Opium Distribution and Drug Trafficking Charges
Federal court is different. Most criminal defense lawyers are not experienced in defending federal crimes or cases involving opium. In federal court, the prosecutors, judges, juries, and procedures are different than they are in California state court. Whether property was seized with or without a warrant, the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg can provide a practical, tailored defense based on our extensive experience in Federal courts in Los Angeles.
Federal Prosecutors Focus on Large-Amounts of Opium
Most of the world’s opium is grown and cultivated in Afghanistan. Some Opium also comes from Mexico. As a result, federal law enforcement agencies are primarily concerned with the distribution and trafficking of opium.
When Federal Customs agents, the DEA or FBI get involved in an opium case, they generally aren’t looking for a single user. They are looking for significant amounts of opium, which is evidence of a conspiracy to make, sell, or distribute opium.
The most common mistake made by people arrested in connection with a opium case is to assume that their involvement was too minor to be a real problem. That is not how federal conspiracy law works. Under 18 U.S.C. Sections 371 and 846, when people are charged with participating in a conspiracy they can be found guilty of all the illegal acts committed by any member of the conspiracy. Thus, for example, even someone who had a relatively small role in an opium operation, such as allegedly picking up or transporting just one shipment, is charged with the overall conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, or sell opium. In other words, every person involved in a federal opium case can face extremely long prison sentences, even if their personal involvement is limited.
Understand Your Federal Rights in Opium Drug Cases
Because federal agencies are focused on uncovering conspiracies, they take a different approach to conducting interviews and interrogations than most local police departments. In an effort to encourage people to talk and share information, FBI, DEA, and Immigration agents often know more than they disclose. Thus, they may tell someone that they are only a witness. They may leave their business card on someone’s windshield or door. They don’t disclose, however, that they may have already obtained damaging documents or statements from other people about the “witness” they are encouraging to talk.
Don’t do it. Ever. Never talk to a federal agent or prosecutor before first speaking with an experienced federal opium defense lawyer. This can be the single most important step you can take to help yourself. And if you have already started talking to federal agents, stop and call an experienced opium lawyer ASAP. This single step can be the difference between serving a long prison sentence or getting a much better result.
Distribution of Opium
Opium is the dried latex that is derived from the opium poppy plant. The plant is sliced open and the latex oozes out. It is then left to dry where it forms a yellowish residue, which is opium in its pure form. The Opium Poppy is also used to derive heroin.
The use of opium dates back to pre-historic times, when it was the best and sometimes only painkiller available. Opium contains two primary active ingredients—morphine and codeine. .
The United States government has been regulating opium since 1909, when it passed The Smoking Opium Exclusion Act. Today, under the Controlled Substances Act, opium is classified as a Class II Controlled Substance. A Class II Controlled Substance is one that has a high potential for abuse, and that abuse may lead to severe dependence.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will use a variety of evidence to determine whether they feel someone is trafficking in opium. The amount of opium involved is important evidence of an intent to distribute. Federal law enforcement agencies are particularly interested in large-scale distribution networks. Likewise, prosecutors will look to evidence of distribution-related activities such scales, large sums of cash, communications records, and records of financial transactions.
Penalties for Manufacture and/or Distribution Opium
Penalties for distribution of opium are not dependent on the quantity of opium involved. The penalties do, however, vary for first and second offenses, and on whether serious bodily harm or death results from the opium trafficking.
First felony drug offense: Up to 20 years.
Second felony drug offense: Up to 30 years.
If serious bodily injury or death results from use of Opium, the maximum penalty even for a first offense is life in prison.
Federal Law Enforcement of Opium Trafficking
Federal law enforcement agencies regularly make arrests in the Los Angeles area for opium trafficking and distribution. The history of opium-related prosecutions suggests that many of the people who are accused of trafficking opium in the Los Angeles area have some connection to Iran or are part of the vibrant Persian community in Southern California. Here is a sample of some opium-related arrests:
- In 2011, United States Custom and Borders officials arrested a man at LAX after finding 9 pounds of opium hidden in his luggage. The man flew to Los Angeles from Amsterdam.
- In June, 2012, a man flying from Iran was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after he was found to have 5.3 pounds of opium hidden in a rice cooker.
- The Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, working together with the IRS, Glendale Police, and Los Angeles District Attorney’s office arrested 11 people in connection with an opium trafficking ring that was allegedly headed by the Persian-American owner of a jewelry store located in Downtown Los Angeles.
Although opium doesn’t get the press attention that many other drugs do, it is certainly on the radar of federal law enforcement agencies in the Los Angeles area.
Work With an Experience Federal Opium Defense Lawyer
There are four federal courthouses in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Bernardino counties. Two are located in downtown, and generally handle federal opium cases that originate in Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. The Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse is located in Santa Ana and handles Orange County cases. The George Brown Federal Courthouse is located in Riverside and handles cases from Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Each of these courthouses has separate judges and the Santa Ana and Riverside courthouses use a different jury pool than the two Los Angeles Courthouses.
The Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg has years of experience in defending federal drug cases and negotiating with local federal prosecutors. Whether it involves representing people who have told that they are only “witnesses” in an opium case, or thoroughly reviewing police searches and seizures of client property that were conducted with or without a warrant, we are able to provide an aggressive and practical defense in opium cases based on our extensive experience in Federal court.