What Is the Difference Between Drug Trafficking and Drug Dealing?

what is the difference between drug trafficking and drug dealing

Drug crimes are always serious. Anyone who has been charged with any kind of drug crime should work with an experienced drug offense lawyer, as the penalties for drug crimes can be extremely harsh. Furthermore, many drug crimes are prosecuted in federal court, which means they are subject to the federal sentencing guidelines. Additionally, the penalties for drug crimes under Texas law are also severe.

Many people wonder if there is a difference between dealing drugs and trafficking drugs. The short answer is that there is no specific crime in Texas called “drug dealing.” Rather, an individual can be charged with a variety of drug-related offenses. The punishments under state law depending on how much of the drug the person possessed, as well as what type of drug was involved.

Drug abuse is a serious problem in the United States. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, there were about 24.6 million illegal drug users in the U.S. in 2013 — an increase of 8.3 percent since 2002. While marijuana use has risen faster than any other type of drug — probably because of its legalization and decriminalization in many states — drug use involving other illegal drugs is also increasing.

Different Types of Drug Crimes Under Texas Law

Each jurisdiction has its own specific drug-related offenses. Under Texas law, some of the most common drug crimes include drug manufacturing, drug trafficking, and possession with intent to sell or distribute. All of these offenses involve a person “dealing” drugs, which is why some people confuse these crimes with the more colloquial term “drug dealing.” However, they are separate offenses with clear parameters.

Drug Manufacturing

Drug manufacturing involves growing or creating illegal substances for sale to others. One of the most common drugs involved in this type of charge is methamphetamine or meth. Few people realize that meth is actually quite an old drug. Its predecessor drug, amphetamine, was first made in Germany in the 1880s. Around three decades later, Japan becomes the first country to make meth — a chemical decedent of amphetamine.

In the United States after World War II, doctors could legally prescribe meth to treat depression and help patients lose weight. Over time, health professionals and patients realized the drug is extremely addictive and dangerous. By 1971, meth became illegal in the United States for almost all uses. A type of legal meth is still prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Doctors wrote about 16,000 prescriptions for legal meth in 2012 — a tiny fraction of total national meth use. Because it is difficult to control the purity of the meth made in home labs, illegal meth is incredibly dangerous and destructive.

Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking is a crime that involves making, distributing, or possessing illegal drugs with the intent to deliver them to another. Prosecutors must be able to show that the defendant possessed a large number of illegal drugs — much more than is needed for a drug possession charge. It is quite common for federal authorities to get involved in drug trafficking investigations because these types of cases often involve multiple defendants and multiple jurisdictions. Typically, the federal government has more resources available to pursue drug trafficking investigations.

Drug Possession with Intent to Sell or Distribute

Drug possession differs from the crime of possession with the intent to sell or distribute in that a possession with intent to sell charge requires prosecutors to prove that the defendant intended to sell or deliver the drugs to another person. Prosecutors focus on things like the number of drugs, how they are packaged, what type of drug is involved, whether there is any evidence of a lab, and whether the accused was in possession of a larger than normal amount of money.

Criminal Defense for Drug Crimes

It’s worth noting that an individual doesn’t have to actually have drugs on his or her person to be charged with drug possession in Texas. There are many cases in which the police find drugs in a location over which the accused has care and control. For example, if the police pull someone over for speeding and they see drugs on the passenger seat, they can reasonably infer that the drugs belong to the person in the car.

However, every case is different. This is why it’s important to examine all of the facts, including the legality of any stops or searches performed by the police. In some cases, the police perform an illegal search, which results in the evidence gathered pursuant to that search being inadmissible in court.


  1. https://www.ussc.gov/guidelines
  2. https://www.smu.edu/StudentAffairs/HealthCenter/Counseling/DrugFreeCampus/TXStateLawPenalties
  3. https://drugabuse.com/library/methamphetamine-history-and-statistics/
  4. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends

At Broden & Mickelsen, LLP, we are experienced Dallas criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to providing aggressive and ethical representation to individuals and businesses charged with crimes.