Federal Trafficking Crimes

The following are examples of situations where charges of Federal trafficking crimes may be filed:

  • Drug Trafficking Rings: §841. Prohibited acts A
  • Cocaine Trafficking: §841. Prohibited acts A
  • Heroin Trafficking: §841. Prohibited acts A
  • Firearm Trafficking: Bill H. R. 33
  • Sex Trafficking: 22 U.S. Code § 7102
  • Human Trafficking: 22 U.S. Code § 7102

Drug trafficking rings, including cocaine trafficking and heroin trafficking, fall under federal statute §841. Prohibited acts A. The Gun Trafficking Prohibition Act was introduced to Congress on January 3, 2019, to help increase public safety while simultaneously deterring the trafficking of firearms. Sex trafficking, including human trafficking, falls under 22 U.S. Code § 7102.

The Legal Definition of Federal Trafficking Crimes

841. Prohibited acts A, Bill H. R. 33, and 22 U.S. Code § 7102 set out the legal definition of federal trafficking crimes.  Federal trafficking crimes are felonies under federal criminal laws.

The “elements” of federal trafficking crimes are the things that the prosecutor must prove in order for you to be found guilty of this offense. For a defendant to be convicted in a criminal trial for federal trafficking crimes under §841. Prohibited acts A, Bill H. R. 33, and 22 U.S. Code § 7102, all of the following must be true:

  1. Criminal Act: First, the government must prove a criminal act has occurred.
  2. Criminal Intent: Second, the government must prove criminal intent.  According to the Model Penal Code, this means the accused was acting either purposely, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently.
  3. Crime of Violence: According to 18 U.S.C. § 16, the defendant must have used physical force against another individual or used the property to cause physical force against another person.
  4. Causation: This means the prosecution must prove there was a negative outcome according to the defendant’s actions.

Let’s delve a bit more deeply into these elements of the crime of federal trafficking crimes to understand their meaning better.

Element #1: Criminal Act

  • The definition of a criminal act is when the prosecution must prove the act was criminal. Therefore, the legal Latin phrase “actus reus” is used by lawyers to describe this “guilty action” element of the crime. 
  • What this means is, the accused must be proven to have actual possession of the drug or individual with the intent to traffic.
    • Example #1: Jason’s attorney had to prove he had heroin hidden on his boat.
    • Example #2: Authorities seized Jason’s boat and found the heroin. It’s Jason’s attorney’s job to prove it belonged to Jason with the intent to traffic.

Element #2: Criminal Intent

  • The definition of criminal intent is when an individual is acting with purpose, knowledge of the crime, in a reckless manner, or with negligence.
  • The accused knows what they’re doing is a crime, but they’re still going forward with it in a purposeful, reckless, or negligent manner.
    • Example #1: Kim knew she was recruiting girls for a sex trafficking ring, but she did it anyway because she liked the kickbacks.
    • Example #2: Kim’s participation in the ring included gaining the trust of the girls, and then luring them to the final location.

Element #3: Crime of Violence

  • The definition of a crime of violence is when physical force is used against another individual.
  • When a crime of violence occurs, the accused is using physical force or using a piece of property to exert physical force on another person.
    • Example #1: Richard used a taser and knife to threaten his victims.
    • Example #2: If his victims didn’t cooperate, he would use the taser on them or put the knife to their necks.

Element #4: Causation

  • The definition of causation is when the defendant has a negative outcome as a result of their actions.
  • If the person standing accused is doing something that has been causing negative results that can be defined as criminal.
    • Example #1: David agreed to drive the moving truck from Massachusetts to Georgia even though it wasn’t his and collect a fee.
    • Example #2: David knew it was full of illegal contraband, but took it across state lines anyway.

Related Offenses

Charges of federal trafficking crimes may be brought in addition to, or place of, charges for certain other related offenses, including:

Related Offense #1: Money Laundering

  • The definition of money laundering is when criminal activity occurs that generates a large sum of money, and it needs to be moved to make it look like it’s being received from a legitimate source.
  • If a criminal act, such as drug trafficking, occurs and it generates large sums of money, it must be moved to another location to make it look like it was earned legitimately or it’s a legitimate investment.
    • Example #1: Carl received funds from the drug trafficking ring he operated and funneled it through investments his bookkeeper, Amy, operated.
    • Example #2: Carl’s bookkeeper, Amy, made sure the investments included real estate and businesses that would generate clean funds.

Related Offense #2: Tax Evasion

  • The definition of tax evasion is when an individual attempts to underpay or avoid paying their taxes by filing a false return, keeping double books, making false invoices, concealing sources of income, destroying records, holding property in another’s name, or overstating deductions.
  • Tax evasion occurs when an individual falsifies their bookkeeping to make it look like they’re operating a legitimate business and should make tax payments according to those business practices. Therefore, they falsify those records to cover up the criminal activities occurring behind the scenes.
    • Example #1: Whitney’s accountant kept two sets of books for her business so the IRS wouldn’t know they were operating illegally.
    • Example #2: Whitney believed her business practices would go undetected as long her records were kept separately.

Related Offense #3: Prostitution

  • The definition of prostitution is when individuals trade sex acts for money.
  • In nearly all of the fifty states, like in Nevada where strict regulations are present, it’s illegal for someone to trade sex acts for monetary compensation either willingly or by force.
    • Example #1: Deanna was taken from the streets by a pimp named Dan to become a prostitute in a motel he owned.
    • Example #2: Even though Deanna was willingly prostituting herself before she was taken, she was being forced in Dan’s motel.

Essential and Impactful Cases:

  • Drug trafficking organizer sentenced to 97 months in prison
  • State Police arrest 3 in Bernardston for trafficking in cocaine, heroin, and possession of prescription drugs
  • Feds Arrest Two in Marijuana, Cash and Firearms Case
  • Brian Folks convicted of sex and drug trafficking in forcing and coercing heroin-addicted women to prostitute
  • Arrests Made in 2 DC Human-Trafficking Cases Involving Teenagers

How These Cases Further Define the Written Statutes?

Each of these cases further defines the written statutes because they’re examples of trafficking in its various forms. These cases explain what will happen when those who are involved with the crime are charged and receive their sentence, as well.

How These Cases Have an Impact on the Defense and Clients?

When an individual is accused of a crime, and there’s enough evidence against them, an arrest occurs. These cases outline how the charges, arrest, conviction, and sentencing impact the defendants. The defense works with the clients in the capacity that all are innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, when arrests occur, and individuals need representation, attornies will work with the accused in their best interests.

Entities Involved in Detection, Investigation, and Prosecution of Trafficking Crimes:

  • State Prosecutors
  • The District Attorney
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

What is the prosecution like?

The prosecution must prove the elements of the case including that the defendant was conducting a criminal act, they had criminal intent, it was a crime of violence, and they had causation.

The ultimate goal is to prevent individuals from participating in all forms of trafficking including drug trafficking rings, cocaine trafficking, heroin trafficking, firearms trafficking, sex trafficking, and human trafficking.

Penalties for Violating

Federal trafficking crimes is a felony. The potential penalties include:

The penalties for federal trafficking crimes in most cases include:

  • a fine of up to $2-10 million; and/or
  • Imprisonment for up to 10 years.

Sentencing Enhancements

The penalties for federal trafficking crimes are steeper if (describe actions that may lead to a sentencing enhancement.)

Specifically, you face heightened penalties if you:

  • If serious injury or death occurs, no less than 20 years in prison on the first offense for drug trafficking.
  • If death occurs, life imprisonment for drug trafficking on the first and second offense.
  • Penalties for human trafficking include sentences for up to 15 years to life, as well as fines for $1,500,000.
  • Regarding firearms trafficking, if the firearm is brandished, no less than seven years in prison. If the firearm is discharged, no less than ten years in prison.
  • Sex and human trafficking penalties could result in twenty years to life in prison.

If your case falls into one of these categories—and you knew or reasonably should have known that they did—then the maximum sentence will increase to life in prison.

The maximum fine for federal trafficking crimes also increases to $10 million.

Additional Consequences of Being Convicted

Federal trafficking crimes are serious offenses and could lead to lifelong consequences. In addition to the defendant experiencing a loss of their license to practice their profession, they’ll also tarnish their company’s reputation. If the defendant is found guilty, because these charges are so severe, the individual will also likely lose their business and potentially become barred from the industry within which they were working.

Regarding financial losses, the defendant will experience a significant amount. Not only will they experience financial loss from liquidating their assets to pay fines and fees but also legal counsel. There will also be a financial loss experienced when the defendant is missing work from fighting their case.

Tarnishment of the defendant’s business reputation will not be the only thing they need to worry about when they’re released from prison. The severity of the felony conviction carries lifelong consequences including having difficulty finding employment, as well as decent housing.

Legal Defenses to Federal Trafficking Crimes

Nobody wants to go to jail or pay a fine—and nobody wants a conviction for federal trafficking crimes on their record.

People may start to associate you with this crime, even though they do not understand the specifics of your case.

There are several powerful legal defenses you can use to fight these charges.

They include:

Defense #1: Actual Possession

  • One of the defenses for federal trafficking crimes is that the defendant must be in actual possession of illegal substances in the minimum quantities in the case of drug trafficking or individuals in the case of human or sex trafficking.
    • Example of a court case describing this defense: Three area people among 15 indicted on federal drug charges
    • Example: The prosecution has to prove that Penny was in possession of the illicit drugs, as well as their amounts when she was pulled over.

Defense #2: Constitutional Investigation

  • The second defense for federal trafficking crimes is that the defendant must have been read their Miranda Rights during their arrest and that all parts of the investigation against them were Constitutional.
    • Example of a court case describing this defense: Farmington woman faces additional drug trafficking charge
    • Example: The defense was able to prove that a warrant wasn’t issued before Craig’s home and the vehicle was searched by the FBI.

Defense #3: Government’s Case

  • The third defense for federal trafficking crimes is that the defendant must be proven guilty in every element of the government’s case.
    • Example of a court case describing this defense: Pastor in Toledo child sex trafficking case enters guilty plea
    • Example: Alex’s attorney examined each element of the prosecution’s case to search for weaknesses when working on his defense strategy.

Defense #4: Witness Credibility

  • The fourth defense for federal trafficking crimes is that the defendant must be proven guilty with credible witnesses from the prosecution that doesn’t involve snitches or individuals who have been under investigation for another crime.
    • Example of a court case describing this defense: Police claim human trafficking suspect tried to intimidate witnesses
    • Example: The witnesses testifying against Catherine were under investigation for another crime so their testimony couldn’t be used in court.

Call Us for Help…

For questions about §841. Prohibited acts A, Bill H. R. 33, and 22 U.S. Code § 7102 and federal trafficking crimes, or to discuss your case confidentially with one of our criminal defense attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us. Our team of professionals will provide you with the representation you need during questioning and interrogation, as well as when you need to negotiate and communicate with agencies and investigators. We have local criminal defense attorneys  in your area.