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Drug Importation or Exportation

Importing or exporting drugs can result in federal criminal charges. This crime involves transporting illegal or unauthorized prescription drugs into the U.S. or out of it without legal authorization. The unlawful importation of a drug means bringing it into the U.S. with the intent to distribute or sell it. Exportation of a controlled substance involves transporting it from the U.S. to another country. Importing and exporting controlled substances without the legal authority to do so is illegal under federal criminal laws. Anyone involved in importing or exporting or attempting to import or export illegal or unlawfully obtained controlled substances into or out of the U.S. can be arrested and face federal criminal charges.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and its amendments classifies certain drugs into schedules, depending on the medical benefits and potential for abuse. The scheduled controlled substances fall into five schedules, with Schedule I including substances that are deemed to be of no medical value and have a high potential for addiction and abuse. While there are many different scheduled controlled substances, some examples of drugs following into the different schedules and the definitions of the types of drugs that fall into each schedule are described below.

Schedule I Controlled Substances

Drugs that are classed as Schedule I controlled substances are deemed to have no recognized medical benefit and a high potential for addiction and abuse. It is illegal to possess, sell, import, export, or transport drugs in this class. Some examples of Schedule I drugs include the following:

  • Heroin
  • MDMA
  • GHB
  • Mescaline
  • Ecstasy
  • Psilocybin
  • Bath salts
  • Synthetic marijuana
  • Marijuana

Marijuana is still included in Schedule I even though numerous states have passed medical marijuana laws and some states have also passed recreational marijuana laws.

Schedule II Drugs

Schedule II drugs have accepted medical benefits but have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Some examples of Schedule II drugs include the following:

  • Fentanyl
  • Amphetamine
  • Morphine
  • Methamphetamine
  • Hydromorphone
  • Methadone
  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone

Schedule III Drugs

Schedule III drugs have accepted medical benefits and a potential for abuse and addiction. However, their addictive potential is lower than that for Schedule I or II drugs and higher than that for Schedule IV drugs. Some examples of Schedule III drugs include the following:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Testosterone
  • Acetaminophen with codeine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Aspirin with codeine

Schedule IV Drugs

Schedule IV drugs have recognized medical benefits and a low risk of addiction or potential for abuse. Some common examples of Schedule IV drugs include Valium, Ambien, Xanax, and similar drugs.

Schedule V Drugs

Schedule V drugs have recognized medical benefits and a lower risk of abuse or addiction than Schedule IV drugs. Some common examples of Schedule V drugs include certain cough medications, Lyrica, and Lomotil.

Importation or Exportation of a Controlled Substance

The prohibition against importing a controlled substance without authorization is found in 21 U.S.C. § 952. This law prohibits importing any controlled substance or narcotic drug falling under Schedules I-V into the U.S. without authorization. This law is inclusive and is not restricted to well-known street drugs like heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine. IT also includes many drugs available in the U.S. only by prescription. Some people might try to import certain prescription drugs into the U.S. because they are cheaper in other countries without understanding that they are breaking federal law.

Exportation of Controlled Substances

Exporting controlled substances is a crime under 21 U.S.C. § 953. Under this law, it is illegal to export narcotics classed in Schedules I through IV, non-narcotics listed in Schedules I or II, non-narcotics classed in Schedules III or IV, and any controlled drugs listed in Schedule V.

What Are the Penalties for a Drug Importation or Exportation Conviction?

The penalties you might face following a drug importation or exportation conviction will vary, depending on the type of controlled substance involved, its quantity, and your criminal record. Some examples of the penalties for first offenders convicted of importing drugs include the following:

  • Less than 100 g of heroin – Zero to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million
  • From 28 to 279 g of cocaine – Mandatory minimum five years up to 40 years in prison and a fine of up to $5 million
  • Less than 50 kg of marijuana – Mandatory minimum prison term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000
  • 50 g of pure methamphetamine/500 g. of a methamphetamine mixture – Mandatory minimum 10 years in prison up to life and a fine of up to $10 million

The penalties for other substances can vary. If you have an allegeable felony drug conviction on your record, the minimum mandatory sentences can also substantially increase.

Defenses to Drug Importation/Exportation

Being charged with importing or exporting scheduled drugs does not mean that you will be convicted. The government will have the burden of proving the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted, including that you imported or exported the controlled drug into or out of the U.S., that you knew it was a controlled drug, and that you did not have a permissible, legal purpose for doing so.

Your attorney will carefully review the facts of your case to determine the applicable defense strategies available in your case and will work to hold the Assistant U.S. Attorney to the burden of proof. Some examples of potential defenses to these types of offenses include the following:

  • Police seized evidence through an illegal search/seizure
  • You were under duress or coercion
  • Chain of custody problems
  • You have a valid prescription

There are other potential defenses to these types of charges. Your lawyer will talk to you about the defenses that might be available in your case.

Get Help From an Experienced Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Drug importation or exportation charges can result in harsh penalties, including the potential for decades in prison and extremely high fines. If you have been indicted for this type of offense, you should consult with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Spodek Law Group today to schedule a confidential consultation to learn more about your rights and options.

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