Drug trafficking is a serious crime that has long plagued the United States, particularly along its southern border. Arizona, with its proximity to Mexico, is a major point of entry for drugs being smuggled into the country. The state has responded by increasing its border patrol efforts, and those efforts have had a significant impact on drug trafficking in the state. In this blog post, we will explore the role of the Arizona Border Patrol in combating drug trafficking, the types of drugs that are most commonly smuggled across the border, and the penalties associated with drug trafficking in Arizona. Understanding the laws and consequences surrounding drug trafficking is crucial for anyone who may find themselves facing charges, as well as for anyone who wants to stay informed about the impact of drug trafficking on the state of Arizona.
Although prescription opioid abuse is a major cause of overdose deaths in the United States, drug trafficking remains a significant contributor to the illicit drug market. The Mexican cartels are the primary sources of illicit marijuana and methamphetamine, while Colombian cartels are the chief producers of cocaine. However, it is not just South and Central America that is involved in drug trafficking; most of the heroin and Fentanyl in the United States comes from Asia and the Middle East.
The United States government is committed to fighting drug trafficking through various measures, including 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 within the country to shut down supply routes. In this blog post, we will focus on drug trafficking along the Arizona border and the efforts of the Arizona Border Patrol to combat this issue.
US Customs and Border Protection
With a workforce of more than 60,000 employees, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is one of the largest law enforcement agencies globally. CBP is responsible for ensuring the lawful international travel and trade while preventing illegal drugs, weapons, and terrorists from entering the United States.
CBP is the United States’ first unified border entity that 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, which is a challenging task considering the magnitude of America’s borders.
CBP admits millions of travelers and screens thousands of cargo containers daily. According to CBP’s official website, in the fiscal year 2020, CBP seized nearly 830,000 pounds of drugs and arrested over 15,000 individuals across the United States. Additionally, the agency facilitates over $2.4 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
As of 2023, drug trafficking continues to be a significant problem in the United States. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Mexican drug trafficking organizations remain the primary suppliers of most illicit drugs in the country, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Additionally, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are still being trafficked into the United States from countries like China and Mexico.
The DEA reports that drug trafficking organizations often use the Southwest Border to transport drugs into the United States. In 2021, CBP seized over 300,000 pounds of drugs at the Southwest Border, with the majority being marijuana. Methamphetamine and cocaine seizures also increased at the Southwest Border in 2021 compared to the previous year. The DEA also notes that drug trafficking organizations have adapted to the pandemic, using alternative routes and methods to transport drugs into the United States.
Drug trafficking statistics show that the problem is not limited to the Southwest Border. In 2021, CBP seized over 5,000 pounds of drugs at the Northern Border, with the majority being methamphetamine. The Eastern and Western Coastal Borders also saw significant drug seizures in 2021, with over 2,000 pounds of cocaine and over 1,000 pounds of heroin seized.
These statistics show that drug trafficking remains a serious issue in the United States, with drugs being trafficked into the country from various sources and through various means. Law enforcement agencies continue to work to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking organizations and prevent the flow of drugs into the country.
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. While the quantity of narcotics in the suspect’s possession does matter — it’s the knowledge and intent that will really 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 life 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) 418-4281 to discuss your case today.