Drug Crimes (Fed)
Federal law enforcement prosecutes drug crimes using a variety of specialized laws. These laws classify all controlled substance into a schedule that is used in court. This schedule is important, because the higher a classification a controlled substance has, the more serious the offense.
The Schedule of Controlled Substances has five categories that delineates each controlled substance by type.
The following lists some of the most common types of drug related offenses handled by criminal attorneys in Federal court:
- Asset Forfeiture
- Drug Trafficking
- Importation of a Controlled Substance
- International Extradition
- Money Laundering
- Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine
- Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana
- Possession with Intent to Distribute Prescription Pills
- Schedule Controlled Substances
Most Federal drug offenses include charges that address the actual drug offenses itself as well as any other related conduct, such as money laundering or conspiracy. When a prosecutor files charges against a person for a drug offense, they try to charge them with as many crimes as possible. The following discussion will address some of the steps a criminal attorney can take on your behalf:
Defending Someone Accused of a Federal Drug Crime
Step One: What controlled substance is involved?
The first step in analyzing any Federal drug case is to identify the substance or substances at issue. Does your case concern an illicit drug, like cocaine, or does it concern a pharmaceutical drug like Xanax or Adderall?
This analysis is important, because the law varies depending on the controlled substance at issue. Explained simply, the more “illicit” a controlled substance is, the more serious the penalties can be. For example, trafficking cocaine carries much stiffer penalties than trafficking Adderall.
That said, identifying the type of drug at issue is only the first stage.
Step Two: What drug quantities are involved?
The next step in analyzing any Federal drug offense is to determine quantity. In other words, how much of the alleged drug does the case concern? How much quantity can prosecutors prove are involved?
By itself, quantity is the single most important factor in any drug case because it will determine what penalties, especially minimum mandatory sentences, apply. The greater the quantity, the more serious the penalty becomes. These amounts are very clearly defined and will be explained in the section on Sentencing in Federal Drug Crimes.
Step Three: What are the facts of your case?
The next step in analyzing a Federal drug case is to ask what happened. This part of the analysis calls for identifying what evidence, if any, prosecutors have that you committed the drug offense. In other words, we must identify the evidence that the prosecution would admit in court if the case went to trial. Even though you may not have a trial in your case, conducting an analysis using this method will help identify the strengths and weaknesses present in your case.
Questions that must be asked include the following:
- Was anyone killed or seriously injured?
- Was a firearm involved at any point in your case?
- What happened with the drugs in question?
- Is this a manufacturing, importation, or distribution case?
- Was the internet or another mass marketing technique used?
- Does your case involve an undercover agent or confidential informant?
- Does your case involve a marijuana grow house, meth lab, or pain clinic?
- Are you wanted for extradition from another country?
- Are you a pain clinic doctor in trouble for prescribing pain pills?
While this list does not contain every conceivable question we may need to ask about your case, it certainly identifies some of the main issues.
Knowing what happened in your case and what the “story line” is will give your defense context. It gives it a frame work. It tells me and your judge what your case is really about.
Such information is extremely important because your defenses lie in the details. What works in one case may not necessarily work in another. Everyone’s case is unique and even if the charges are the same, the result can be different!
The final step in analyzing any drug case is to understand your background as a person.
- Who are you?
- Are you a drug king pin or a low level person?
- Do you have a criminal history? If so, what for?
- Can you provide investigators with valuable information?
- What is your education level?
- What do you do for a living?
- What is your family background?
- Do you have a higher education?
- Did you serve in the military?
- Do you have any history of mental illness?
- Do you have any pressing medical problems?
- Are you a parent? Do you have any special needs children?
- What charitable works have you been involved in?
Knowing the character and background of the defendant is as important as knowing the nature of the crime or the specifics of his/her case.
Decide on a plan of action. Are you going to plead accept a negotiated plea agreement with prosecutors or are you going to fight your case at trial?