We were able to end this month with a great result for one of our clients. We secured a dismissal of our client's Aggravated Trafficking in Controlled Dangerous Substance charge which we had been fighting for almost a year and a half. Why is that something to celebrate? Well, aside from the obvious, let me explain the nature of an Aggravated Trafficking charge in a little more detail so you have a little background.
Aggravated Trafficking in Illegal Drugs is one of the worst cases, aside from First Degree Murder, that an individual can be charged with in Oklahoma. First and foremost, it contains a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. If an accused individual is charged after former conviction of a felony (AFC), that mandatory minimum sentence could be as high as 30 years incarceration.
Aggravated Trafficking Charges
Furthermore, a person convicted of Aggravated Trafficking is not eligible for earned "good time" credits either. Consequently, an offender with an Aggravated Trafficking conviction will not get the daily credits most prisoners earn for good behavior. These credits significantly lower the actual "day-for-day" calendar time that is normally required during incarceration. The loss of earned credits is compounded with the fact that Aggravated Trafficking in Illegal Drugs is an 85% crime: anyone convicted of Aggravated Trafficking will have to serve AT LEAST 85% of his or her sentence before becoming eligible for earned credits or parole.
Legal Defense Strategies
When you add up these negative ramifications, its clear why Aggravated Trafficking is such a difficult case in Oklahoma.
Drug trafficking charges, in general, are already difficult to defend. More often than not, the accused is caught "red handed" more or less. Now, he or she may not have the drugs directly in-hand, but most trafficking fact patterns play out the same way. The most common scenario I see is an individual traveling through Oklahoma, with an out-of-state license plate, alone, with drugs in the trunk of the vehicle.
Some arguments are hard to sell, and convincing a prosecutor that your client did not know about the drugs in the vehicle in a trafficking case is up there on the list. Think about it: the only reason someone ends up with a trafficking case, as opposed to simple possession of controlled dangerous substance or possession with intent, is due to the weight of the drugs. The weight necessary for Aggravated Trafficking in Oklahoma for various drugs are:
- Marijuana: 1,000 pounds;
- Cocaine: 450 grams;
- Methamphetamine: 450 grams.
As such, it's pretty damn difficult to argue with a strait face that your client did not know about the presence of 1,000 pounds of weed in the trunk of his compact sedan. It gets a little easier when dealing with cocaine or methamphetamine, as 450 grams is "only" approximately one pound (and it will likely smell much less prominent). There are more ways to be oblivious to one pound of something as opposed to 1,000 pounds.
While I'm on the subject, it is interesting to note some specific language in the Oklahoma drug trafficking laws. According to a strict reading of Oklahoma's Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substance Act, individuals can only be charged with Aggravated Trafficking when in possession of either marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamine. For some reason though, the trafficking law still differentiates specific weights on other drugs such as acid/LSD, crack cocaine, and hydrocodone. Why would there be a distinction on weight if it does not affect the resulting charge? As with most things, follow the money.
Increased Fines in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Legislature attached increased fines to increased weights: Trafficking in marijuana carries a fine of $25,000.00 to $100,000.00; however, the fine for Aggravated Trafficking in marijuana is $100,000.00 to $500,000.00. This increase holds true for the other controlled dangerous substances listed in the trafficking laws. The more weight you possess, the more money you can expect to pay in fines.
Moreover, many judges will not suspend the imposition of the fine, relying on the argument that the law states the fine is mandatory. Even though there is no provision which states the fine is not subject to suspension, some judges simply refuse to grant convicts any relief from the fine. Many individuals end up paying these fines and other court costs for the rest of their lives...
Unless their attorney gets their case dismissed.