Many drug crime defendants are surprised to discover that they were charged with drug trafficking instead of drug distribution or even possession. Such charges will be especially surprising for those who never engaged in the sale or distribution of drugs. Nevertheless, drug trafficking charges could come about simply on the basis of the quantity of illegal substances involved.

If authorities suspect that you are in possession of a large quantity of drugs — and particularly if they have proof to support the possession — they might assume that you intended to sell them. In fact, a drug trafficking conviction can occur even if there isn’t proof that someone was selling the drugs. The intention to distribute or traffic drugs is sufficient to result in a conviction, and a court might infer this intention when the quantity of drugs is sizable.

Because drug trafficking is a far more serious offense than drug possession, a conviction of drug trafficking will result in more severe punishments. This is why many criminal defendants accused of trafficking or distribution may try to get their charges downgraded from drug distribution to drug dealing or drug possession. The average prison sentence related to a drug trafficking conviction is three to five years. If it’s a subsequent offense — or depending on the type and quantity of the illegal substance involved — a defendant could even spend life in prison for a drug trafficking conviction.

Because the punishments for a drug crime conviction can be particularly serious, defendants may want to retain an experienced criminal law attorney who can craft a viable defense against the charges.