Drug Trafficking Charges for Utah Man Smuggling $300,000 Worth of Marijuana

A Cedar City Utah man was arrested for drug trafficking charges when Oklahoma police caught him smuggling $300,000 worth of marijuana through their state.

It all started with a traffic violation

Photo by: Highway Patrol Images

Photo by: Highway Patrol Images

68 year old Peter Dulfon of Cedar City, Utah was stopped along Interstate 40 in Oklahoma for numerous traffic violations when authorities realized there was more going on. Police took Dulfon into the squad car for questioning and when officers began to cite Dulfon for the traffic violations, he attempted to flee. Oklahoma police realized there was more to the story and ordered a K9 unit to the scene.

A trunk full of pot

When the K-9 unit arrived, the drug dog alerted police to the trunk which officers found full of duffle bags. Inside the bags were vacuum sealed pouches of marijuana, which authorities have estimated weighing between 80 and 120 pounds and had a $300,000 street value. Dulfon, who was originally stopped for traffic violations that would’ve ended with a ticket, was booked into jail on drug trafficking charges.

Drug trafficking in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has recently reduced the penalties for drug possession however drug trafficking and distribution charges are still harsh. Under Oklahoma state law, drug trafficking of more than 25 pounds of marijuana will result in a hefty fine ranging between $25,000 and $100,000 as well as four years to life in prison.

Drug Trafficking

Photo courtesy of: Canadian County (Oklahoma) Sheriff’s Office Facebook page

Had Dulfon been caught in Utah his fine would be far less, ranging at $5,000 to $10,000. Prison time in Utah would have been higher however; up to five years if he had less than 100 pounds of marijuana in his trunk and as much as 15 years in prison if the final weigh in of his stash exceeded 100 pounds.

Drug trafficking vs distribution

The charges Dulfon faced in Oklahoma were at a state level, and reflected the state’s penalties for distribution. Dulfon was charged with drug trafficking though. Although some may drug trafficking and distribution are one in the same, drug trafficking charges can go to federal court which means those convicted would be spending time in federal prison, not state. So what makes distribution charges become trafficking instead? There are two reasons in which a person would face drug trafficking charges as well as distribution. The first but not always the most common is when drug are sold over state lines. The most prevalent cause of federal drug trafficking charges however is not regarding the movement of the drugs, but the vast quantity the suspect allegedly intends to sell.

Federal drug trafficking penalties

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s Federal Trafficking Penalties, trafficking of less than 50 kilograms (110lbs) of marijuana may result in up to five years in federal prison as well as another fine of up to $250,000. If the amount is over 110 pounds, or 50 to 99 kilograms, that can result in up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $1 million dollars. Of course, these prison sentences and fine amounts can be increased for subsequent charges. Authorities mentioned Dulfon had a prior criminal record but failed to elaborate on that information. They only stated that “he’ll be put away for a long time.”

Consult an attorney

Photo by: Phillippe Put

Photo by: Phillippe Put

When it comes to facing distribution or drug trafficking charges in court, it is never recommended to go it alone. Regardless of whether or not defendants are first time offenders or if they have a lengthy criminal record, anyone who has been arrested for distribution or trafficking is strongly urged to consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss the possible state and/or federal charges they may be facing.

Mass Incarceration of Drug Trafficking Offenders

An end may be in sight for the United States’ issue with mass incarceration of drug trafficking offenders as thousands of federal inmates were released over the weekend.

Over 6,000 inmates released early

Photo by: Sam Villaroman

Photo by: Sam Villaroman

Around 6,100 drug trafficking offenders around the United States were released this weekend from federal prisons. This may appear as though the U.S. Sentencing Commission is making strides in reducing the mass incarceration of drug trafficking offenders; however most of these inmates were already on the final leg of their sentencing with the majority having already been released to halfway homes. Others who were not U.S. citizens were released into the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) only to await being deported. While this may have been just a small step, the U.S. Sentencing Commission plans on taking more by granting early release to another 16,500 more drug trafficking offenders within the next year. Optimistically, this early release program will have positive results and will eventually lessen the mass incarceration levels of drug trafficking offenders in all federal prisons.

More than 2 million behind bars

Currently the United States averages over 2 million inmates housed in both jails and prisons around the nation, the largest amount of inmates than any other country in the world. While several offenders are imprisoned for violent crimes or repeat offenses, there is a large amount of inmates who are serving time for drug offenses. According to the Special Report issued last month by the U.S. Department of Justice: Since 1994 nearly 182,000 new offenders have been sentenced to Federal prisons. Out of those, 52% were drug trafficking offenders. More than half of the nation’s federal prison inmates are sitting behind bars for nothing more than drugs.

War on drugs & extreme penalties

The war on drugs was officially declared in the early 1970’s, although it didn’t pick up speed until well into the 80’s when the Drug Enforcement Administration was founded. With the cracking down on drugs and the harsh penalties that followed, the amount of people incarcerated for drug crimes since then has skyrocketed. Not only are more individuals facing jail or prison time for drugs; the penalties for possession, distribution, and drug trafficking offenders are extreme. For example, the DEA states that penalties for drug trafficking offenders who have a quantity of more than 500 grams but less than 5 kilograms of cocaine will face “not less than 5 years and not more than 40 years.” Those convicted a second time, or those arrested with more than 5 kilos are facing “not less than 10 years and not more than life.” Anywhere from 5 years to life for drug trafficking offenders is outrageous and something is finally being done about it, even if there are other incentives for releasing inmates early.

Ulterior Motive

While claiming that reducing the harshness of penalties for drug trafficking offenders is a priority, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has other motives for releasing drug offenders early.

• According to the Sensible Sentencing Reform: The 2014 Reduction of Drug Sentences Policy Profile, “Congress directed the Commission […] to “minimize the likelihood that the Federal prison population will exceed the capacity of the Federal Prisons.”

• Stated elsewhere on this policy profile the Commission adds that this program “could save close to 80,000 prison bed years over time.”

• Additionally, “The BOP budget is well over $6 billion, accounting for 25% of DOJ’s total budget.”

Regardless of the motive, most of the public are in favor of reduced sentencing for drug trafficking offenders and see the change in Federal sentencing procedures as a positive step in the right direction. For more information on the reduction of drug sentences, and how it might affect those facing new charges in the future, contact a criminal defense attorney today.