Are You Facing Charges for Illegal Importation of Drugs?
It is illegal to import drugs into the United States, whether you have a prescription for the drug in question or whether it is an illegal drug, and whether it is for your own personal use or you are importing it to sell. The ban also includes drugs or supplements that are approved in other countries but have not been approved for use by the FDA or DEA in the United States.
It is illegal to import drugs into the United States. Whether you have a prescription or you are transporting a controlled substance for your own personal use or sale, bringing drugs into the United States is strictly prohibited by federal law. The prohibition also covers drugs and supplements that are approved for use in other countries but have not been approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the United States.
Oberheiden, P.C. is a criminal defense law firm that helps individuals and businesses accused of illegal importation fight their charges in court. We also have significant experience representing clients during investigations. In many cases, we have been successful in preventing charges from ever being filed. We are available to handle local cases involving allegations of illegal importation from Mexico, Central America, South America, and Canada. However, we do not stop at the local we are fully equipped to handle all importation and drug trafficking cases nationwide.
Illegal Importation Explained
If you enter the United States with illegally imported drugs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will likely seize your medication or controlled substance, and you may face questioning from the FDA or DEA. In practice, if you are caught importing a prescription for personal use, the seizure is likely to be the only punishment imposed. However, if you are arrested for importing a large quantity of prescription drugs (presumably for sale), or any amount of a controlled substance, you may face serious criminal charges.
Note that even though some states have now legalized medical and recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, it remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law. As a result, even if you import marijuana into a state where marijuana is legal, you can still face illegal importation charges under federal law.
Customs Seizures of Illegally Imported Drugs
If you enter the U.S. in possession of illegal drugs, they are likely to be seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. While most searches and seizures on U.S. soil are subject to the Constitutional protections of probable cause, border searches are an exception to this general rule. International airports are deemed the “functional equivalent” of borders, so customs agents can search you at the airport without a warrant as well.
In conducting border searches, customs agents are authorized to open luggage and sealed containers. They can also conduct body scans and physical searches of your person. As a result, lawful searches may uncover illegally imported drugs that have been:
- Disguised as legal products and over-the-counter medications
- Hidden in foods and secret luggage compartments
- Stashed amongst large shipments of legal cargo
- Swallowed or hidden in body cavities
Defending Against Illegal Drug Importation Charges
However, the U.S. government’s ability to conduct border searches is not absolute. For example, customs agents are prohibited from conducting searches in a discriminatory manner. If you were singled out because of your race, gender, religion, or ethnic background, this may be a violation of your civil rights. As in any case, when you work with Oberheiden, P.C., our attorneys will get to the bottom of what happened in order to ensure that we approach your defense from all viable angles.
If you are stopped for questioning at the border or in an international airport, as a U.S. citizen you have the right to speak to an attorney. Non-citizens are also entitled to legal representation, provided that the questioning is not limited solely to their immigration status.
You should ask to speak with an attorney before answering any questions. If you do not, you run the risk of making incriminating statements that can be used against you in court.
Penalties for Illegal Drug Importation
Importation of illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin is frequently charged as trafficking under federal law. Drug trafficking is an extremely serious offense that carries possible penalties including several years in prison and millions of dollars in fines. In many cases, offenders face the possibility of life behind bars. Read more about the criminal penalties for drug trafficking.
If you are charged with illegally importing prescription drugs or supplements, you may be charged with a criminal violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) instead. FDCA charges carry fines and the possibility of up to five years in federal prison.
Speak with an Attorney at Oberheiden, P.C.
Our criminal defense lawyers have many years of experience representing clients charged with illegal importation, trafficking, and other federal drug crimes. Contact us online or call (888) 727-0472 to speak with an attorney today.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is a national litigation and trial criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the area of federal law.