepare for the full force of the government to crash down on you, as the DEA and FBI may get involved. They assume that you are connected to a drug cartel or criminal syndicate and will want to use your arrest and case as a way to find and prosecute other individuals that could be tied to your crime.

Sometimes the same action can constitute trafficking or selling an illegal drug, or both crimes at once. When there is a considerable amount of a substance exchanging hands, the law could label it as trafficking. If there is only a slight amount that is probably only going to be used by one person, the law will call it selling. Even the packaging of the drug in question can escalate a sale crime to trafficking if law enforcement believes it “looks professional.”

No matter what drug crime you have been arrested for, you can defend yourself against the charges. Contact our Mesa criminal defense attorneys from Naegle & Crider. We can bring the full power of our law firm to your case and shield you against a criminal justice system that is already assuming you are guilty. Call 480.418.0776 for a free consultation.

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