The sale and transportation of controlled substances (illegal drugs) in Nevada is a very serious criminal charge with extremely negative consequences. Here’s everything you need to know about drug sales and trafficking laws explained by our experienced drug defense attorneys in Las Vegas.

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Definition of Selling Drugs

NRS 453.3211 states that it is unlawful for a person to import, transport, sell, exchange, barter, supply, prescribe, dispense, give away or administer a controlled or counterfeit substance. This includes manufacturing or compounding controlled substances (or counterfeit substances), or offering or attempting to offer controlled or counterfeit substances.

In addition to opening a place for the purpose of unlawfully selling or giving away controlled substances, other examples of selling drugs include:

  • Hand-to-hand sales (i.e., on the street or in a private residence)
  • Selling or gifting drugs over the internet
  • Selling or gifting drugs through the mail
  • Selling or gifting drugs through any form of organized crime (i.e., gangs)

close up of table with arranged drugs and weapon

Penalties for Sale of Controlled Substances

As per NRS 453.3162, it is unlaw to sell, gift or use a controlled substance, and any person who opens or maintains a place for the purpose of unlawfully selling, giving away, or using any controlled substance is guilty of a Category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than one year and a maximum term of not more than six years. As well, that individual may be further punished by being issued a fine of up to $10,000.

If a person convicted of violating this law has previously been convicted of violating it, the person will be found guilty of a Category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than two years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years. They may be further punished with a fine of up to $20,000.

The court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of a person convicted of violating this law if the person has been previously convicted under this law.

The penalties for NRS 453.321 are the same as stated under NRS 453.316. Additionally, to note, for a third or subsequent offense, or if the offender has previously been convicted two or more times under this section, the person will be subject to imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than three years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years and may be further punished by a fine of up to $20,000 for each offense.

Drug Trafficking – Definition of Transporting Drugs

Trafficking is very different from selling or possessing in that trafficking offenses are when the sale of the drug exceeds a particular amount of any given drug; the amount varies depending on the drug—details to follow.

Drug trafficking in Nevada is generally defined as the manufacturing, delivery, sale, or importation of illegal drugs both across state and national borders or within the state. This is an exceptionally serious crime in that the offender can also be found guilty of federal drug charges (in addition to state drug charges). Federal charges lead to longer prison sentences and more expensive fines.

Penalties for Drug Trafficking in Nevada

Controlled substances that can lead to drug trafficking penalties include, but are not limited to heroin, crack, cocaine, Vicodin, opium, LSD, GHP, oxycontin, hydrocodone, opiates, codeine, methamphetamines, morphine, and ecstasy.

To be convicted of drug trafficking of a Schedule 1 or 2 drug, you must possess a minimum of 100 grams. There is currently no provision under Nevada law for trafficking in schedules 3, 4, or 5.

If found guilty of trafficking in Nevada with 100 grams or more – but less than 400 grams – of a schedule 1 or 2 drug, you will be found guilty of a Category B felony and punished with between 2-20 years in jail. A conviction for trafficking with over 400 grams of a schedule 1 or 2 drug will be a Category A felony and punishable by 10 years to life in prison or 25 years in prison with eligibility for parole after 10 years.

A conviction in Nevada for trafficking 50 pounds or more of marijuana – but less than 1,000 pounds – is a Category C felony punishable by a fine up to $25,000. The same is true for trafficking 1 pound or more – but less than 20 pounds – of a marijuana concentrate, such as resin.

A conviction of trafficking in Nevada between 1,000-5,000 pounds of marijuana is a Category B felony and includes a jail sentence between 2-10 years and a fine up to $50,000. The same penalties apply for between 20-100 pounds of marijuana concentrate.

A conviction for trafficking in Nevada more than 5,000 pounds of marijuana or more than 100 pounds of a marijuana concentrate is considered a Category A felony and includes 15 years – life in prison (or eligibility of parole starting after five years with a fine up to $200,000).

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Federal Laws Regarding Drug Trafficking

Being charged with a federal drug trafficking offense is a grave crime. The penalties vary depending on the schedule of the drug, whether the offender has previous drug convictions, whether death or serious bodily harm resulted from the sale of the offense, and the amount of the substance that was being trafficked.

The Federal Trafficking penalties for Schedules 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (except marijuana) follow.

Amounts considering Trafficking:

  • Cocaine (Schedule II): 500-4999 g mixture
  • Cocaine Base (Schedule II): 28-279 g mixture
  • Fentanyl (Schedule IV): 40-399 g mixture
  • Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I): 10-99 g mixture
  • Heroin (Schedule I): 100-999 g mixture
  • LSD (Schedule I): 1-9 g mixture
  • Methamphetamine (Schedule II): 5-49 g pure or 50-499 g mixture
  • PCP (Schedule II): 10-99 g pure or 100-999 gm mixture

Penalties:

  • First Offense: 5 – 40 years in prison. If death or serious injury occurs, 20 years – life in prison. There can also be fines ranging from $5 million to $25 million dollars.
  • Second Offense: 10 years – life in prison. If death or serious injury occurs, life imprisonment. There can also be a fine ranging from $8 million to $50 million dollars.

Larger Amounts of Trafficking:

  • Cocaine (Schedule II): 5 kgs or more mixture
  • Cocaine Base (Schedule II): 280 g or more mixture
  • Fentanyl (Schedule IV): 400 g or more mixture
  • Fentanyl Analogue (Schedule I): 100 g or more mixture
  • Heroin (Schedule I): 1 kg or more mixture
  • LSD (Schedule I): 10 g or more mixture
  • Methamphetamine (Schedule II): 50 g more pure or 500 g or more mixture
  • PCP (Schedule II): 100 g or more pure or 1 kg or more mixture

Penalties for Larger Amounts:

  • First Offense: 10 years – life in prison. If death or serious injury, 20 years – life in prison. There can also be a fine ranging from $10 million to $50 million dollars.
  • Second Offense: 20 years – life in prison. If death or serious injury, life imprisonment. There can also be a fine ranging from $20 million to $75 million dollars.
  • 2 or More Prior Offenses: Life imprisonment. There can also be a fine ranging from $20 million to $75 million dollars.

Other substances/schedules and amounts:

  • Other Schedule I and II Substances (and any substance product containing Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid): any amount
  • Flunitrazepam (Schedule I): 1 g

Penalties:

  • First Offense: Up to 20 years in prison. If death or serious injury, 20 years to life in prison. There can also be a fine of $1 million to $5 million dollars.
  • Second Offense: Up to 30 years in prison. If death or serious injury, not less than life. There can also be a fine of $2 million to $10 million dollars.

For Other Schedule III Substances in any amount, the penalties are:

  • First Offense: Up to 10 years in prison. If death or serious bodily injury, up to 15 years in prison. There may also be a fine of $500,000 to $2.5 million dollars.
  • Second Offense: Up to 20 years in prison. If death or serious bodily injury, up to 30 years in prison. There can also be a fine of $1 million to $5 million dollars.

For Other Schedule IV Substances (except for 1 g or more of Flunitrazepam) in any amount, the penalties are:

  • First Offense: Up to 5 years in prison. There may also be a fine between $250,000 and $1 million dollars.
  • Second Offense: Up to 10 years in prison. There may also be a fine between $500,000 and $2 million dollars.

For All Schedule V Substances in any amount, the penalties are:

  • First Offense: Up to 1 year in prison. There may also be a fine between $100,000 and $250,000.
  • Second Offense: Up to 4 years in prison. There may also be a fine between $200,000 and $500,000.
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Defenses for Drug Trafficking

Due to the potential consequences of being found guilty of drug trafficking, it is in a person’s best interests to contact an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss the specific details of their unique case. Having said that, three general defenses may be effective in defending a drug trafficking accusation:

  1. Lack of intent to traffic. If the individual did not intend to sell, manufacture, transport, or distribute (gift or sell) the drugs, the individual might only be charged for possession of the drugs for personal use. In this case, there is no legitimate ground to charge the defendant for drug trafficking.
  2. Lack of knowledge of the drugs. If the individual was unaware that the drugs were on his/her person or on his/her property, there is a possible defense to be made.
  3. Illegal police search. If the police made an error while executing their search and collection of the drugs, there is a possible defense to be made.

Drug Scheduling

It’s important to understand the different drug scheduling categories. Drug scheduling is set at the federal level and divides substances into various categories depending on their potential for abuse and their use or lack of use for medical purposes.

  • Schedule 1 Drugs: contain controlled substances that are considered to have a high potential for abuse and have no known or accepted medical purposes. Examples include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote.
  • Schedule 2 Drugs: contain substances that have a high potential for abuse but have some used or accepted medical application, albeit with restrictions. Examples include combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin.
  • Schedule 3 Drugs: substances with less potential for abuse than Schedule 1 or 2 drugs, and these drugs also have accepted medical applications with restrictions. Examples include products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone.
  • Schedule 4 Drugs: substances with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule 3 and are commonly used for medicinal purposes. Examples include Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol.
  • Schedule 5 Drugs: have the least potential for abuse according to official scheduling and are commonly used for medicinal purposes. Examples include cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin.

As stated, it is best to consult with a trusted criminal defense attorney to go over your right and more detailed and specific defenses, depending on the particulars of the case at hand. Contact our team today for a free consultation on your case!

Do you need strong legal defense against your drug trafficking charges?
Use our 24/7 online tool to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.
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Legal References:

1NRS 453.321

2NRS 453.316

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