Drug laws at both the federal and state level can be exceedingly complex and unclear to an average person. When it comes to drug trafficking, it may also end up involving federal laws. The situation will turn even more complex if an individual is accused of trafficking over state lines and federal agencies begin to intervene.
In Nebraska, there is no specific “drug trafficking” charge, but it can be charged as either “delivery,” “possession with the intent to deliver,” or “distribution of a controlled substance.”
If you or someone you know has been charged with drug trafficking, it is important to learn about the nuances of these laws with the help of an experienced lawyer. There are many defenses that a Fremont drug trafficking lawyer could use.
What Amount of Drugs is Considered Trafficking?
In Nebraska, there is no quantity requirement to be charge with delivering, selling or possessing with the intent to deliver. In other words, you could be charged for selling drugs even if it was a very small quantity or even a single pill. There are certain thresholds have been established that will increase the penalty the more the quantity. The higher amount of a drug that is in a person’s possession will lead to increased severity of charges.
The commonly trafficked drugs, such as cocaine, crack, heroin, and methamphetamine, have amount thresholds that lead to different consequences depending on the drug. Additionally, language is included in the statute that would cover mixtures of drugs or similar synthetic/natural mixtures.
Those thresholds are less than ten grams with intent to deliver, 10 to 28 grams with intent to distribute, 28 to 140 grams with intent to distribute, and over 140 grams with intent to distribute. All violations in these sections will be considered a felony class. These amounts can be found in Neb. Rev. Stat. section 28-416.
How do Prosecutors and Police Prove Drug Trafficking?
Law enforcement and prosecutors must build probable cause to show that the defendant intended to knowingly distribute drugs. Probable cause is defined as facts and circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that someone has committed a crime. In court, the burden is on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did indeed commit a crime.
The necessary elements to build probable cause involve intent, possession, amount, and transportation. It is very challenging for prosecutors to prove intent as it is impossible for them to be mind readers. However, investigators use physical and circumstantial evidence to build a case.
For example, a driver of a vehicle who is trafficking cocaine may have text messages on their phone with the person who will purchase the cocaine. If these text messages spell out that the driver intends to sell a large amount of cocaine to the person receiving the texts, this can and will be used as evidence. If you are charged with drug trafficking and your phone was seized, the likely reason that happened was so law enforcement could download the contents of your messages and calls.
Proving Possession and Transportation of Drugs
Proving possession can be additionally challenging if the contraband is not directly in a person’s control. For example, if a driver is operating a vehicle with several individuals, and a person in the backseat is wearing a backpack that has several ounces of crack in it, it will be challenging to prove the operator was in possession. Obviously, it will be much easier to prove the person with the backpack was in possession.
Proving possession requires two main elements: proving that the defendant knew the contraband was there, and that the defendant had “dominion and control” over it. Proving the amount of a substance is relatively easier than the other elements. However, some law enforcement and prosecutors have made errors in weighing packaging materials, thus adding significantly to the weight. As previously described, increasing weight can substantially worsen the consequences.
Proving transportation is another necessary element. If a person has a large amount of a drug in their basement, but there is no evidence that it is traveling anywhere, it will be challenging to prove that trafficking is occurring. However, additional evidence may show that the defendant had an intent to distribute.
How to Challenge the Stop in a Drug Trafficking Case
One of the most common challenges to a drug stop is using the “Fruits of the poisonous tree” approach. This is a well-established legal concept which, in summary, states that if the reason for a detention or traffic stop was unfounded or illegal, all subsequent evidence that was gathered as a result of the stop must be suppressed.
Oftentimes, eager police officers who want to get a “drug pinch” may push the limits on their reasonable suspicion standards needed to perform a car stop or detention. When this happens, defense attorneys have much more ammunition to defend their clients. It is also not uncommon for law enforcement to target out of state plates on busy highways, as well as rental vehicles.
How To Challenge an Illegal Search In a Drug Trafficking Cases
Challenging an illegal drug search requires an experienced attorney who is familiar with search and seizure laws. It is important to take note of how many officers and K9s responded to your traffic stop, as well as how long you were detained.
When officers expand the scope of a stop beyond just a broken taillight or a failure to use a turn signal (or any other generally mild traffic violation), they are creating a scenario in which you are detained and not free to leave. If you provided any verbal statements or consented to a search when there were too many officers, you could potentially be able to challenge the stop.
The reason the number of police officers, K9s, and time spent on the side of the road is important is due to your ability to voluntarily provide consent without duress. For example, an average person who has been sitting on the roadside for an hour, surrounded by multiple cops and a barking K9, may feel as if they have been coerced to provide consent or statements. If a statement or consent to search is coerced, that is illegal and the subsequent evidence must be suppressed.
There are several points during the course of a police encounter that may offer a challenge to the legality of the stop.
I-80 Drug Stops and Targeting Out of State Drivers
As previously described, law enforcement will target out of state drivers and rental cars because I-80 is a major transportation artery. This highway leads drugs and money and forth between the east and west coast. As a result, law enforcement may develop questionable standards for stopping vehicles in order to expand the scope of their stop to hopefully find drugs and contraband.
Speak to a Fremont Drug Trafficking Attorney
If you have been stopped and had an illegal search performed under dubious circumstances, you should strongly consider fighting your charges with a skilled attorney. Call a Fremont drug trafficking lawyer today to get started.