Drug possession and drug trafficking charges in Minnesota carry significantly different penalties, ranging from monetary fines to decades in prison. In Minnesota, a drug possession offense has higher potential penalties than a drug trafficking offense.
The primary difference between felony drug possession and felony drug trafficking is how the accused intends to use the narcotics. Someone who possesses drugs with the intention of using the drugs themselves commits the crime of drug possession. Someone who possesses drugs with the intention of selling or distributing them across state or national boundaries commits the crime of drug trafficking.
The amount of drugs found, any equipment found with the drugs, and other factors can influence a prosecutor to charge someone with drug trafficking instead of possession.
If you have questions about felony drug possession or trafficking charges in Minnesota, contact the Criminal Defense Attorney & Workers Compensation Law Offices of Arechigo & Stokka.
Drug Possession and Trafficking Charges in Minnesota
The quantity and type of drug someone possesses will determine whether they face misdemeanor or felony drug possession charges. First degree possession of a controlled substance occurs when someone unlawfully possesses one or more mixtures of a total weight of:
- 25 grams or more containing heroin;
- 50 grams or more containing cocaine or methamphetamine;
- 500 grams or more containing a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine;
- 500 grams or more containing amphetamine, phencyclidine, or hallucinogen or, if the controlled substance is packaged in dosage units, equaling 500 or more dosage units; or
- 50 kilograms or more containing marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinol, or possesses 500 or more marijuana plants.
In Minnesota, drug trafficking can occur when the accused sells drugs to another person. First degree sale of a controlled substance occurs when someone, at least once within a 90-day period, unlawfully sells one or more mixtures with the following:
- A total weight of ten grams or more of heroin;
- A total weight of 50 grams or more of a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine;
- A total weight of seventeen grams or more of cocaine or methamphetamine;
- A total weight of 50 grams or more containing amphetamine, phencyclidine, or hallucinogen or, if the controlled substance is packaged in dosage units, equaling 200 or more dosage units; or
- A total weight of 25 kilograms or more of marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols.
This offense is considered a felony drug trafficking charge. First degree drug possession and sale can be punishable up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Another form of drug trafficking occurs when someone crosses state or international borders with a controlled substance. In Minnesota, this offense is called importing controlled substances across state borders.
This statute applies when someone brings a controlled substance into Minnesota. Importing a controlled substance across state borders is punishable by up to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,250,000.
What Aggravating Factors Apply to Drug Charges?
The presence of certain aggravating factors can increase the penalties available for drug possession and trafficking. Some aggravated drug possession and trafficking factors in Minnesota include:
- Prior conviction for a violent crime,
- The offense was committed for a gang’s benefit,
- Sales or possession of controlled substances occurred in three separate counties,
- The offense involved the transfer of controlled substances across a state or international border and into Minnesota,
- The defendant occupied a high position in a drug distribution hierarchy, or
- The defendant sold narcotics to a minor or a vulnerable adult.
Just like elements of the charged offense, the prosecutor must prove any aggravating factor beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney can present a valid legal defense to create doubt in the judge or jury’s mind and work to defend your constitutional rights.
What Is the Difference Between Drug Trafficking and Possession?
The main difference between drug possession and drug trafficking is what the accused plans to do with the drugs. Possessing a controlled substance means that the controlled substance was found on or around your person or in an area you exercised control over. Typically, the drugs at issue in a possession case are intended for personal use.
Drug trafficking, on the other hand, means that you intend to sell or distribute the drugs you possess across state or international borders. In many cases, drug trafficking operations involve several different parties who are engaged in a criminal organization that sells narcotics. The prosecutor will try to prove intent to sell or distribute drugs by:
- Obtaining text and call records between involved parties;
- Questioning witnesses; and
- Locating other evidence used in the sale of narcotics, like scales, a ledger, or plastic bags.
A skilled criminal defense lawyer can defend any arguments from the prosecutor that you intended to sell or distribute narcotics across state lines.
Contact a Lawyer at Arechigo & Stokka to Discuss a Felony Drug Trafficking Offense
In some cases, a valid legal defense applies to your case that hurts the prosecutor’s chance of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It is vital that you have a Minnesota criminal defense attorney on your side to advocate for having your charges reduced or dismissed entirely. A qualified attorney will review the details of your case to determine whether a legal defense applies.
In addition, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can walk you through the process of your drug possession or trafficking case and answer any questions you have along the way. Even felony drug charges for first-time offenders can lead to decades of incarceration and thousands of dollars in fines.
The Criminal Defense Attorney & Workers Compensation Law Offices of Arechigo & Stokka have experience representing criminal defendants facing drug possession and drug trafficking charges in Minnesota. Our founding attorney, John T. Arechigo, dedicates his entire practice to representing individuals facing criminal accusations.
Do not wait to contact an attorney if you are facing drug possession or trafficking charges. Reach out to Arechigo & Stokka to talk to a member of our team.
Attorney John Arechigo has a passion for criminal defense in St. Paul, MN. John received his J.D., from Hamline University School of Law and also carries a Bachelor of Arts from, The University of Minnesota. John was named Attorney of the Year for 2019 by Minnesota Lawyer. Additionally, John was also named as a 2019 Rising Star and was selected to Minnesota Super Lawyers in 2021. He devotes nearly 100% of his practice to defending individuals charged with a crime.