What is Trafficking
Trafficking is what the Commonwealth calls the possession with the intent to distribute a particularly large amount of a controlled substance. The amounts that trigger a trafficking charge depend on the substance. For marijuana, the total quantity has to be over 50 lbs. For most other substances, anything over 14 grams is considered trafficking. The penalties for trafficking are steep, and increase based on the amount of the substance uncovered. The mandatory minimums can also be increased if a firearm is involved, if there is evidence that the defendant directed other people to violate the drug laws, or if drugs were being distributed to persons under the age of 18.
As with any drug crime, the first element that the Commonwealth has to prove is possession. Unlike lesser drug crimes, though, people seldom carry enough controlled substances on their person to amount to trafficking. More often, the police uncover a 'stash' during a raid. The question becomes, whose stash is it? The law can get very specific about how much evidence is enough to prove the owner of the drugs, and although you may have heard someone say that everyone in the car or the apartment can be charged with it, being in the vicinity is not enough to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Uncovering the Drugs
In most cases, trafficking amounts of a controlled substance are found during the execution of a warrant. When that is the case, whether the warrant was properly issued and executed becomes a very important issue. Getting a warrant involve multiple people passing information between each other and making decisions based on that information. Each time someone else gets involved, the chances increase that the information can get mixed up. Whether the evidence uncovered with the warrant will be admissible in court will depend on how good a job the weakest link in the chain has done. If even one of the people involved did not do their job correctly, then the whole warrant, and everything it uncovered could be thrown out.
Beyond the issuance of the warrant, when police are in the process of executing a search warrant, they can lose track of the limits that the warrant imposes. A warrant is not a blank check, it is more like a set of instructions that the police have to follow. If they have not followed those instructions correctly, the items uncovered might be excluded from evidence.
Proving a Substance is a Controlled Substance
The rules under which the Commonwealth has to prove that the white powder, or green leafy substance it found, was actually a controlled substance are evolving quickly, and it is getting harder for the Commonwealth to do its job. Recently, the State Police announced the closure of one of its main drug testing laboratories, leaving twice the work for the remaining crime lab. With the increased burden will come increased backlogs and potentially mistakes. You need a lawyer who knows how the system works in order to make sure that those backlogs and mistakes remain the Commonwealth's problem, and not yours.
Contact me today to set up a free and private consultation if you or someone you know is charged with a drug offense.