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Federal Importation of a Controlled Substance

Federal Importation of a Controlled Substance

Orange County Drug Crimes Lawyer

Have you or a loved one been charged with bringing an illegal substance into the United States? There can be severe consequences for traveling into or out of the United States with even a small amount of illegal drugs. It is important for anyone charged with this type of crime to understand the law, their rights, and the importance of seeking qualified legal help.

Importing controlled substances into the United States is strictly regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). A "controlled substance" is a drug that the government has deemed potentially harmful to social welfare if used or misused. These include illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine, and also regulated drugs, such as OxyContin and Xanax, to name a few. Bringing illegal drugs, or regulated drugs without a prescription into the United States is strictly prohibited under Section 952. This is true even for drugs for personal use. It is important to note that even though marijuana has been decriminalized, or even legalized in many places in the United States, it is still considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the federal government. A complete listing of the drug schedules can be found here.

Possible Punishment

Under Section 960(b), there are numerous potential penalties, depending on the type and amount of drug that was imported, but all of these penalties are harsh. The minimum penalty under Section 960(b) for a violation of Section 952 is ten years imprisonment and five years of supervised release. The maximum penalty is a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Possible Defenses

  • Lack of Intent: Section 960 makes clear that the above penalties apply only to those who knowingly or intentionally import or export illegal substances. If you unwittingly or unknowingly possessed an illegal substance, you are not criminally liable for importing or exporting drugs.
  • Violation of Constitutional Rights: Under the Fourth Amendment, the government may not conduct unreasonable searches and seizures. Although the government has wide latitude to conduct searches of people and luggage entering the United States, there are limits. Moreover, it is unconstitutional to single out a person to be searched based on their race, religion, nationality, or ethnicity.

If a person is taken into custody, any statements they make are admissible only if they have been first read their Miranda rights. If a person is interrogated without being read their rights first, any statements they make are inadmissible. Drugs found as a result of those statements may also be inadmissible.

  • Medical, Scientific, or other Legitimate Use: Schedule III, IV, and V drugs that have a medical, scientific, or other legitimate use are not prohibited by Section 952. However, Schedule I and II drugs are strictly prohibited regardless of the intended use.

According to the DEA, Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse and include marijuana (even medically prescribed marijuana cannot be imported into the United States) and heroin. Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. Schedule II drugs include Vicodin (less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin are included.

Get Qualified Legal Help

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime under Section 952, I can help you understand your rights and your possible defenses to this very serious accusation. These charges are pursued vigorously by the federal government; you need experienced legal counsel on your side. I have years of experience successfully representing criminal defendants in federal court. I always work aggressively to protect my clients' rights. Please call the Law Offices of Scott D. Hughes at (714) 987-2671 to schedule your free consultation.

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