Federal Drug Importation Defense Lawyer in Los Angeles

Most lawyers aren’t experienced in defending criminal cases in federal court, where the prosecutors, judges, and juries are different than they are in California state court. At the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg, we use our extensive federal court experience to aggressively defend people who have any involvement in a case in which someone is either under investigation or has been charged in a Southern California federal court with importing drugs into the United States.

Special Penalties Apply To Bringing Drugs Into the United States

Federal law makes it a crime to traffic drugs. Most drug charges involve drug trafficking within one place in the United States to another. Special penalties apply to the importation of drugs — bringing drugs from outside the United States into the country. Specifically, 21 U.S.C. Section 952 makes it a crime to bring into the country any Schedule I or II drug (such as heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine, PCP, cocaine, or any narcotic). Under 21 U.S.C Section 954, this prohibition applies even when the United States is not the intended final destination of the drug. It is also a crime to transship controlled substances, with the intent of moving them outside the United States.

The federal drug importation rules can also be violated even if the controlled substances don’t actually reach the United States. Specifically, under 21 U.S.C. Sections 955 and 959, possession, manufacture, and distribution of a controlled substance applies to a boat, aircraft or other vessel that is within 12 miles of the coast of the United States or is intended to be with in the territorial waters of the United States. Thus, acts that take place outside the country can violate the laws against drug importation even if the drugs never actually reach the United States.

Penalties for Drug Importation of Controlled Substances

The penalties for violating federal drug importation laws depend in part on the drug involved, the quantities seized, whether use of the drug caused serious bodily injury or death, and whether the person charged has prior drug-related convictions. All the penalties are severe. Even a first conviction for a relatively small quantity of a controlled substance, where no injury or death results, is subject to a minimum 10-year prison sentence and a large fine.

Federal Prosecutors Focus on Drug Importation Conspiracies

Under 21 U.S.C. Section 963, any person who is found to be part of a drug importation conspiracy can be penalized as if they committed every crime committed by any member of the conspiracy. This is true even if someone’s individual actions are minor, or if they have never met anyone else associated with the conspiracy. Because bringing drugs into the United States almost always involves a group of people, federal prosecutors aggressively bring conspiracy charges against anyone who might be able to help prosecutors identify other potential members of the conspiracy. FBI, DEA, and other federal agents therefore encourage people to talk by telling them that they are “only witnesses.” As an experienced criminal defense lawyer in federal court, be sure of this: It is always better to talk to a criminal defense lawyer before talking to any federal law enforcement agent. Always.

Federal Drug Importation Laws Also Apply to Prescription Drugs

The United States Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. Section 331) prohibits the importation of unapproved new drugs. This includes importing prescription drugs such as Valium that are available in the United States. Because many prescription drugs are substantially cheaper in Canada and Mexico, individuals have increasingly imported them into the country as way to save money.

As with illegal drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine, federal agents focus on uncovering large-scale operations rather than on people who import a drug for their personal use. Nonetheless, contrary to what many people mistakenly believe, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Food and Drug Administration do investigate cases where prescription drugs are brought into the country. Prosecutions for bringing in large quantities of prescription drugs from abroad are subject to long prison sentences.

How a Federal Drug Importation Defense Lawyer Can Help

Local Expertise in Federal Courts. Given how extreme are the potential punishments under federal law for the importation of controlled substances and prescription drugs, it is critical that you work with an experienced federal drug defense lawyer. Whether your situation involves the DEA, FBI, or ICE, or whether you may only be a “witness” in a drug importation case, or have been accused of being more actively involved in a federal drug importation conspiracy, the Law Offices of Jerod Gunsberg will aggressively defend any drug importation-related charge based on our extensive experience.

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