Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Jensen 735 W. Wisconsin Ave., Twelfth Floor Milwaukee, WI 53233
Jeffrey W. Jensen is a criminal defense lawyer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is also a criminal appeals lawyer in Wisconsin.
A critical part of successfully defending any federal drug conspiracy charge is an effective pretrial motion strategy. For more on this, see our Federal Criminal Motions library.
How Police Investigate Drug Conspiracies
What is a drug conspiracy?
Most people have no idea how little evidence of involvement it takes for the government to obtain an indictment under the federal drug conspiracy statutes. Title 21 U.S.C. § 846, 841(b)(1)(A)(ii); and Title 18 U.S.C. § 2. By the same token, the extremely harsh penalties come as an unwelcome surprise to those who find themselves named as a defendant.
Firstly, in order to be convicted of drug conspiracy the government need only prove: First, that the alleged conspiracy existed; and Second, that the defendant knowingly became a member of the conspiracy with intent to further the conspiracy. The government need not prove that you ever actually possessed any cocaine, marijuana, heroin, or whatever drug is charged. The government need not even prove that you ever actually did anything in furtherance of the conspiracy- only that you became a member with intent to further the conspiracy.
Additionally, you need not be a member of the conspiracy for the entire time that it existed. Rather, if, at any point during the existence of the conspiracy, you become a member you are responsible for all of the drugs that were handled by the conspiracy that were reasonably foreseeable to you.
It does not require much evidence to indict a person under this law. Many conspiracies include defendants whose only involvement was, for example, that he possessed expertise in ways to cook crack cocaine and he shared this expertise with other members of the conspiracy.
How do police gather evidence of a drug conspiracy?
The government possesses vast technology designed to detect and gather evidence of drug conspiracies. Nevertheless, by far and away the most common method of gathering evidence is the old fashioned way- from snitches and rats ("confidential informants" and "cooperating witnesses"). The government tends to indict as many people as they are able to in any given conspiracy. This can be as many a fifty people. The strategy is that in any given conspiracy a large number of the defendant will be scared into becoming cooperating witnesses. Once these people are "debriefed" the case becomes very difficult for the remaining defendants. Moreover, this round of debriefing usually gives the agents enough new evidence to begin working on the next round of indictments. And the process goes on and on.
Once a group of new suspects is identified though the debriefing process the government agents then apply for, and are usually granted, authorization by the court to intercept and record telephone calls made by the suspects. In this way the government learns the identity of the participants and gains some understanding of their methods of operation.
Once this high-tech method of investigation has been exhausted the next step is decidedly low-tech. Federal agents will stop such persons on the pretext that they have violated state driving laws. Every high level drug dealer knows that there are two dangerous points in the delivery of drugs: (1) While driving with the drugs in the car where they have to worry about the police; and, (2) The delivery of the drugs where they have to worry about armed robbers. Therefore, the traffic stops usually only yield low-level "runners." TIP: If the police catch you with a large amount of drugs in your car and then let you go you can rest assured that you are in deep legal trouble. A federal investigation is most-likely underway but not yet completed.
The last step is the search warrants. Simultaneously with the return of the indictments the agents will obtain warrants to search the homes of the participants. Again, the high level dealers know better than to keep guns, drugs, or money in their homes. Rather, these items are kept in a "stash house" that is looked over by a girlfriend or some other trusted but low-level member of the conspiracy.
What is the moral of this story?
The moral of the story is that where you associate with people who are "in the business" you cannot assume that you are immune from arrest and prosecution simply because you do not use, possess, or sell the drugs. To the government if you look like you are part of the group you will be indicted as part of the group.
Milwaukee criminal defense attorney Jeffrey W. Jensen, of the Law Offices of Jeffrey W. Jensen, a Milwaukee law firm with offices located at 735 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Twelfth Floor, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has represented persons throughout the State of Wisconsin. If you will face felony charges in either state court or in federal court you should call 414.224.9484. Attorney Jensen regularly appears in Milwaukee County (Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer), Waukesha County (Waukesha criminal defense lawyer, Brookfield criminal defense lawyer), Washington County (West Bend and Germantown criminal defense lawyer), Racine County (Racine criminal defense lawyer), Kenosha County (Kenosha criminal defense lawyer), Brown County (Green Bay criminal defense lawyer), Fond du Lac County (Fond du Lac criminal defense lawyer), and Winnebago County (Oshkosh criminal defense lawyer)
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