In most cases, Oklahoma drug offenses are prosecuted by degrees. A first offense of marijuana possession or possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor. However, possession of Schedule I or II drugs is a felony that carries more serious penalties than possession of marijuana or a lesser scheduled substance. If the crime is distribution, manufacture, or cultivation of drugs, then mandatory minimum sentencing and longer prison terms are associated with felony conviction.
Drug distribution may include the sale of drugs, but it may also include simply sharing drugs. While in some states, drug distribution charges are filed in part based upon the quantity of drug involved, Oklahoma stipulates no specific amount to trigger a charge of possession with intent to distribute.
Drug trafficking, however, is another matter. While the penalties for drug distribution are severe, the minimum penalties for drug trafficking conviction are twice as harsh. For example, a first offense of distribution of a Schedule I or II drug carries a mandatory minimum of 5 years in prison; a first offense of trafficking in a Schedule I or II drug carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum of life. Typically, the distinction between a drug distribution charge is dependent upon the quantity of drug the person has in his or her possession.
“Drug trafficking” sounds like a crime reserved for organized crime syndicates and drug cartels. In fact, the possession of a relatively small amount of a controlled substance can lead to serious felony drug charges, even if a person is just passing through the state and has no intent to distribute drugs alleged to be in his or her possession.
Oklahoma’s Trafficking in Illegal Drugs Act sets specified substance amounts that elevate a charge from possession or distribution to trafficking, the most serious drug offense in Oklahoma:
When most people think of drug trafficking, they think of massive quantities of drugs discovered in a traffic stop on Interstate 40. However, the actual amounts required to trigger a trafficking charge are often shockingly small. The weight of cocaine or PCP required for a trafficking charge is roughly the same as an AA battery. For crack, the weight is equivalent to a nickel.
Recently, a local district attorney in Oklahoma came under fire for hiring a training agency to help in highway traffic stops along I-40. In some cases, traffic stops were made by agency employees who were not licensed law enforcement officers, and cash was confiscated from people stopped without any criminal charges.
Carrying cash is not a crime; however, some law enforcement agents and prosecutors seem to believe that the presence of cash—particularly if any quantity of drug is also present—is an indication of drug trafficking. However, any traffic stop must be made legally, and any search of a person or vehicle must be conducted according to specified protocol. An experienced defense attorney can uncover an illegal search and seizure, and any evidence gained from an illegal search may be suppressed.
Not everyone charged with drug trafficking is a member of a cartel. Many are simply unfortunate and unsuspecting travelers passing through Oklahoma. However, being caught with a specified quantity of drugs in Oklahoma can lead to felony charges and the possibility of life in prison. Additionally, a person suspected of drug trafficking may also face federal charges and investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), or the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Trafficking in illegal drugs is a serious criminal charge. It is critical to find experienced representation to protect yourself from unlawful or overzealous prosecution. Oklahoma has some of the most stringent drug laws in the nation, inflicting harsh penalties for even minor drug offenses.
If you are looking at life in prison for an allegation of trafficking in drugs, get legal counsel at once. Submit our confidential online case review form, or call (405) 608-4990 to speak with an experienced drug crime defense lawyer about your case.