A member of a Canadian drug-smuggling ring that used leased helicopters and snowmobiles to bring marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine into the United States, was sentenced this month in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
The man pleaded guilty last December after fighting extradition for years in the smuggling operation that ran from 2007 to 2009. He was sentenced to seven years in prison. He was one of several people involved in the ring. In addition to low-flying helicopters and snowmobiles, the ring used truckers and hikers to haul drugs across the U.S.-Canada border.
The group used helicopters to fly hundreds of pounds of marijuana at a time into remote forest clearings in Washington state. The pilots would meet drivers bringing shipments of cocaine up from the Los Angeles area, and fly the cocaine back into British Columbia. One helicopter pilot committed suicide in jail. Other members of the smuggling ring have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from 18 months to 10 years.
Washington residents don't have to smuggle drugs to end up in prison. Simply being found in possession of a controlled substance can land a person in prison for years.
Marijuana or marijuana-infused products are legal within certain quantities in Washington, provided the person in possession is at least 21 years old. They include:
- One ounce of useable marijuana;
- 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product in solid form;
- 72 ounces of marijuana-infused product in liquid form; or
- Seven grams of marijuana concentrate.
In general, possessing 40 grams or less of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000 or both. Possessing more than 40 grams of marijuana is a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.
Having prescription drugs without a doctor's order, is a Class B felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000, or both.
If found guilty of felony narcotics possession, the penalties vary depending upon the type of drug and the quantity. Defendants can face sentences of up to 10 years in prison or $300,000 in fines or both.
There is a drug offender sentencing alternative program for some defendants. If the sentencing court determines that the offender is eligible for an alternative sentence under this section of the Revised Code of Washington, and that the alternative sentence is appropriate, the court will waive imposition of a sentence and impose a sentence consisting of either a prison-based alternative under or a residential chemical dependency treatment-based alternative.
An attorney can help a defendant accused of a drug crime determine the best course of action. If you have been arrested and face criminal charges, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.