Drug crime investigations are often long-term, clandestine, and involve many different individuals working on the case. Prosecutors depend on complex investigations to meet the necessary standard to prosecute drug cases in federal court.
Because investigations of this nature are so complex, it may be difficult to navigate one without the assistance of a legal professional. If federal authorities are investigating you for a drug crime, reach out to a Chattanooga lawyer who could help you prepare a comprehensive defense and cast doubt on the prosecution’s case against you.
Many federal drug cases are investigated by agents in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), but there are also investigations by local and regional task forces made up of several different law enforcement agencies at the state level. These cases are often brought at the federal level if they involve serious quantities of drugs or gang members in larger organizations allegedly moving narcotics.
The quality of a state agency’s investigation is often significantly less than that of the DEA or another federal agency. As a result, individuals facing drug charges brought at the federal level through investigation by state agencies often have a better chance of beating the charges they are facing. This does not mean that state agencies are inept, they just often lack the resources and training of the DEA or other federal agencies investigating narcotics trafficking.
Investigations at the federal level most often involve wiretaps and other forms of electronic information seizure to build a case. Drug cases also often begin with a criminal informant. Law enforcement may discover information through lower-level arrests, which can give them information about higher-level individuals. Federal prosecutors are often not interested in prosecuting street-level dealers or small quantities of narcotics and instead may pursue higher-priority cases.
The most well-known agency involved in investigating drug cases is the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA is embedded in the United States, Mexico, and other foreign locations throughout the world, investigating a wide range of organizations for trafficking controlled substances.
The DEA was established in 1973 by President Nixon. It was designed as a single agency to investigate and enforce federal drug crimes. Today, the DEA is made up of almost 5000 agents who work to enforce these federal controlled substance laws.
There is a broad task force at the federal level that is aided by agencies like local police forces, Sheriff’s departments, and state bureaus of investigation. These forces may consolidate agents who work to bring cases in federal court. Multi-agency task forces bring a substantial number of cases each year.
The most common mistake a defendant can make is speaking to law enforcement during a federal drug investigation. This often occurs if an individual is surprised to learn they are the target of an investigation and the police present questions in a very friendly manner.
Individuals frightened of the potential consequences of these crimes may hope that divulging information without representation will improve their standing with the investigators, but the target of a criminal investigation should never speak to law enforcement without an attorney present. In many cases, it may be best to avoid speaking to law enforcement at all unless there is something to be gained by doing so.
A person facing federal drug charges could avoid making this mistake by speaking openly and honestly in a confidential consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in the area who has handled cases in federal court. Contacting a nearby attorney is a key first step for an accused person to take to potentially improve the outcome of their federal drug investigation.
Another mistake that individuals may make in a federal drug investigation is permitting law enforcement to search their vehicle, home, or business without a warrant. The defendant should never consent to a search. They may think that there is no contraband within their home, business, or vehicle, but someone else might have left contraband in one of those places without the defendant’s knowledge.
The defendant should refuse consent to search if officers have probable cause for a warrant, remain silent, and allow the police to do their job. By doing so, they may prevent themselves from giving evidence through their statements, and they may give their lawyer the opportunity to challenge the search because of a lack of probable cause. Warrants can be overturned, and an officer who claims to have probable cause may not actually have that authorization.
Ultimately, a judge will decide what evidence is admissible. If the defendant gives consent to search, however, the likelihood of excluding evidence could be reduced.
A skilled attorney in Chattanooga could guide you through a federal drug crime investigation and ensure that you do not make these mistakes. A legal advocate could allow you to form a strong defense and potentially reduce or dismiss your charges. Call today to schedule a consultation and learn more about your options.