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Drug Offenses

Despite efforts to legalize marijuana and reduce penalties for drug possession, law enforcement — especially federal agents such as those with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) — remains active and vigilant in prosecuting individuals for drug possession, distribution, and possession with intent to deliver. In the past year, both state and federal prosecutors have brought multiple large-scale prosecutions against distribution networks and individuals associated with them. And every day, people are charged with possession of small quantities of controlled substances like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana kept for personal use. Whether a person's case involves an accusation of their involvement in a large-scale delivery operation or a small amount for personal use, the stakes are nevertheless significant. Prison time, hefty fines, unbearable restrictions on a person's liberty and freedom are just some of the potential consequences a person charged with a drug offense is faced with.

Federal Drug Offenses

While most drug arrests are made by local police, the majority of federal drug offenses are investigated by a federal agency such as the DEA or FBI. This includes task forces that often include local law enforcement agencies. These investigations are often intensive and lengthy. They can involve multiple forms of surveillance including wiretaps, phone intercepts, pole cameras, and other forms of video and audio surveillance and almost always involve the use of undercover officers and confidential informants.

Once the investigation is completed, the cases are referred to prosecutors within the Department of Justice, primarily United States Attorneys Offices for a particular federal district where the bulk of the operation is conducted. The cases are often presented to a grand jury under seal, meaning there is no public record available. Other times, the case are presented to a magistrate where a warrant is obtained for the person's arrest. Sometime, individuals can be initially charged in state court while the federal case is prepared; once federal charges are brought, the individual will be transferred to the federal criminal justice system.

The primary law that sets out a federal drug crime is set out in 28 U.S.C. 841. That law makes it unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally (1) to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance; or (2) to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.

The penalties vary greatly but generally are:

In the case of —
(i) 1 kilogram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin;
(ii) 5 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of—
(I) coca leaves, except coca leaves and extracts of coca leaves from which cocaine, ecgonine, and derivatives of ecgonine or their salts have been removed;
(II) cocaine, its salts, optical and geometric isomers, and salts of isomers;
(III) ecgonine, its derivatives, their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers; or
(IV) any compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of any of the substances referred to in subclauses (I) through (III);
(iii) 280 grams or more of a mixture or substance described in clause (ii) which contains cocaine base;
(iv) 100 grams or more of phencyclidine (PCP) or 1 kilogram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of phencyclidine (PCP);
(v) 10 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD);
(vi) 400 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl )-4-piperidinyl] propanamide or 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of any analogue of N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] propanamide;
(vii) 1000 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marihuana, or 1,000 or more marihuana plants regardless of weight; or
(viii) 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers or 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, or salts of its isomers;
such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 10 years or more than life and if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance shall be not less than 20 years or more than life, a fine not to exceed the greater of that authorized in accordance with the provisions of title 18 or $10,000,000 if the defendant is an individual or $50,000,000 if the defendant is other than an individual, or both. If any person commits such a violation after a prior conviction for a felony drug offense has become final, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 20 years and not more than life imprisonment and if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance shall be sentenced to life imprisonment, a fine not to exceed the greater of twice that authorized in accordance with the provisions of title 18 or $20,000,000 if the defendant is an individual or $75,000,000 if the defendant is other than an individual, or both. If any person commits a violation of this subparagraph or of section 849, 859, 860, or 861 of this title after two or more prior convictions for a felony drug offense have become final, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment without release and fined in accordance with the preceding sentence.

In the case of—
(i) 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin;
(ii) 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of—
(I) coca leaves, except coca leaves and extracts of coca leaves from which cocaine, ecgonine, and derivatives of ecgonine or their salts have been removed;
(II) cocaine, its salts, optical and geometric isomers, and salts of isomers;
(III) ecgonine, its derivatives, their salts, isomers, and salts of isomers; or
(IV) any compound, mixture, or preparation which contains any quantity of any of the substances referred to in subclauses (I) through (III);
(iii) 28 grams or more of a mixture or substance described in clause (ii) which contains cocaine base;
(iv) 10 grams or more of phencyclidine (PCP) or 100 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of phencyclidine (PCP);
(v) 1 gram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD);
(vi) 40 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl )-4-piperidinyl] propanamide or 10 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of any analogue of N-phenyl-N-[1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl] propanamide;
(vii) 100 kilograms or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of marihuana, or 100 or more marihuana plants regardless of weight; or
(viii) 5 grams or more of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, and salts of its isomers or 50 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, or salts of its isomers;
such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 5 years and not more than 40 years and if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance shall be not less than 20 years or more than life, a fine not to exceed the greater of that authorized in accordance with the provisions of title 18 or $5,000,000 if the defendant is an individual or $25,000,000 if the defendant is other than an individual, or both. If any person commits such a violation after a prior conviction for a felony drug offense has become final, such person shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment which may not be less than 10 years and not more than life imprisonment and if death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance shall be sentenced to life imprisonment, a fine not to exceed the greater of twice that authorized in accordance with the provisions of title 18 or $8,000,000 if the defendant is an individual or $50,000,000 if the defendant is other than an individual, or both.

A Strong Defense for Federal Drug Crimes

Defending a drug case in federal court is a daunting task but one that Attorney Watkins has substantial experience in and a track record of success. One of the biggest and best defenses to a federal drug crime is challenging the legality of law enforcements' actions in the investigation. Whether it is challenging a search warrant or application to search a home or record and monitor telephone conversations, challenging the legality of a stop, detention, and arrest, or challenging the use of canines, thermal scanners, or other technology, Brent Attorney Watkins is acute at identifying the issue, staying abreast of the law, researching the law, writing motions in support of their position, and making compelling — and successful — arguments to convince judges to rule in their favor and suppress key evidence.

Another frequently-used defense is attacking the government's proof to establish knowledge of either possession of a controlled substance or knowledge of the conspiracy and any illegal acts involving drugs.

Each case is unique and can present a variety of issues. If you or a loved one are under investigation for or charged with a federal drug offense, contact Attorney Watkins at 844-427-2449.

CONTACT CRAIG WATKINS FOR PERSONAL INJURY, CAR ACCIDENT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE, OR CIVIL LAW CASES.

Craig Watkins is the former Elected District Attorney in Dallas County, Texas. He became the first elected African American District Attorney in the State of Texas. Craig served for two terms – 2007-2014. While District Attorney Craig set out to reform the criminal justice system with his Smart On Crime approach to criminal justice. This approach included the examination of wrongful convictions, rehabilitation, education, and employment. Craig created the first-ever Conviction Integrity Unit in a District Attorney’s Office in the Country.

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