Criminal Enterprise

21 U.S. Code § 848 - Continuing Criminal Enterprise

The federal crime of Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) primarily targets large-scale drug traffickers participating in extensive drug conspiracies. Notably, the CCE deals with just major narcotic organizations, which differs from the RICO Act (racketeering).

This statute makes it a federal offense to commit, or conspire, to commit felony violations of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 involving five or more people. The CCE was passed as a part of comprehensive legislation aimed at drug abuse prevention and control and is codified in 21 U.S.C. 848.

21 U.S. Code § 848 - Continuing Criminal Enterprise
The Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE) statute mainly targets large drug trafficking operations.

To be convicted under this statute, the alleged perpetrator must have been a manager, organizer, or supervisor of the continued drug operation. Also, they must have obtained substantial income or resources due to the drug violations.

A “super kingpin” provision was added to the CCE statute in 1984 that allows for enhanced penalties for the primary leader or organizer of a criminal enterprise involving narcotics of a large scale or generating over $10 million annually.

The lesser involved people in the drug ring could not be convicted under this law but could face charges under different statutes.

Simply put, federal laws impose severe penalties for drug trafficking and distribution violations. However, if you own, supervise, or manage a large-scale drug trafficking enterprise, you might be charged with the more severe Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE Statute) under Title 21 U.S. Code 848.  

Anyone indicted with continuing criminal enterprise must retain an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who knows federal statutes and procedures. Let's review this federal law further below.

What Is a "Continuing Criminal Enterprise?"

A continuing criminal enterprise is described as violating a federal drug trafficking statute with a "continued series of violations" of the Drug Abuse and Prevention Act when five or more people are involved.

It targets "kingpins" or others who supervise ongoing drug trafficking operations. To be charged under 21 U.S.C. 848, federal prosecutors must first be able to establish some crucial factors, such as the following:  

  • That you were involved in a large-scale drug trafficking operation; 
  • It violated one or more federal drug laws under 21 U.S. Code Chapter 13;
  • You supervised five or more people involved in the operation;
  • You were a manager, organizer, or supervisor of the continued operation;
  • You acquired substantial income or resources due to the drug violations.

In other words, CCE explicitly targets large-scale drug traffickers responsible for extensive drug conspiracies, and 21 U.S. Code 848covers only major narcotic organizations.

Since the CCE Statute deals only with the organized crime of drug trafficking, it's not the same as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which covers other offenses connected to organized crime, such as money laundering.  

What Are the Related Federal Laws?

21 U.S. Code Part D Offenses and Penalties has numerous federal laws that are related to 21 U.S.C. 848 Continuing Criminal Enterprise, including the following:

  • 21 U.S.C. 841 - Prohibited acts A;
  • 21 U.S.C. 842 - Prohibited acts B;
  • 21 U.S.C. 843 - Prohibited acts C;
  • 21 U.S.C. 844 - Penalties for simple possession;
  • 21 U.S.C. 844a - Civil penalty for possession of small amounts of drugs;
  • 21 U.S.C. 846 - Attempt and conspiracy;
  • 21 U.S.C. 847 - Additional penalties;
  • 21 U.S.C. 849 - Transportation safety offenses;
  • 21 U.S.C. 850 - Information for sentencing;
  • 21 U.S.C. 851 - Proceedings to establish prior convictions;
  • 21 U.S.C. 852 - Application of treaties and international agreements;
  • 21 U.S.C. 853 - Criminal forfeitures;
  • 21 U.S.C. 854 - Investment of illicit drug profits;
  • 21 U.S.C. 855 - Alternative fine;
  • 21 U.S.C. 856 - Maintaining drug-involved premises;
  • 21 U.S.C. 858 - Endangering life while manufacturing drugs;
  • 21 U.S.C. 859 - Distribution to persons under age twenty-one;
  • 21 U.S.C. 860 - Distribution near schools and colleges;
  • 21 U.S.C. 860a - Consecutive sentence for distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture, methamphetamine on premises where children are present;
  • 21 U.S.C. 861 - Employment of persons under 18 in drug operations;
  • 21 U.S.C. 862 - Denial of Federal benefits to drug traffickers;
  • 21 U.S.C. 862a - Denial of assistance for drug-related convictions;
  • 21 U.S.C. 862b – Sanctions for testing positive for controlled substances;
  • 21 U.S.C. 863 - Drug paraphernalia;
  • 21 U.S.C. 864 - Anhydrous ammonia;
  • 21 U.S.C. 864a - Grants to reduce production of methamphetamines;
  • 21 U.S.C. 865 - Smuggling methamphetamine or meth precursor chemicals; into the United States while using facilitated entry programs;

What Are the Penalties for 21 U.S.C. 848?

Suppose you are convicted of violating 21 U.S.C. 848. In that case, you will face harsh penalties, such as the following:

  • The minimum sentence is 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $2 million for individuals or $5 million for an entity, and forfeiting any profits;
  • Subsequent convictions carry 30 years to life and double the fines;
  • If someone was intentionally killed during the course of operations, you could face the death penalty;

What is the "Super Kingpin" Provision

In 1984, 21 U.S.C. 848 was amended the statute to allow an enhanced penalty for what is called "super kingpins." These are the leaders of large-scale drug operations.

Under this amended provision, life imprisonment without parole is the minimum sentence for violating the CCE violation. However, for a sentence to be imposed, a prosecutor must prove all of the following factors:

  • You were a principal operator in the drug organization;
  • The drug organization trafficked at least 300 times the amount of drugs needed to apply a mandatory 5-year sentence; or
  • The drug operation grossed at least $10 million in a single year.

What Are the Defenses for 21 U.S.C. 848?

Suppose you were charged with continuing criminal enterprise.  In that case, our federal criminal defense lawyers can use various strategies to obtain the best possible outcome.

To obtain a conviction, the federal prosecution must prove that you committed a prior offense and a related drug crime pattern over a specific period. In other words, a single drug offense is insufficient for a conviction under 21 U.S. Code 848.

Defenses for Continuing Criminal Enterprise
Contact our criminal law firm for guidance.

Maybe we can argue that you were not a leader or position of authority in the organization that supervised five people or more people. In other words, you should only be convicted under this law if you were in a leadership role.

Maybe we can show that you did not work or act as a supervisor or organizer who instructed others.  Most leaders in a drug operation will make arrangements for money laundering and negotiating purchases. Thus, we could say you were not a “leader” defined under the law.

Maybe we can argue that you did not know the organization was involved in drug trafficking. Perhaps you played a minor role and were unaware of all the drug activities.

Depending on the case details, perhaps we can negotiate a dismissal of the charges, get them reduced, or arrange a favorable plea agreement. However, we are prepared to go to a federal trial if necessary in an effort to obtain a not-guilty verdict.

For a free case review and to discuss legal options, contact our law firm by phone or through the contact form. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, California.

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