Drug smuggling, trafficking, and possession are usually different crimes which carry different charges. However, one thing is common to all three, the need for a competent drug charges defense attorney to represent your interests in court.

When speaking of illegal or illicit drugs, the term ‘drug trafficking’ means that a person or a group of persons have been arrested or charged for transporting or moving large quantities of drugs for distribution. In most cases, this charge may span as far wide as state-wide or international distribution of such illegal drugs.

Most states do not have a specific charge for drug trafficking per se, however, penalties are ascertained based on the amount and type of drug that is being distributed by the offenders. The state of Colorado frowns upon drugs and can award as much as 32 years imprisonment for persons caught selling or trafficking over 112 grams of heroin or methamphetamine. However, if a person is caught and arrested for distribution of the same amount of anabolic steroids, such a person may be awarded a maximum of six years imprisonment.

Drug Possession

Possession of a certain amount of drugs in some states may be regarded as a minor or simple crime. In other states, these same drugs in the same amount may be frowned upon heavily. The penalties for possession of drugs, however, are much lower than those for trafficking or smuggling or when a person is involved with a criminal gang or enterprise.

It is important to know that the more drugs a person is caught in possession of, the more aggravated such a person’s crime is. In some cases, the prosecutor may even escalate the charges by escalating the amount of drugs found at the crime scene.

Drug Smuggling

Drug smuggling or trafficking usually requires that the person or group of persons have a large amount of such drugs in their possession. The amount of drugs and intent is what sets this apart from a regular possession charge. In addition to this, the drugs have to be established as being made for transportation or shipment to customers on a commercial scale. Drug smuggling can occur in a wide range of ways as some deliver these drugs to their contacts through drug mules and others inside their bodies.

What Sets Drug Possession and Drug Smuggling Apart?

Drug possession may be in the form of having illegal drugs on your person when the police officer performs a pat-down on you or when someone is in the act of using such illegal drugs while he or she was caught and arrested. A person charged with drug us may face charges of simple drug possession, however, this could potentially be aggravated if the police find a larger quantity of such illegal drug on the defendant.

Drug smuggling or trafficking, on the other hand, means that the defendant that has been arrested was nursing the intent to sell the product to make a profit, transporting, or attempting to smuggle such an illegal drug into another area.

Penalty Severity

When the police find a small amount of drugs on a person during a pat-down or catch the person in action using such illegal drugs, he or she may be arrested for this act. Such a person may be faced with the simple charge of drug possession or drug use and a minimum sentencing factor such as the number of months or years in county jail, and or fines may be considered. These penalties, however, depend on the state where the crime has been committed and the laws of the state regarding drugs. 

The highest level of punishment, however, will be in the form of jail time. If a person was however arrested in possession of and for smuggling charges, things become complicated. The severity of the conviction may be high, seeing the person thrown into prison for no less than a decade and in other extreme cases, as high as lifetime jail sentences. The factors which govern who gets what, regarding penalties, however, depends on the state where the crime has been committed and the laws in the state.

Smuggling Vs. Drug Possession

Drug possession, in its variety, involves possession of small amounts of illegal drugs, usually for use. In some cases, the drugs may exist in some other products such as in food or in a needle. 

A person arrested for possession may even have kept the illegal substance for future use.

However, in the case of smuggling, arrested persons are caught with larger quantities or one or more illegal drugs. These quantities are found mostly in a specific location which indicates the intent to sell or distribute. In some cases, a prosecution lawyer may decide to escalate charges of possession to smuggling based on the amount of drugs that are found on the person of interest.

Take note, smuggling involves transportation, distribution, and or production of the illegal drug. Smuggling charges are usually brought up when the defendant is arrested with the intent to do more than just sell smaller portions of the drug to others. The person of interest in most drug smuggling or drug trafficking cases usually has a production arm that supplies the business on a large scale which can be commercialized for specific areas or across state and international borders.

When a person has been arrested for such crimes as this, he or she will need the services of a qualified and experienced drug charges defense attorney to ensure that charges are outrightly dismissed or a plea bargain is entered to ensure the reduction of penalties associated with the charges leveled.

The prosecutor will require heavy evidence to prove smuggling, however, using police as a tool, sting operations may be launched into such cases to recover evidence which may be enough to convict defendants.

Legal Defense for Trafficking, Smuggling, and Possession of Drugs

When a person is faced with drug trafficking, smuggling or drug possession charges, there is a need to reach out to experienced attorneys who have a proven history of successful client representation in cases related to drug charges.


By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.