Many people charged with moving drugs end up being caught on a wiretap. Sometimes their phone is tapped by the federal government; other times, someone else's phone is tapped, and they end up speaking to that person and getting caught on the wire.
To challenge a wire tape situation, your attorney would have to file a motion saying that the wiretap was illegally obtained.
What ends up happening is a federal agent will go to a judge and ask them, based on information they have collected, to put a wiretap on your phone or someone else's phone or a group of phones.
If the judge grants that, they can listen, document, surveil and track individuals on the wiretap.
Federal drug violations are usually complex charges to face as prosecutors are known for the aggressive pursuit of drug offenders, and the federal criminal court process and sentencing are far different than facing drug crime charges in a state court.
Most federal drug laws are covered under Title 21 of the United States Code, each drug designated in one of five schedules.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the primary federal law enforcement agency responsible for investigating alleged drug offenses at this level.
Congress passed the First Step Act that significantly changed the sentencing for drug-related crimes.
Depending on the details of the case, prosecutors can use different statutes to charge someone with a federal drug crime, including drug manufacturing, cultivation, importation, possession, smuggling, trafficking, and drug conspiracy.
Our federal criminal defense attorneys will review the related laws below.
Drug Manufacturing – 21 U.S.C. § 841
The federal law criminalizing drug manufacturing is defined under 21 U.S.C. § 841, including most illegal drug crime market elements.
Simply put, it's a federal crime to knowingly or intentionally manufacture an illegal controlled substance. Any defendant convicted for violating this statute faces harsh penalties, including a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison.
Drug manufacturing occurs when a person, or a group of people, produces or attempts to produce controlled substances such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin.
Drug Conspiracy – 21 U.S.C. § 846
Federal prosecutions involving the distribution of drugs often charge a “conspiracy,” defined under 21 U.S.C. § 846, which is the ordinary federal statute for all types of drug-related conspiracies.
A conspiracy charge is an underlying agreement between two or more people to commit a crime, such as:
- the mutual agreement to commit a crime,
- intent, and
- some act to execute the agreement.
In drug cases involving large quantities of narcotics, or a conspiracy, federal laws include mandatory minimums and high offense levels in the federal sentencing guidelines. Any defendant found guilty of a federal drug conspiracy case will usually face several years in federal prison.
10-Year Mandatory Minimum Sentence
A mandatory minimum prison sentence often applies when a defendant has been charged with a federal drug case, whether alone or a conspiracy.
Simply put, if there are a sufficient amount of narcotics, or you are selling drugs, there are mandatory minimums for each narcotic depending on the amount of narcotic you have. This means you are facing a 10-year mandatory minimum.
In some cases, however, you'll see a 5-year mandatory minimum. Either way, you are likely facing federal prison time if charged with a drug crime, but the amount and type of drug are essential factors.
Review of Strong Evidence in Federal Drug Cases
This is usually solid evidence for prosecutors when they have a situation where an individual agrees to be involved in a drug distribution operation in the form of drug trafficking. Then they bust the person or someone else associated with drugs.
This is good evidence to be able to use for a jury. They will get a transcript of the wiretap and are play that for the jury.
This will identify the voices involved. Then, they can bring other evidence that shows that what those people were talking about actually did involve the movement of drugs somewhere in the United States.
Depending on its jurisdiction, they can file a federal criminal drug case for RICO violations if other things are going on besides the drugs.
For example, if there are gangs involved, guns involved, the violence involved — or they can file a straight drug case where they're charging somebody with distributing a certain amount of drugs.
Then, they break the drugs down into various types and then depending on what kind of drug and depending on the quantity of the drug, that will trigger certain mandatory minimums — a 5-year mandatory minimum, 10-year mandatory minimum.
Contact The Hedding Law Firm for Help
So, if you or a loved one is caught on a wiretap and is either facing federal criminal drug charges or has been charged already, you've come to the right place. I've been doing this for nearly 30 years — handling cases involving people who get caught on wiretaps at the federal level — picking up the phone.
Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I can help you. I can give you peace of mind, and I can start to defend you if you're caught in a drug case by way of a federal wiretap.
The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and serves people in California and throughout the United States on federal offenses. We offer a free case evaluation by calling 213-542-0994 or filling out the contact form.