Drug trafficking is a major focus of the U.S. federal law enforcement agencies. Federal drug trafficking laws make it illegal to sell, traffic, import or possess illegal substances, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine as well as illegally obtained prescription drugs. While penalties for federal drug trafficking depend on a number of factors, including the type of substance and the quantity possessed. Most penalties include significant prison time and harsh fines.
In a federal criminal trial the jury decides if there is enough evidence to support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The role of the judge is to decide what legal standards to apply and then instruct the jury on these principles, what finding will need to be made to arrive at a finding of guilty, the definition of the crime and the concept of reasonable doubt. Incorrect jury instructions can result in a guilty verdict for a federal crime being thrown out.
In the United States, the U.S. Attorney's Office prosecutes most white collar crimes. During the federal investigation preceding the prosecution, U.S. Attorneys will work closely with federal agents to gather evidence. When the prosecutor feels the government has enough evidence to proceed, the suspect in the white-collar crime will be brought before a grand jury. If the jury finds that the evidence supports charges, the accused will be indicted.
While there are both state and federal drug crime laws, drug trafficking is often punished particularly harshly under federal law. Sentencing for drug crimes can vary dramatically depending on a number of factors. The United States Sentencing Guidelines Commission establishes the sentencing guidelines for federal drug trafficking. Sentences for drug trafficking will vary, but penalties tend to be harsh.
When people think about drug crimes, they typically think about people selling illegal substances on street corners or transporting drugs across state lines. While this certainly makes up a good portion of the drug cases in the U.S., it is far from the full story.