After two years of a federal indictment hanging over their heads, FedEx has received some good news: drug trafficking charges against them have been dropped.
FedEx was indicted in 2014 on charges of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to launder money, and multiple other counts. They pleaded not guilty.
The crimes allegedly began in the early 2000s when FedEx started shipping drugs (strong sleep aids, painkillers, and other prescription drugs) to consumers who purchased those drugs through internet pharmacies without a proper prescription from a doctor.
Even though these drugs can be consumed legally, the drugs in question were sent to addicts and dealers who purchased them illegally. Worse, there were cases of accidental overdoses and deaths that involved these drugs.
The case is unusual, because rather than indicting the online pharmacies, the shipping company was indicted. But FedEx sends millions of packages a day – how can they be expected to keep track of the legitimacy of every order? Why not just go after the websites that were set up to ship the drugs?
What also makes this case unusual is FedEx’s involvement in trying to stop the shipping. FedEx claimed that they were in constant communication with U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents who refused to tell them the names of the customers shipping illegal drugs. The agents also never ordered FedEx to stop shipping for any of the pharmacies that might be involved.
The official trial began in June 2016. That same week, prosecutors decided to drop all charges. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco wrote that FedEx was “factually innocent.”
This is extremely good news for FedEx. Being found guilty of drug trafficking would be a big story, especially since this is such an odd case. It would make FedEx look irresponsible and be a PR nightmare. Not to mention the fact that FedEx would have to pay the heavy fines associated with federal drug trafficking. The shipping giant is worth over $2 billion, but would have faced hundreds of millions of dollars in fines if found guilty – nothing to sneeze at.
Just a few years ago, shipping rival UPS paid the U.S. Justice Department $40 million collected from online pharmacies for similar activities involving illegal prescription drugs.
How Can I Be Charged on the Federal Level for Drug Trafficking?
Drug trafficking can be a state or federal charge. Since the legalization of marijuana, Colorado has seen increased trafficking within the state, as well as trafficking outside of state lines. If you are caught trafficking drugs (this could include the cultivation, delivery, or possession of a certain amount of drugs) within state lines, you will face state penalties.
Most likely, you will face felony charges, unless you were caught distributing small amounts of certain drugs (for example, distributing 1-3 oz. of marijuana is only charged as a misdemeanor). Felony convictions have serious consequences; you may face jail time and heavy fines, and you will lose the right to own a firearm.
If your case crosses state lines or involves a federal agency, you will be charged at the federal level. Federal courts take priority over state courts, so if at any time the federal court has interest in your state case, your trial will be sent to federal court.
Big Differences between State and Federal Courts
It is important to know the difference between these two courts, because a guilty verdict will produce significantly different sentences. If you go to federal court for drug crimes and you are found guilty, you will most likely be given an incredibly heavy sentence.
Because federal court means the involvement of federal agencies (the FBI, DEA, etc.) and a longer list of investigators than you would likely have to deal with in state court. Simply put, it is harder to win your case when you have a larger stack of evidence being used against you.
So let’s talk about sentencing. As we mentioned above, drug trafficking charges at the state level are usually classified as felonies. At both levels, the amount and type of drugs is crucial to sentencing, but federal drug charges have significantly harsher penalties.
For example, the sale of large amounts of cocaine at the state level could result in a prison sentence of up to 12 years and fines up to $750,000. But at the federal level, the same charge could result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years (if bodily harm was caused by the sale, 20 years is the minimum sentence) and fines of up to $1 million. Quite a difference.
If you have been charged on drug charges, it is important to do everything you can to keep your case at the state level and reduce your charges. The best way to do this? Work with an experienced Colorado drug crimes lawyer.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2016 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.