Most defendants charged with narcotics trafficking in federal court are charged with violations of 21 U.S.C. Section 841 and 846. The potential penalties for those offenses generally depend upon the type of narcotic at issue, the quantity trafficked, and whether anyone died as a result of consuming those narcotics.
A similar federal statute relates to the importation of narcotics into the country from outside the country. 21 U.S.C. Section 952 makes it a federal felony to import controlled substances from any place outside of the United States. The maximum and minimum penalties for committing these crimes are set forth in 21 U.S.C. Section 960, and again generally depend upon the type and quantity of narcotic imported into the United States, and whether anyone died as a result of those narcotics.
A person does not have to be physically transporting narcotics to be guilt of this crime. Federal prosecutors routinely pursue people for conspiring with others to commit this crime, such that one defendant might be accused of physically transporting narcotics while other members of the members of the conspiracy play different roles in the planning and delivery of the narcotics or its proceeds. Indeed, these crimes are frequently charged along with 21 U.S.C. 846, the conspiracy statute.