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Drug Distribution & Trafficking Lawyers in San Diego



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The distribution of all controlled substances is an ongoing focus of law enforcement on the local, state, and federal levels, particularly because of San Diego's close proximity to the Mexican border. These agencies are involved in the task of identifying, arresting, and charging any person who is believed to be in the illegal drug trade.

If you have been charged with drug trafficking in Vista or San Diego, you need a tough lawyer who knows how to handle these cases. Attorney James N. Dicks is a board-certified criminal law specialist who has a history as an LAPD narcotics investigator. His aggressive approach has garnered him a reputation as a prominent San Diego criminal lawyer. For a free consultation, please contact jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys today at (760) 630-2000.

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What Factors Determine Drug Sale Penalties?

Depending on the specifics of your case, you could find yourself stuck behind bars for years and up against heavy fines. So what factors impact the sentence you could face for a drug sale conviction?

Some of the main issues the court will review include:

  • The schedule and amount of drugs involved
  • The location the alleged drug sales took place (i.e. near a school)
  • The potential harm the narcotic could cause to the public
  • The past record of the defendant (were they previously convicted for drug sales?)
  • The age of the individuals or parties being sold the drugs

Sentencing can range greatly, involving anywhere from 6 months to 15+ years in prison and between $1,000 and $250,000 in fines in extreme cases. With such serious consequences on the line, you need to act fast to defend your future and your freedom.

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Manufacturing Drugs in California

Manufacturing drugs is a felony offense in California, and it carries up to seven years in jail and a maximum fine of $50,000. People are commonly convicted for manufacturing the following drugs in California: Heroin, crack cocaine, Ecstasy, PCP, LSD, and Methamphetamines.

If someone is injured or killed as a result of the process of manufacturing drugs, or if you are caught making drugs near a school or playground, you may be facing additional prison time. Prior convictions for the sale, possession, or manufacture of controlled substances can also cause you to receive a longer sentence.

Drug manufacturing often involves the use of dangerous chemicals, and there is also a chance of explosions and fires that may injure or kill innocent people living in a residence where drugs are being manufactured. Producing drugs near a minor under the age of 16 can result in two additional years of jails time, and injuring a minor while manufacturing drugs can add an additional five years your to your sentence.

People who manufacture drugs will try to hide their activities as much as possible, so you may not know that someone you are living with is doing something illegal, but it can be difficult to prove your innocence in court.

Your lawyer can use the following arguments to defend you from drug charges:

  • You had no knowledge of drug manufacturing
  • An illegal search or seizure outside the scope of a warrant
  • Police searched your property without probable causes
  • False accusations made to escape criminal charges
  • False accusation made for revenge or other malicious reasons
  • Mistaken identity or unreliable eyewitness testimony
  • Unreliable police informant

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Importation & Distribution Charges

There are two areas of great interest to the authorities:

  • Importation: The act of bringing drugs over the U.S. border, into the U.S.
  • Distribution: The act of selling, distributing, or trafficking drugs (in particular, large quantities) in the U.S.

Importing drugs from any another country is considered a very serious crime in California. Carrying drugs across state lines can have serious impacts and penalties, including federal charges. And those federal charges often have a minimum sentence of at least 10 years in a federal prison. If a large quantity of drug was being trafficked, life imprisonment may also be an option.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) heavily targets and deals with crimes involving the following:

  • Large quantities of low-grade marijuana smuggled into California from Mexico
  • The drug MDMA imported mostly from Asian drug organizations
  • Mexican black tar heroin imported into California, usually in amounts under 5 pounds
  • Importation of numerous types of drugs at once
  • Importation of foreign prescription drugs, not approved by the FDA

In California, transporting drugs is a felony, regardless of how far the drugs were taken. Even if the controlled substance was taken from one house to another on the same block, that could potentially carry a sentence of 5 years in prison. Those who are charged with drug trafficking or drug transport across more than two counties in California may face up to 9 years in prison.

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Drug Trafficking

Not all drug sales happen between one person and a dealer. Drug trafficking often involves large quantities of controlled substances. And while one person may transport them, they are usually going to be distributed between many different people. Drug trafficking may also include charges for other crimes such as international drug trafficking (especially across the borders of Mexico), money laundering, drug conspiracy, and perhaps gang activity.

Trafficking charges are determined by the weight of the drugs involved, but California law does not actually draw any distinction between drug dealing and drug trafficking. But if the police, prosecutors, or judges call the offense trafficking instead of dealing, the penalties are likely to be much more severe.

Four counties in California have been targeted as High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTAs) by the federal, state, and local authorities. These are Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, and San Bernardino. San Diego and Imperial Counties have also been identified as HIDTAs along the southwest border.

Law enforcement agencies in these areas focus on drugs linked to gang activity, drug pipelines or corridors such as state highways, meth labs, and drugs that are brought into California by “mules,” even when those mules are not aware they have transported drugs.

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Aggressive Defense for Distribution Charges

You may not even realize the types of drugs you were handling could be considered illegal. Even letting a friend use your prescription drugs could land you in serious legal trouble. Drug distribution and trafficking can include any type of controlled substance, including:

If you have been charged with drug distribution for any of the above mentioned substances, you need to act fast to protect your rights. Get our North County drug crime lawyer on your side today!

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Penalties for Drug Distribution in California

The penalties imposed by the court will be based upon California sentencing guidelines. Those with a prior criminal record get enhanced penalties. If the crime includes distribution to underage individuals, or if any weapons were involved, the penalties are also enhanced.

Specific sentencing for any drug transportation charge will depend on:

  • The amount of drug
  • The type of drug
  • Any previous offenses on your record
  • The location where the crime took place (near a school, playground, etc.)

Felony distribution of marijuana can involve 2 to 4 years in state prison, while distribution of cocaine can mean up to 5 years in state prison. Distribution of substances that are used to manufacture meth or PCP can lead to 6 years in state prison. Each drug has a threshold amount over which the penalties increase.

That means we are able to minimize your penalties to community service or prove your total innocence.

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What Are Enhancement Crimes?

Drug sales charges may be subject to one or more of three "enhancement crimes," which may double or even triple the penalty for a sale or distribution charge.

If accused of the following, you could face extensive penalties:

  • Distribution or sale of a controlled substance at or near a school
  • Distributing or selling a controlled substance to anyone under the age of 21
  • Contributing to or causing minors (under the age of 18) to engage in drug law violations

When you are charged with the sale of an illegal drug, law enforcement officers may often make certain assumptions as to your intentions. They may testify to this in court, using their past experience or professional opinion to implicate you when you may have had drugs in your possession for personal use. In other cases, officers may use an illegal search and seizure to uncover drugs, which means the evidence could be challenged and dismissed in court with the help of a lawyer.

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Types of Defense We Can Use

In any drug crime case, the main thing threatening your freedom is the evidence law enforcement has collected. This may include the actual drugs, any drug paraphernalia, call logs, text messages, and more. Therefore, it is usually the primary goal of your drug crimes attorney to have this evidence suppressed or to question its method of acquisition. We may be able to prove an illegal search and seizure took place, or another instance where your constitutional rights were violated.

As every criminal case is different, the type of defense strategy our San Diego drug crime attorney will aim to utilize for your case may vary greatly. Regardless of your charges, there are several key defense tactics that are frequently implemented in certain situations.

For example, we may be able to us the following information to fight your charges:

  • The police officers conducted an illegal search and seizure
  • Your rights were violated at some point in the arrest process
  • The amount of drugs involved was very minimal
  • You were not aware of the drugs present or allegedly in your possession
  • You have no prior history of drug crimes

Using the details of your case and criminal history, we can fight to have your charges dropped, dismissed, or reduced. Our goal is to secure the best possible outcome on your behalf, whether.

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We’re on Your Side

At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, we have over three decades of experience, and we have successfully tried hundreds of criminal cases. James N. Dicks, our founding attorney, is a former police narcotics investigator and a board-certified criminal law specialist. Our experience on both sides of the law gives us a serious edge over even the toughest prosecution.

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Sample of Case Results

  • Transportation of Heroin Exceeding 14.25 Grams -
    Charges Reduced to Possession for Sale

View more case results here.


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James N. Dicks

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