What’s The Difference Between Drug Dealing And Trafficking?

The main difference between drug distribution and trafficking lies in the quantities of drugs involved, with trafficking typically encompassing larger amounts.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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Drug dealing and drug trafficking are two concepts within the realm of drug activities, though they share some similarities. Their main differences lie in the scale and scope of operations involved.

  1. Scale and Scope:
    • Drug Dealing: Typically refers to the sale of drugs on a scale. It is usually carried out by individuals or small groups directly selling to users. The quantities of drugs involved are relatively smaller.
    • Drug Trafficking: Involves the large-scale distribution and transportation of drugs. Trafficking includes not the sale but the production, importation and distribution of significant quantities of drugs. It often implies an operation with connections to larger criminal networks or cartels.
  1. Legal Consequences:
    • Drug Dealing: While still a serious offense, penalties for drug dealing are generally less severe compared to trafficking. The exact consequences depend on factors such as jurisdiction, amount, and type of drugs sold as the dealer’s criminal history.
    • Drug Trafficking: Due to its scale and greater societal impact, trafficking typically leads to severe legal consequences. This includes prison sentences and heavier fines. In cases involving crossing state or national borders trafficking charges may even result in prosecution.
  1. Law enforcement:
    • Drug Dealing: This is a concern for state authorities. Their efforts are aimed at preventing the sale of drugs to individuals within communities.
    • Drug Trafficking: Higher-level law enforcement agencies, such as authorities like the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), pay attention to this aspect. They aim to dismantle supply chains that facilitate the drug trade.

In summary, drug dealing involves small-scale sales of drugs directly to users. On the other hand, drug trafficking refers to an operation involving organized distribution on a larger scale, which leads to more severe legal consequences. If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug crime, please contact our San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer for a free consultation on drug dealing and drug trafficking.

What are the penalties and prison time for drug dealing and drug trafficking?

Under federal law, the minimum sentence for a violation after two or more prior convictions for a felony drug offense have become final is a mandatory term of life imprisonment. Selling or transporting drugs in California is a felony, with penalties including jail time of 3-9 years and a fine of up to $20,000.

pect Drug Dealing Drug Trafficking
Penalties  Varies by state and the type and quantity of drugs sold.  Generally more severe, with federal penalties often applied.
 Can include fines, community service, probation, and incarceration.  Heavier fines, potentially in the millions of dollars, and other legal repercussions.
Jail Time  Depends on local laws, the drug amount, and dealer’s criminal history.  Lengthier prison sentences, ranging from several years to life imprisonment, depending on severity.
 For smaller amounts or firsttime offenses, jail time may be shorter, sometimes with no incarceration.  Mandatory minimum sentences are common, especially under federal law.
Legal Focus  Local and state laws primarily govern penalties for drug dealing.  Often governed by federal law, especially when involving larger quantities or interstate activities.
Severity  Considered a serious crime but generally less severe than trafficking.  Viewed as a major criminal activity due to its scale and impact on public health and safety.
Considerations  Individual circumstances and the presence of aggravating factors can influence sentencing.  Aggravating factors like the amount of drugs, type of drugs, and criminal history significantly impact sentencing.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

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