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Prescription pill trafficking: A quick road to federal court

What turns a drug trafficking crime into a federal offense?

While there are several different ways that drug crimes can be elevated from the state level to the federal level, trafficking in prescription pills is one of the most surefire ways to land in federal court these days. That’s important to understand, because federal penalties are generally much more severe than state penalties for the same crime.

Drug trafficking charges are actually based on the quantity of the drugs involved in the illegal operation, not their actual movement. But the reality is that major operations do often move drugs throughout highly sophisticated networks across the United States. If the pills are being moved across state lines, that almost always moves the case into the federal courts as well.

One of the easiest ways to obtain prescription pills to send runners — posing as patients — to pain clinics and pharmacies in different areas. The runners then transport the drugs back to the main base of operations to be resold at substantial profits. Drug traffickers discovered that it’s often easier and cheaper to obtain prescription drugs for their clients that way than it is to make the drugs from scratch.

The complexity of the pill trafficking rings involved often requires sophisticated and costly investigations. Federal agencies are often better situated and funded to handle these investigations than state law enforcement agencies with budgetary constraints. Additionally, the federal government is actively seeking to break up the flood of prescription pills that has come to dominate the U.S. drug market.

Prescription drug abuse was declared to be the fastest-growing addiction in the United States by one federal official. It’s estimated that the distribution of black market prescription opioids and stimulants has increased by 1800% since it was last actively studied by the Drug Enforcement Agency in 1993.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces is one major federal initiative designed to identify and stop the most serious drug trafficking organizations. The OCDETF program involves multiple federal agencies while supplying federal funding to agencies tasked with investigating and prosecuting major drug traffickers. Black market suppliers of prescription pills have become a major focus of the agency’s investigations in the last few years.

Anyone who believes that he or she is the subject of investigation by federal authorities for prescription pill trafficking should consider consulting an attorney as soon as possible.

Source: The United States Department of Justice, “Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces,” accessed Dec. 29, 2016

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