In recent years, enforcement actions against various forms of drug smuggling have been more efficient by new improvements in drug-detecting technology. Nevertheless, there are still many people who attempt to import drugs while travelling into the U.S. on commercial flights.
When an airline passenger entering New York is caught attempting to smuggle drugs, the case can be referred to either the local District Attorney’s office for prosecution under New York law, or to the U.S., District Attorney’s office for prosecution under federal law.
When charged under New York State law, the relevant charges are listed under Penal Law Chapter 220, and the exact charges will depend on the kind of illegal drug being smuggled and the quantity possessed. Charges will increase in severity if there is evidence of an intent to sell the drugs; such evidence will commonly consist of large quantities of drugs. However, in some cases even a small amount of drugs will be enough to support “intent to sell” charges if there is other evidence, such as an admission of this intent by the defendant.
Under New York state law, the penalties for a conviction for illegal drug possession will depend not only on the nature of the offense, but, to a large extent, also on the defendant’s prior criminal record. A first-time offender will be treated far more leniently than someone with a previous felony conviction, or a string of other convictions.
Under federal law, 21 U.S.C. Section 952 specifically prohibits the importation of illegal drugs into the U.S., while 21 U.S.C. Section 841 makes it a federal crime to possess narcotics with the intent to sell or distribute them. As under New York law, the severity of the charges will depend on the type and quantity of the drug, as well as the defendant’s prior criminal record. The federal sentencing guidelines also provide a list of mitigating factors. In many cases, a low-level offender can be in a position to bargain with prosecutors for leniency in exchange for information about higher-level participants in a drug-smuggling organization.
If you are arrested for attempting to smuggle drugs and you are not a U.S. citizen, the consequences for you may be especially severe. After your arrest, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be notified and have an “immigration detainer” put out on you. This means that if you are convicted, you will be deported as soon as you are released. Further, you may not be able to get out on bail while your case is proceeding in court.
If you have been arrested and accused of drug smuggling, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The stakes are extremely high and having the right attorney at your side can mean the difference between a lengthy prison sentence and freedom. Call our experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.