The Texas-Mexico border has always been a major entry point for bringing illegal drugs into the United States. For a long time, marijuana, cocaine and heroin represented the vast majority of illegal narcotics intercepted by Customs and Border Protection agents stationed in Texas. However, over the last several years, CBP reports that methamphetamine traffic has risen steadily.
The Texas Tribune recently published data showing that CPB agents in the Laredo district seized approximately 2,200 pounds of methamphetamine in 2012. This is a 116 percent increase from 2011. In turn, in 2011, CPB agents in Laredo seized 34 percent more methamphetamine than they did in 2010.
The reasons for the increase are varied. American appetites for the drug have grown significantly, largely because methamphetamine is simultaneously highly addictive, cheap and potent. A recent study by the University of Texas Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network shows that since 2007, the purity of methamphetamine has increased by 127 percent. At the same time, the purchase price has fallen by approximately 70 percent.
Methamphetamine is also comparatively easy to produce. Since the drug is not plant-based, suppliers do not have to work around growing seasons, nor do they have to worry about crops being damaged by adverse weather conditions.
Further, Mexican drug cartels tend to manufacture their methamphetamine at production facilities near the U.S. border using chemicals they can source domestically. As a result, the entire process becomes more profitable since the drug does not have to be moved very far.
Methamphetamine trafficking penalties
Both federal and state law enforcement offices are making renewed efforts to crack down on suspected methamphetamine trafficking. Those who are caught can face very significant criminal penalties.
Under federal law, a first offense for trafficking between 10 and 99 grams of methamphetamine can bring between 5 and 40 years in prison. A second offense carries a possibility of life in prison.
The penalties are higher for larger quantities of the drug. A first offense for trafficking 100 grams or more of methamphetamine can result in a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison. A second offense is punishable by 20 years to life in prison.
Of course, the risk of prosecution doesn’t stop once the drug has been successfully smuggled into the United States. Under Texas law, the possession or sale of any amount of methamphetamine can be prosecuted as a felony. Depending on the quantity of the drug at issue, penalties can range anywhere from a few months in jail to 99 years in prison.
Because of the significant penalties attached to methamphetamine offenses, it is extremely important for Texans facing charges to enlist the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorney will be able to evaluate all of the circumstances of the case to help identify the best strategy for moving forward.