Federal Crimes Blog

Federal Drug Conspiracy Defense

Posted by Hedding Law Firm | Jun 08, 2020

I call this the modern federal drug conspiracy because I've been doing drug conspiracy cases now for the last 26 years, and I've seen them develop in a lot of different ways.

The federal government has to keep pace with those individuals who are moving drugs throughout not just California or the United States but internationally.  There's a lot of drugs, and I've defended people who are alleged to be bringing drugs in from out of the country.

In order to track this type of movement and the sophisticated ways that drug traffickers use to be able to avoid police detection, the FBI, Secret Service, the DEA, Homeland Security, and all the various agencies at the federal level deal with these federal drug conspiracy cases. See the related – overview of federal conspiracy laws.

Federal Wire Tapping

The feds have had to figure out what these guys are doing, and a lot of time, they're tracking how they're communicating with each other.  It used to be text messaging, Blackberries.

Now they pretty much have used what they've always used, which is the good old-fashion wiretap where people are stupid enough to be involved in big drug conspiracies at the federal level, and they're using telephones to talk.

A lot of times, they can even avoid detection on their own phone.  Maybe they get some sort of a burner phone to be involved with drugs being moved in order to avoid the police tracking their phone.

Federal Drug Conspiracy Defense Lawyer

The problem is, the person that they're talking to may not be taking the same precautions that they are, so now you're talking to somebody whose phone's being tapped.

If they can identify who you are, who that person is they can prove that you're talking about moving drugs, maybe they can see some of the drugs that are purportedly being talked about.

In this manner, they can confirm that that was a drug transaction that was being talked about, even though nobody specifically mentions drugs or money, for example, they're on their way to being able to prosecute you as part of the cog in the new modern federal criminal drug conspiracy cases.

You've got to realize that.  The bad thing about that is you don't even have standing usually to challenge that listening the police are listening in on your conversation because it's not your phone that's being wiretapped.  You're talking to somebody else, and their phone is being wiretapped.

A lot of times, wiretap motions can be filed on behalf of criminal defendants at the federal level, basically arguing there's no way that law enforcement should have been able to get a judge to sign a wiretap warrant to be able to listen to their phone.

But if your phone is not even being tapped and you're just getting caught talking to somebody whose phone is tapped, then obviously that's just going to be too bad for you, and whatever evidence they can gather from that conversation they're going to try to use against you.

So, that's one of the most powerful means that I still see being used at the federal level to catch people who are involved with what I'm calling this new modern federal drug conspiracy, and that is listening to their conversations.

Cooperators to Testify Against Other People

Another big way they catch people, and a very effective way, is using cooperators.  In other words, they're going to use people who are part of the conspiracy and who know the people.

They're typically going to arrest those people and put them in a bad situation where those people are caught for their own federal drug case, and now in order to get themselves out and not be facing many years in federal prison — sometimes a 10-year mandatory minimum.

They're going to get that person to give information about other people who are involved.  They're usually trying to go up the chain — catch people who are making the big money in these drug conspiracies — catch the suppliers.

So, they'll use this person that they caught and say, if you don't want to go to federal prison for 10, 20 or even life in prison if they have prior convictions, then you'd better cooperate with us.

So, cooperators are a huge source of intel gathering and they'll use these cooperators to testify against other people who haven't been caught yet.  Once they know they've got the cooperator locked in because if they don't testify they're looking at many years in prison, then they feel confident going after some of these people who have been able to insulate themselves better when it comes to a federal drug conspiracy.

Old-Fashion Federal Criminal Investigation

So, you've got two big ways there that they're catching people.  The other way they're getting people is just a good old-fashion investigation.  They'll go out and videotape people.  They'll take photographs of people.  Sometimes they'll catch people in the act.  They can catch three people in one fell swoop.

All they've got to do is get two people who they know who they are, talking about a drug transaction, then they go, and they catch the person who's moving the drugs — the mule — and now they just got three people.

They have two people talking about it, and they got the one person that moves the drugs.  Maybe there are a couple of people that move the drugs.  They might even be able to get a fourth person — the person that actually accepts the drugs.

So, they've gotten very sophisticated, and you're really playing Russian roulette when it comes to these federal drug conspiracies because so much is at stake and because the United States has a big interest in keeping drugs from coming into their country. They have special task forces at the investigative level and special task forces at the prosecution level who are targeting the people who are involved in these big drug conspiracies.

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After we review your case, I'll give you an idea of what you're up against and some of the options you might have in your federal drug case.  Some factors that determine what type of sentence people face are the number of drugs involved and your role in the movement of the drugs.  Sometimes people are just mules and move drugs from point A to point B. 

Those individuals will not be treated as harshly as somebody who supplies the medications or makes the principal money on the drugs.  Other times, weapons are involved, which can trigger a 5-year enhancement for having a gun to facilitate a drug transaction.

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Of course, there is a table for each drug that talks about if the drug is a certain weight, which can trigger a 10-year mandatory minimum.  So, that's another thing we have to talk about.

Then the question becomes, what can we do if you're facing a 10-year mandatory minimum and a 5-year mandatory minimum for gun use – what type of strategies can be used and employed to defend you best?  Because if you're charged with a 10-year mandatory minimum related to a drug case, there are only four ways to avoid getting at least that 10-year compulsory minimum, maybe more.

One is to take the case to trial and win – be found not guilty.  Two is to take the chance to go and be able to prove that you did not have the weight necessary to trigger the 10-year mandatory minimum. 

Three is to utilize the safety valve, which involves somebody who doesn't have much of a criminal record, didn't use a gun, is not a leader/organizer, and then sits down with the government and at least tells their role in the office, and fourth, cooperating with the government is another way to avoid the 10-year mandatory minimum in a drug case.

So, these are some types of discussions we're going to have.  I'm going to answer all of your questions. Suppose the case has not been filed against you yet. In that case, we'll also talk about bonds because in significant federal drug cases where a person is looking at the 10-year mandatory minimum.

Many times the government, because of that, considers you a flight risk and will argue to the judge that you should be detained – kept in custody while the case is pending. 

Of course, the defense will try to say for some bond conditions – whether it be a signature bond, a property bond, or some other combination of bonds so you can try to get out. Contact us for a free case evaluation. The Hedding Law Firm has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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