Los Angeles Drug Importation Attorney
Drugs come into the United States from other countries on a consistent basis. Many of these substances are lawfully imported so that they can be sold as over-the-counter or prescription medications. However, the U.S. also receives unlawfully imported drugs daily. The U.S. has very strict laws regarding what can come into the country and how it can travel here. That is why businesses and individuals have to deal with customs, even when they are taking a simple overseas vacation or business trip. For medications and research drugs to enter the county, the parties involved must adhere to the Federal Controlled Substances Import and Export Act, amongst all other import regulations.
If you are accused of not complying with U.S. importation laws and illegally importing drugs into the country, then you can face federal drug charges. If this is the situation you are in, you should contact a Los Angeles drug importation attorney at Spolin Law P.C.
We have experience defending against California and federal drug offenses. To discuss how we can help you, contact us online, or call (310) 424-5816 to schedule a free case consultation with a drug attorney.
Federal Drug Importation Charges
Because importation charges involve drugs from outside the U.S. or outside the customs territory entering the country, it is a federal matter. The federal government typically handles crimes that cross state or national borders, because it impacts interstate commerce. This is true even when the allegedly unlawful importation of drugs is a small quantity.
21 U.S. Code § 952 outlines federal drug importation charges. The statute declares it is unlawful to import any Schedule I or II controlled substance; any Schedule II, IV, or V narcotic drug; or ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine into the customs territory of the country. It is also illegal to import any non-narcotic controlled substance in Schedule III, IV, or V.
Under 21 U.S. Code § 955, it is illegal to possess or bring onboard any vessel or aircraft, arriving or departing the U.S., any Schedule I or II controlled substance, or any narcotic drug in Schedule III or IV. The only exception to this statute is if the drug is lawfully part of the cargo of the vessel.
Under 21 U.S. Code § 959, it is illegal for you to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance in Schedule I or II with:
- Intending the substance be unlawfully imported into the U.S. or waters within 12 miles of the U.S. coast
- Knowing that such a substance will be unlawfully imported into the U.S. or into waters within 12 miles of the U.S. coast
If you find yourself facing charges for violating any of the above laws, contact a Los Angeles drug importation attorney from our firm right away.
What is the US Customs Territory?
A region that is mentioned throughout the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act is the U.S. customs territory. Understanding what this region entails may be important for your case. The U.S. customs territory includes the continental U.S., Hawaii, Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
All other U.S. territories are controlled separately, including Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Minor Outlying Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands. The United States has 16 other territories in total, which are not part of the nation’s customs territory.
Examples of Unlawful Drug Importation
When you hear the terms “import” and “export,” you likely think of major shipments controlled by businesses. It is true that importation of goods, including drugs, is often handled by businesses. Individuals within those businesses can break the law. Healthcare professionals and drug companies can be found unlawfully importing large amounts of controlled substances. It could be that the business was intentionally trying to obtain larger quantities of drugs than they were approved to import. The business could have also not properly registered with the government to bring controlled substances into the country. Whatever the underlying violation of the law, owners, officers, and employees of those companies can face criminal charges. Depending on the type of drug and the quantity, they may also be charged with federal drug trafficking crimes.
Importation is simply the bringing of goods into the country from abroad. As an individual, you import goods when you order something from another country, or if you purchase drugs while abroad and attempt to bring them back by plane or boat without notifying customs. If you unlawfully order drugs from another country, because you cannot obtain them in the U.S. or because it is cheaper that way, you could also face federal charges. This is true even if you purchased a small quantity of drugs for your own medicinal use.
If you’re facing charges for allegedly importing drugs into the country and you want to contest the charges, call a Los Angeles drug importation attorney right away. The consequences of a conviction for such a crime can have long-lasting effects, so it is vitally important to retain legal help as early as possible.
Federal Penalties for Unlawful Drug Importation
For a first-time offense of illegal importation of drugs, you face at least 10 years in prison. You can be sentenced to life in prison if you unlawfully import:
- One kilogram or more of a substance containing heroin
- Five kilograms or more of a substance containing coca leaves, cocaine, cocaine salts, and isomers
- 280 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine base
- 100 grams or more of PCP, or one kilogram or more of a mixture containing PCP
- 10 grams or more of a substance containing LSD
- 400 grams or more of a substance containing fentanyl
- 1,000 kilograms or more of a substance containing marijuana
- 100 grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, or isomers; or one kilogram or more of a substance containing meth or its salts or isomers
If anyone was seriously hurt or killed because of the offense, or if you have a previous drug conviction, then you face a minimum of 20 years in prison.
You may face between five and 40 years’ imprisonment if you unlawfully imported:
- 100 grams or more of a substance containing heroin
- 500 grams or more of a substance containing coca leaves, cocaine, cocaine salts, and isomers
- 28 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine base
- 10 grams or more of PCP, or 100 grams or more of a mixture containing PCP
- One gram or more of a substance containing LSD
- 40 grams or more of a substance containing fentanyl
- 100 kilograms or more of a substance containing marijuana
- Five grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts or isomers; or 50 grams or more of a substance containing meth or its salts or isomers
If someone was hurt or killed, then you face between 20 years and life for these lesser quantities.
For smaller amounts of these drugs, the penalties are still serious. You may be sentenced to up to five years in prison and one or two years of supervised release if you imported:
- Less than 50 kilograms of marijuana (except if you had 50 or more marijuana plants, regardless of weight)
- Less than 10 kilograms of hashish
- Less than one kilogram of hashish oil
- Any quantity of Schedule III, IV, or V controlled substances
In addition to incarceration, if you’re found guilty of a drug importation offense, you will have to pay steep fines, and you may face custody, child visitation, and employment issues. For help avoiding these harsh penalties, contact a Los Angeles drug importation attorney from Spolin Law P.C. today.
Let a Los Angeles Drug Importation Attorney Defend You
If you have been accused of illegally importing controlled substances into the U.S., you need to contact a Los Angeles drug importation attorney right away. Even allegations of importing a small quantity of a drug could lead to years in federal prison.
When a skilled, aggressive criminal defense lawyer from Spolin Law P.C. is on your case, we will protect your rights. We will thoroughly investigate the evidence to determine the holes in the prosecutor’s case, and to determine your strongest defense strategies. We will then discuss your options, including the best and worst-case scenarios of going to trial.
To learn more about how we can help you after you have been charged with illegal importation of drugs, schedule a free consultation by contacting us through our online form, or by calling (310) 424-5816.