Border Patrol and Drug Trafficking


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we have a major problem with illicit drugs in the United States. Whether we’re talking about heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl, or other opioids, the result is the same — shattered lives and broken families. 

The National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC reported over 70,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, almost double the reported figure in 2007.

Drug-related offenses account for the highest percentage of inmates in American prisons, to the tune of 76,166 inmates as of March 2019. That’s 45.5% of inmates in the prison system, almost 2.5x the amount of the next-highest category of weapons, explosives, and arson. 

Drug Trafficking

While many of the overdose deaths in the United States are due to prescription opioid abuse, drug trafficking still plays a major role in the illicit drug market.

Mexican cartels are the #1 supplier of illicit marijuana and methamphetamine, while Colombian cartels are the chief source of cocaine. South and Central America aren’t the only culprits, though — most Fentanyl and heroin in the United States comes from Asia and the Middle East.

The United States government seeks to fight drug trafficking on every front. There are joint operations with foreign governments to halt the flow of drugs into the country, strict security at ports of entry and along the borders, and local efforts inside the country to shut down supply routes. 

US Customs and Border Protection

With over 60,000 employees in its ranks, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the world. The organization is charged with facilitating lawful international travel and trade, while keeping illicit drugs, weapons, and terrorists out of the United States. 

The United States’ first unified border entity, CBP applies a comprehensive approach to border patrol and management. The agency combines agricultural protection, border security, immigration, and customs into one coordinated and supportive activity — a tall order considering the magnitude of America’s borders.

To put things in perspective, consider this: on any given day, CBP admits nearly one million travelers, screens more than 67,000 cargo containers, seizes nearly six tons of illicit drugs, and arrests over 1,100 individuals. In the process of enforcing hundreds of federal laws and regulations, the agency facilitates over $3 trillion in legitimate trade each year. 

US Drug Enforcement Administration

While CBP handles drug trafficking at America’s borders, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) fights a two-front battle against controlled substances in the country and illicit drugs that are destined for the United States.

Inside the United States, the DEA enforces controlled substances laws and regulations, and supports non-enforcement programs that reduce the availability of illicit controlled substances.

Outside the United States, the DEA works with foreign governments and law enforcement agencies to capture principal members of organizations involved in growing, manufacturing, and distribution of controlled substances destined for the United States.

The captured criminals are usually extradited to the United States, though there are situations where the criminal is transferred to local authorities for prosecution.

Drug Trafficking Statistics

On a typical day in 2018, CBP disrupted 171 pounds of narcotics and seized 4,657 pounds of narcotics. Here’s what that looks like for the whole year (based on 2018 annual statistics):

  • Border Patrol seized 51,713 pounds of cocaine in 2018, a 17% drop from the 62,415 pounds of cocaine seized in 2017
  • Border Patrol seized 5,205 pounds of heroin in 2018, a 53% increase over the 3,398 pounds of heroin seized in 2017
  • Border Patrol seized 300,289 pounds of marijuana in 2018, an 18% decrease from the 366,627 pounds of marijuana seized in 2017
  • Border Patrol seized 56,362 pounds of methamphetamine in 2018, a 22% increase over the 46,247 pounds of methamphetamine seized in 2017
  • Border Patrol seized 1,785 pounds of fentanyl in 2018, a 5% decrease from the 1,875 pounds of fentanyl seized in 2017

Based on 2015 statistics, the vast majority of drug trafficking occurs along America’s southern border. Some trafficking takes place on the eastern and western coastal borders, while only a fraction of a percent takes place along the northern border.

In 2015, drug trafficking along the southern US border was responsible for 99.9% of illicit marijuana and 99.8% of methamphetamine in the United States.

The same year, 61.4% of the nation’s cocaine came through eastern and western coastal borders, while 38.3% of the cocaine came through the southern border. While drug trafficking along the northern US border is negligible, it still accounts for 93.6% of ecstasy in the United States.

Related Issues

Drug trafficking isn’t the only issue on the table when it comes to border patrol. Some of the major issues that relate to border patrol and drug trafficking include human trafficking, weapons trafficking, and illicit trade goods (products that infringe on another company’s intellectual property rights). 

Topics like cocaine trafficking and marijuana trafficking tend to receive more publicity, but these other issues are just as important.

Human trafficking operations often subject the victims to deplorable conditions, with many willing participants being killed, injured, or forced into prostitution or the drug trade. Weapons trafficking is even worse, as unregistered weapons are responsible for thousands of deaths each year in the United States. 

Knock-off products that ignore intellectual property rights may not seem like a big issue in comparison, but illicit trade goods have a massive impact on the economy.

American companies lose out on billions of dollars, either through lost sales or in the course of their brand image being damaged. Illicit trade goods also tend to be cheaply manufactured, and can be physically harmful to American consumers.

Arizona Drug Trafficking Laws

To be charged with importing, transporting, or selling drugs in Arizona, a suspected drug trafficker must have knowingly imported, transported, or sold narcotics in the state. The quantity of narcotics in the suspect’s possession doesn’t matter — it’s the knowledge and intent that will get you in trouble. 

Generally speaking, drug trafficking carries a felony charge in Arizona. Depending on the unique circumstances of the case, the charges may be classified as a class 2 – 6 felony, with a class 6 felony carrying the lightest sentence and a class 2 felony carrying the harshest penalty. Possible prison sentences may range from 6 months to 7 years depending on the actual charges.

Receive Help With a Drug Trafficking Offense in Arizona

If you’re facing drug trafficking or other related drug charges in Arizona, then your foreseeable future depends on the outcome of your criminal case.

With a public defender or sub-par attorney, you risk incurring penalties that can significantly and negatively impact your life. With the help of an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney, however, you have the opportunity to lessen your penalties and the impact your case has on your future.


Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

Free Criminal Case Review

Call (480) 467-4370  or fill out the form below to get your free consultation and discuss your best legal options.