Getting caught trafficking or distributing drugs in West Palm Beach
Each year, the federal government invests billions of dollars in investigating and pursuing perpetrators of drug offenses. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), FBI, CIA, and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are all charged with fighting the national and international illegal drug trade. While basic traffic stops often do lead to the discovery of drugs, this is not usually the case at the federal level. Most individuals and crime rings that are engaged in illegal drug distribution are initially investigated as a result of word of mouth. Police also sometimes become suspicious and investigate after observing individuals who live very expensive lifestyles without having a clear explanation for the large amount of disposable income. Nevertheless, criminal informants usually provide the most effective means of evidence gathering for law enforcement agencies.
Obtaining evidence of trafficking through informants
Police agencies often work their way up the chain to gather evidence on larger players in illegal drug operations. Officers begin by catching a street dealer in the act of selling or possessing illegal drugs and arresting the dealer. Next the police offer the dealer an arrangement that may allow the individual to be released on certain conditions if he or she provides information that would help the police arrest a person who plays a larger role in the drug operation. If the lower level dealer agrees to the deal, the police then use his or her information to arrest the next person further up the chain, and they repeat the process, offering the next person a deal if he or she provides information that will allow an even larger player to be arrested. Becoming an informant is oftentimes very risky. Nevertheless, many are willing to take the risk in exchange for securing their freedom. Individuals who are arrested and offered a deal by law enforcement have the right to contact an attorney prior to sharing any information with law enforcement officers. In fact, people who have been arrested should never agree to give information prior to speaking to a qualified defense attorney. Having a lawyer present can ensure the deal offered is within the best interest of the person to whom the deal is offered.
Defenses against federal trafficking and distribution charges
Depending on the facts of the case, a defense attorney may argue any of several potential defenses against allegations that his or her client has committed a federal drug crime. Acquittals that happen in federal drug trafficking and distribution cases are often the result of Fourth Amendment violations that result in evidence being suppressed due to law enforcement having conducted an illegal search of the defendant’s person or property. In other cases, the defendant may not have been aware he or she was actually in possession of or transporting illegal drugs. There are still other instances in which an attorney might challenge the argument that the drugs were in the defendant’s possession or otherwise under his or her control at all. The defense attorney’s approach to protecting his or her client and, if possible, having the client acquitted on all charges varies with the unique circumstances of each case. Most attorneys are able to provide the client an idea of how he or she might approach building a case for the client’s defense after conducting an initial case evaluation.
Fourth Amendment protection against illegal searches
Most people are aware of instances in which the police may search a person, vehicle, home, or other building for drugs, illegal weapons, or other evidence of a crime. However, many people who enter the criminal court process are unaware of the legal limitation the U.S. Constitution imposes on law enforcement agencies to ensure people are not subjected to unreasonable searches. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution requires law enforcement officers to demonstrate the reasonableness of conducting a search by being prepared to show that it is more likely than not that a crime has occurred, commonly known as showing “probable cause.” In some cases, police must show probable cause before a judge to obtain a warrant prior to conducting the search. In other situations, the police may be able to conduct a warrantless search if the circumstances call for swift action. Most searches are conducted without a warrant; therefore, defense attorneys will often start by examining the constitutionality of any searches the police may have conducted in the interest of protecting the accused person’s rights and having any evidence that was obtained illegally omitted from the trial.
When the police search without probable cause
Drug charges that are challenged on the basis of lack of probable cause often involve situations in which a person may feel he or she was unlawfully targeted by police for the purpose of conducting a search. For example, if Person A is driving down the street playing loud music, the police may stop the driver on the basis of violating a community noise ordinance if one is in effect. If after approaching the vehicle, having a conversation with the occupants, and issuing a warning or citation, the officer does not notice anything that would reasonably point to evidence of a crime, the driver should be free to go. However, in some cases, law enforcement officers may overstep their boundaries and violate the driver’s constitutional rights by making a threat and demanding to search the vehicle. In other cases, officers have fabricated reasons to conduct a search that may not have actually existed at the scene of the stop. For example, an officer may say he or she saw an illegal gun in the vehicle when no gun was recovered during the search. If a court finds that law enforcement lacked probable cause to conduct a search, the prosecution will no longer be permitted to rely on the evidence that was produced from the search in establishing the case for conviction.
Wrong place; Wrong time
Oftentimes, a drug trafficking offense may be committed by a group of individuals. If a person is simply in the presence of the group at the time of arrest, but is otherwise uninvolved in the drug activity, he or she was simply in the place at the wrong time and is not guilty of trafficking. For example, Person A may ask Person B for a ride home. Person B agrees to drive Person A home while on the way to run an errand with Person C. If the police stop the vehicle and search the trunk and discover several kilos of cocaine in the trunk, all three individuals may initially be arrested based on the assumption that they were traveling together to distribute the drugs. Person A’s attorney would establish his or her innocence by proving Person A had simply asked for a ride earlier and had no knowledge of or involvement with the drugs in the car or Person B and Person C’s intentions to distribute drugs that day.
Lack of Intent to engage in trafficking and distribution
Sometimes an individual may be caught with a large quantity of drugs, but have no intent to commit a trafficking or distribution offense. This is often the case if a person maintains a large supply of drugs for personal use. The attorney may introduce evidence of his or her client’s drug test results and take other measures to establish the accused has a problem with addiction or abuse. While the individual would likely be acquitted of the trafficking and distribution charges, he or she is more likely to be convicted of a possession change. In some cases, a person who is convicted of personal possession may be eligible for a reduced sentence and mandatory drug treatment program.
Contacting a West Palm Beach federal drug trafficking and distribution lawyer
When facing serious charges like federal drug trafficking and distribution, the first step is to call an established Florida defense attorney who is experienced in winning federal drug cases. Drug cases often involve procedural complexities, and those who are accused may be eligible for reduced sentencing. Unfortunately, drug case defendants are often shuffled through the system without the receiving the benefit of having proper advocacy for their rights. Having a knowledgeable federal drug crimes lawyer present from day one can help individuals ensure their constitutional rights are protected while clearly understanding their charges and the legal options that are at their disposal. The process of calling a West Palm Beach drug trafficking attorney is very straightforward. Individuals who are accused of a federal drug crime may simply call and request a free case evaluation; the attorney and legal staff will handle the rest.