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Narcotics trafficking in Italy and abroad: all you need is the right lawyer to win

When it comes to drug trafficking in Italy or abroad, the defence of the accused must be entrusted to a lawyer specialised in drug trafficking, who has the appropriate skills and experience to win on the charges.

ILA – International Lawyers Associates has behind it important cases related precisely to national and international drug trafficking, successes that have gained media attention in most cases.

What is drug trafficking: a transnational crime

Drug trafficking, i.e. the trade in narcotic substances such as heroin, cocaine, cannabis, marijuana, ecstasy, etc., is undoubtedly the number one item in the criminal turnover of mafias. Managing the drug trade are powerful and well-structured criminal organisations that not only have capital, means and manpower, but also establish specific trade agreements with other criminal gangs in other countries of the world, such as the Colombian, Mexican and Bolivian cartels, aimed at transporting drugs and weapons from the places of production to those of consumption.

Drug trafficking, is indeed defined as a transnational crime, capable of exploiting both the diversity of legislation in force in the various countries of the world and the lesser capacity of some states to fight it.

More specifically, under Article 74 of the Consolidated Law on Narcotic Drugs, the offence of association for the purpose of drug trafficking occurs when three or more persons associate in order to commit several of the offences set out in Article. 70(4), (6) and (10) (excluding transactions relating to the substances referred to in Category III of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 273/2004 and Annex to Regulation No 111/2005, or in Article 73), and whoever promotes, sets up, directs, organises or finances the association is punished – for this alone – by imprisonment of not less than twenty years.

This article, therefore, punishes the creation of an association of persons aimed at the illicit trafficking of drugs, the so-called drug precursors.

It is a classic associative offence, therefore, its essential characteristic is the presence of several active parties, in a number that varies according to the case; moreover, a stable and permanent link aimed at carrying out a criminal programme is required.

It is not indispensable that all the competitors act to fulfil the same purpose, but an association involving on a lasting basis the importer of the drug and the small dealers of the same substance, the supplier of the drug and the sellers who receive it in order to interact with the final clientele in the so-called ‘retail’ sale, i.e. the retail seller and the affectionate buyers of the substance, may also fall within the scope of Article 74.

Our firm International Lawyers Associates is, however, well known for having provided assistance to individuals involved in the wholesale trafficking of large quantities of heavy drugs, through well-known world drug trafficking routes.

It should be emphasised, however, that the concretisation of the criminal plan is not necessary for the commission of the offences de quibus, as it is the single participatory conduct that represents, in any case, the punishable act.

Those accused of such a serious offence will be able to turn to our Team and will have the opportunity to be assisted by some of the lawyers most specialised in drug trafficking; in fact, over the years our Associated Law Firm has gained a great deal of experience in the field, working alongside alleged ‘drug traffickers’ accused of operating between Italy and South America.

A very useful expertise in the field, provided by every criminal lawyer working with our firm, is represented by the knowledge of the best-known routes through which drugs reach Europe and, in particular, Italy, as well as by the knowledge of the legislation in force on drug trafficking in the countries most frequently affected by drug trafficking.

Drug trafficking: details and sentences

In the offence of drug trafficking, the term ‘drug’ means any substance suitable for use in the manufacture of narcotic or psychotropic substances, all substances identified and classified in categories 1, 2 and 3 of Annex I of Regulation (EC) No . 273/2004 and the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 111/2005, including mixtures and natural products containing such substances.

On this issue, it is of fundamental importance to know that recently, with ruling no. 563 of 8 January 2018, the Supreme Court clarified the distinction between the association dedicated to the trafficking of narcotic substances pursuant to Article 74 of Legislative Decree no. 309/90, the aggravating circumstance referred to in Article 7 of Law no. 203/1991, and the association referred to in Article 416-bis of the Criminal Code.

The Supreme Court ruled that the concurrence between the association referred to in Article 416-bis of the Criminal Code and that referred to in Article 74 of Presidential Decree No. 309 of 1990, taking into account the partial diversity of the protected legal rights, i.e. public order and individual and collective health. Moreover, according to the judges of the Supreme Court, the association dedicated to drug trafficking is used if and only if the association was established and developed solely for the purpose of operating in the narcotics sector.

According to the court of legitimacy, therefore, the distinguishing feature between the two forms of association lies in the teleological element; the programmatic purpose of the association must be looked at.

The jurisprudence of legitimacy has thus expressed its orientation that in the association referred to in Article 416-bis of the Criminal Code. The mafia method has a scope that is not limited to drug trafficking, but is fundamentally projected in the imposition of a sphere of domination, which includes the commission of a whole series of crimes that are not limited to the drug sector.

In order to best set up a defence against this type of charge, it is necessary for a criminal lawyer to have a broad knowledge of the subject matter, as well as a great deal of experience in the field; all expertise that International Lawyers Associates is perfectly capable of providing.

Penalties for domestic and international drug trafficking

Drug traffickers are scattered all over the world and, since drug trafficking is globally considered to be one of the most serious crimes, quite severe penalties are envisaged for them. In general, those accused and then convicted of such crimes are subject to sentences ranging from ten to thirty years in prison. The person who deals drugs, therefore, runs the risk of being imprisoned for a long time; even the penalties for the most serious cases can reach those for the crime of murder!

Currently, it should be pointed out that at the legislative level there is a differentiation between so-called soft drugs, hashish and marijuana, and so-called hard drugs, cocaine, heroin and synthetic drugs. On a transnational, and even intercontinental level, all kinds of substances are routinely transported and every criminal lawyer in our team has had experience with disputes concerning the trafficking of the most varied and currently most widely used drugs.

More precisely: when three or more persons come together to commit more than one of the offences provided for in Article 73, anyone who promotes, sets up, directs, organises or finances the association shall be punished for that alone by a term of imprisonment of not less than 20 years.

Whoever participates in the association shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than ten years.

The punishment is increased if the number of members is ten or more or if the participants include persons addicted to the use of narcotic or psychotropic substances.

If the association is armed, the punishment, in the cases indicated in paragraphs 1 and 3, may not be less than twenty-four years’ imprisonment and, in the case provided for in paragraph 2, twelve years’ imprisonment. The association is considered armed when the participants have the availability of weapons or explosive materials, even if concealed or kept in a storage place.

The punishment is increased if the circumstance referred to in Article 80(1)(e) occurs.

If the association is formed to carry out the acts referred to in paragraph 5 of Article 73, the first and second paragraphs of Article 416 of the Penal Code shall apply.

The punishments envisaged in paragraphs 1 to 6 shall be reduced by half to two thirds for those who have effectively worked to secure evidence of the offence or to take away from the association decisive resources for the commission of the offences.

When reference is made in laws and decrees to the offence provided for in Article 75 of Law No 685 of 22 December 1975, repealed by Article 38(1) of Law No 162 of 26 June 1990, the reference shall be understood as referring to this Article.

Now, the law on drugs has been the subject of debate for years and, to date, following a tightening of penalties, the sending of a large quantity of drugs is provided for as a specific aggravating circumstance; indeed, if the case involves large quantities of drugs, the penalty is even increased by half to two thirds. Generally, the law does not specifically define when a quantity of narcotics is to be considered ‘large’, but the Court of Cassation has developed Tables to which reference should be made (in particular, the aggravating circumstance in question is not normally explicit when the quantity is less than two thousand times the maximum value in milligrams, determined for each narcotic substance in the Ministerial Table).

It should also be borne in mind that, as set out in Article 74 of the Consolidated Law on Narcotic Drugs, the penalty is increased if the narcotic or psychotropic substances are adulterated or mixed with others in such a way as to accentuate their harmful potential.

Drug traffickers' legal defence: rely on ILA

Logically, in order to convict a defendant of the crime of international drug trafficking, it is important to clarify the circumstances under which such charges were made. In the case of such an indictment, a defence lawyer specialising in narcotics has the opportunity to propose a number of cases that focus on legal issues.

In addition to this, however, it is good to know that in trials of this type, the media impact is always very high, so the criminal defence lawyer in charge of the defence must be able to protect his client’s image in the best possible way.