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Strict liability in second-degree drug trafficking charges

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2023 | Drug Crimes |

It often suggests transporting or selling drugs when someone uses the term “second-degree drug trafficking.” But, in Missouri, people can commit this offense in distinct ways.

Under Missouri law, an individual can face second-degree drug trafficking charge if the court finds evidence that they:

  • Possess or have certain types of drugs under their control
  • Purchase or attempt to purchase controlled substances
  • Bring specific types of controlled substances into the state

The punishments for such drug crimes vary based on the classification of the offense. In a second-degree charge, the offense is a Class C felony, with a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment for possessing or bringing into the state the minimum amount of certain drugs, such as heroin, crack, LSD or fentanyl. If the quantity of drugs exceeds a certain threshold, the offense becomes a Class B felony, which can lead to imprisonment of up to 15 years.

Lack of criminal intent

Possession of controlled substances often leads to punishments like fines or a prison sentence. But, a person must knowingly possess drugs to count as a crime. If they receive a second-degree drug trafficking charge, they might say they didn’t mean to have the drugs as a defense. For example, in a Missouri case, a person was charged with possessing methamphetamine. But the Missouri Supreme Court decided there wasn’t enough evidence to convict them. The court said that just being in the place where the authorities discovered the meth doesn’t prove they knew it was there.

Drug trafficking typically falls under ‘strict liability’ offenses. This means a person can be convicted even if they didn’t realize they had drugs, especially if they have large quantities that could imply an intent to distribute. Successfully contesting such charges often involves defenses like wrongful search or insufficient evidence. Thus, understanding these complexities and mounting a solid defense is crucial to reducing the risk of a drug possession conviction.