Federal Drug charges are serious crimes and if you have been charged with one or more of these crimes, then you should contact an attorney immediately. Keep reading to learn about what constitutes a federal drug charge and other important information about what types of legal defense you can use in court against these charges.
The Different Types of Federal Drug Charges
“Drug Dogs” and Vehicle Stops
Using “drug dogs” during vehicle checkpoints and stops has become a common method used in both federal and state investigations. It is important to note that the use of a drug dog itself is not a “search” protected under the Fourth Amendment and when a “drug dog” detects the presence of narcotics, this fact alone constitutes probable cause to search the vehicle or other property to which the dog alerted and, if drugs are found, probable cause to arrest whoever possesses them.
However, in the absence of additional suspicion of a separate crime i.e. the police officer smelling marijuana, a traffic stop may not be extended to perform a “drug dog” sniff.
If you have been charged with a drug crime involving the use of a “drug dog” there are several avenues to attack the constitutionality of the search. In most cases, if you can show the use of the “drug dog” was unconstitutional the entire charge will be dismissed.
Our firm has handled dozens of cases involving “drug dogs” and have a dedicated K-9 expert with 30-years of experience to assist in defeating the Government’s case against you.
Possession with Intent to Distribute and Distribution of Narcotics
The elements of possession with intent to distribute are: (1) possession of a narcotic controlled substance, (2) knowledge of the possession, and (3) intent to distribute the narcotic controlled substance.
The elements of distribution are: (1) distribution of a controlled substance, (2) knowledge of the distribution, and (3) intent to distribute the controlled substance.
Concerning the first element, actual possession of the narcotics is not essential to sustain a conviction.
Constructive possession is adequate and either circumstantial or direct proof can prove constructive possession i.e. drugs found in a vehicle or home belonging to the defendant. Regarding the second element, it is not essential for the Government to demonstrate that the Defendant knew the precise nature of the substance.
As to the last element, the intent to distribute drugs can be inferred from a number of variables, including but not limited to the quantity, packaging, and amount of money confiscated.
Finally, because “possession” is a lesser included offense of “possession with intent to distribute,” a defendant cannot be convicted and sentenced on both of these offenses if they are based on the same conduct.
To prove conspiracy to possess illegal drugs with intent to distribute, the Government must show: (1) an agreement to possess the illegal drug with intent to distribute existed between two or more persons; (2) the defendant knew of the conspiracy; and (3) the defendant knowingly and voluntarily joined the conspiracy.
Proof of a conspiracy may be shown by circumstantial evidence; direct proof is not needed. Once a conspiracy is established, the proof only needs to create a slight link between the defendant and the conspiracy to sustain conviction.
A defendant need not know his co-conspirators or the conspiracy details and may be sentenced despite having played only a minor part in the general conspiracy. However, a simple buy-sell transaction is inadequate to prove a conspiracy.
However, it should be noted that evidence of uncharged criminal conduct is admissible if it serves to complete the story of the crime at trial. Finally, there is no need for evidence of an overt act in support of the conspiracy to support a conviction of drug conspiracy.
Continuing Criminal Enterprise CCE
To prove a CCE conviction, the government must prove five elements: (1) defendant committed a felony violation of the federal drug laws; (2) such violation was part of a continuing series of violations of the drug laws; (3) the series of violations were undertaken by defendant in concert with five or more persons; (4) defendant served as an organizer or supervisor, or in another management capacity with respect to these other persons; and (5) defendant derived substantial income or resources from the continuing series of violations.
A jury must unanimously agree on which particular violations make up the continuing sequence; however, charges in the same indictment may qualify as predicate violations to maintain a CCE conviction.
In proving the “organizer or supervisor” prong, the Government is not required to prove that the five individuals were supervised simultaneously, nor must the five individuals be under the defendant’s direct control. Moreover, a defendant does not need to be the leader in order to be convicted under Section 848.
Co-defendants (even acquitted co-defendants) can be counted towards the five individuals required to meet the five-person requirement; however, there must be something more between the subordinate and the organizer / supervisor than a mere buyer-seller relationship to be correctly counted.