Smuggling Controlled Substances (Import and Export of Drugs)


With Michigan’s borders so close to Canada, there are many areas of the state that have become notorious for drug smuggling. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice has even designated about 10 counties in Michigan as parts of the Michigan High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). Because federal and state law enforcement and prosecutors are trying to disrupt the drug trade by cutting off trafficking routes, individuals caught unlawfully importing and exporting drugs are strictly and mercilessly prosecuted and, often, sentenced to years behind bars.

Unfortunately, some individuals become victims of the Michigan court system and are charged unfairly or have had their Constitutional Rights violated. As such, if you or a loved one has been charged with the smuggling of controlled substances, you need to hire a Michigan drug trafficking attorney as soon as possible.

Our drug smuggling attorneys are highly experienced in these cases, and we offer a full-service, no-stones-left-unturned defense strategy that approaches every angle and combats the prosecution’s narrative with evidence and witness testimony of our own. To speak with a Grabel & Associates attorney, call us today at 1-800-342-7896. In the meantime, you can learn more about drug smuggling laws below.

Controlled Substances Import and Export Act

The illicit drug trade heavily relies on a massive system of transportation networks to move both narcotics and unlawfully possessed pharmaceutical drugs. Often, these routes cross from the United States and into Canada, and vice versa. Moreover, some smuggled substances travel all the way from Mexico or arrive at (or leave from) Michigan’s borders via the extensive maritime routes available.

To control the movement of narcotics and other controlled substances (defined under the Controlled Substances Act), the U.S. Congress enacted the "Controlled Substances Import and Export Act". The text of this Act states, “It is unlawful to import into the customs territory of the United States from any place outside thereof (but within the United States), or to import into the United States from any place outside thereof, any controlled substance in schedule I or II or any narcotic drug in schedule III, IV, or V.”

Furthermore, the Act specifies various violations of the law, including but not limited to:

  • Knowingly or intentionally importing or exporting a controlled substance
  • Knowingly or intentionally bringing or possessing a controlled substance on board a vessel, aircraft, or vehicle
  • Manufacturing, possessing with intent to distribute, or distributing a controlled substance

Federal Drug Smuggling Charges

Because drug smuggling involves interstate or international lines, various federal agencies are typically involved in the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act as well as the prosecution of individuals who’ve violated the law. Some agencies involved with drug smuggling enforcement include the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, FBI, ATF, and DEA.

It is important to note that, if you’re arrested by federal agents, or federal agents were involved in your arrest, you may be charged with federal drug smuggling charges. Compared to Michigan drug trafficking and distribution charges, federal drug smuggling charges carry substantially harsher penalties.

Under some circumstances, importing drugs into the U.S. can also be seen as an act of terrorism and can involve extra penalties.

Possible Penalties for a Controlled Substances Smuggling Charges

The penalties for a federal drug smuggling charge depend on the type and the quantity of the smuggled controlled substances. Schedule I and II controlled substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, LSD, and PCP, often lead to more severe penalties.

Individuals convicted of smuggling these types of drugs may be looking at a mandatory minimum of five years imprisonment. One kilogram of heroin, for instance, carries a mandatory minimum of 10 years; if death or serious bodily injury occurred, the minimum is 20 years.

Failing to properly notify the Attorney General about the importation or exportation of certain controlled substances (such as Schedule III to V substances), or failing to register a legal importation or exportation operation, does not carry an imprisonment penalty. Instead, convicted individuals may be looking at a civil fine of not more than $25,000.

Contact Grabel & Associates for Michigan’s Leading Drug Attorneys

Unlawfully importing or exporting controlled substances, whether narcotics or prescription drugs, is a very serious crime punishable by imprisonment, fines, probation, and mandatory minimum sentences. For this reason, it is critical to obtain the legal representation of an experienced and highly competent drug trafficking attorney immediately after an arrest or if you know you’re under investigation.

We at Grabel & Associates understand the difficulties in these cases, especially when the federal government is involved. Nonetheless, we boast a wide network of resources and industry-leading knowledge of Michigan and federal drug smuggling laws. For a free consultation with the criminal defense attorneys at Grabel & Associates, give us a call today at 1-800-342-7896.


With Attorney's statewide, Grabel & Associates defend people accused of criminal charges throughout the state of Michigan including the communities of Lansing, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Pinconning, Kalamazoo, Mount Pleasant, Bay City, Saginaw, Brant, Traverse City, Ludington, Allegan, Hillsdale, Lapeer, Port Huron, Ann Arbor, and Detroit.