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Federal Drug Trafficking

While the Controlled Substances Act allows federal agents to pursue even the simple possession of illegal drugs, the Drug Enforcement Agency and other U.S. law enforcement agencies tend to be especially interested in pursuing cartels, gangs and other organizations involved with drug trafficking. Charges for manufacturing, cultivating, transporting, selling or distributing large amounts of narcotics can lead to mandatory minimum sentences of up to life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

Des Moines Federal Drug Trafficking Lawyer

Federal prosecutors are bound to be very aggressive when pursuing trafficking charges. If accused, your best bet is a Des Moines federal drug trafficking lawyer with the experience to counter their tenacity. At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., our attorneys have defended clients facing criminal accusations for nearly five decades combined, including in the federal courtroom. We will put that experience to work in building your defense. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 to set up a free consultation.

We are licensed in all Iowa federal courts, and may therefore represent people all over the state. We are based in West Des Moines and often practice in the Des Moines area, including Polk County and Dallas County, but are willing and able to travel to other federal courts across the state.

Defining Drug Trafficking Under Federal Law

It is illegal, under federal law, to manufacture or cultivate, distribute, sell or dispense any controlled substance, or possess any controlled substances with the intent to do so. Possessing large amounts with any of the requisite intent listed can lead to major prison time and fines. These charges are called “trafficking.”

Being involved in any organized effort to sell, manufacture of transport drugs can net you the same sentence, no matter how minimal your role. For instance, if you are proved to have knowingly carried a briefcase full of money that was the proceeds of a big drug sale, you can face the same mandatory minimums, even if you never saw the drugs.

The larger the quantity of drugs, the harsher penalties you will face.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Iowa Trafficking Convictions

If you are convicted of possessing certain amounts of drugs with the intent to distribute, manufacture or dispense, you will face mandatory minimum sentencing. This means that you will spend at least that amount of time in federal prison.

The amount depends on the type of drug. Certain drugs, like cocaine, heroin and LSD, had specific amounts that can lead to the mandatory minimums. Others depend on which schedule the drug falls under. A schedule is a list of narcotics in the Controlled Substances Act. There are five schedules, with Schedule I having the worst penalties and Schedule V the most lax.

In the following chart, the drugs are listed in the first column. In the second column are amounts that will lead to a minimum five years in federal prison and a $5 million fine for an individual or $25 million fine for a group. In the third column are amounts that lead to a 10-year minimum sentence and an $8 million fine, or $50 million for a group.

Type of Substance

First Level Offense

Second Level Offense


100 - 999 grams

1 kilogram or more


500 - 4,999 grams

5 kilograms or more

Cocaine Base

28 - 279 grams

280 grams or more


100 to 999 kilograms or plants

More than 1,000 kilograms or plants

Methamphetamine (Meth)

5 - 49 grams pure, or 50 - 499 grams mixture

More than 50 grams pure or 500 grams mixture


10 - 99 grams pure or 100 - 999 grams mixture

More than 100 grams pure or 1 kilogram mixture

LSD (Acid)

1- 9 grams

10 grams or more

Fentanyl Analogue

10 - 99 grams

100 grams or more


40 - 399 grams

400 grams or more

These are for first offenses. For a second offense, the minimums double and the maximum goes up to life. For instance, if you have one prior offense for trafficking and are convicted of possessing 800 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute, you will face a minimum of 10 years, up to life, and a minimum fine of $10 million. If convicted for a third time with any amount in the third column, the minimum is life in prison.

If there was any serious bodily injury involved and the drug fell under Schedule I or Schedule II, you will face life in prison. With some much on the line, it’s important to have a Des Moines drug defense lawyer who can challenge the prosecution’s evidence.

McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. | Polk County Narcotics Trafficking Attorney

Our attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. are experienced in fighting drug trafficking charges in federal court. A skilled Des Moines federal drug trafficking lawyer can make the difference between walking away a free man or free woman and mandatory minimum sentences and million-dollar fines. Don’t leave anything to chance. Have experience on your side. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 to schedule a free consultation.

Tell Us About Your Case

How would you like to be contacted?

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

* All fields are required.

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West Des Moines, IA 50266
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