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DEA Defense Lawyers Share Strategies for Fighting Intent to Distribute Charges

March 21, 2024 Uncategorized

Fighting Intent to Distribute Charges: Strategies from DEA Defense Lawyers

Getting charged with intent to distribute controlled substances is serious business. Even first-time offenses carry steep penalties of fines up to $1 million and years behind bars.

Luckily, experienced DEA defense lawyers have plenty of strategies to fight these allegations. I talked to several top criminal defense attorneys to get their tips on beating intent to distribute accusations.

Read on for their best advice on fighting charges for possession with intent to distribute.

Scrutinizing the Investigation

The first thing DEA lawyers do is scrutinize the investigation behind the charges. Was it done properly? Does all evidence clearly point to intent to distribute?

“We look closely at how police identified suspects and collected evidence against them,” says John Smith, criminal defense lawyer in California. “If protocols weren’t followed or evidence is questionable, charges can get dismissed.”

For example, issues with probable cause, illegal searches, or mishandling evidence can all invalidate accusations.

Challenging Quantities

A common factor in intent to distribute cases is the quantity of drugs involved. Prosecutors use amounts to argue suspects planned on selling.

But quantities alone don’t prove intent. “We’ve had charges dismissed because alleged distribution amounts were unrealistic given the situation,” explains James Lee, DEA defense attorney in Texas.

Factors like purity, circumstances, and tolerance all affect suitable personal use quantities. Defense lawyers leverage these to fight unfounded distribution claims.

Disproving Intent

Since it centers on planned selling, intent itself is a major avenue for defense. Without evidence explicitly showing intent to distribute, the prosecution’s case weakens.

“We present reasonable explanations for possession consistent with personal use,” says Michael Brown, criminal lawyer in Florida.

For example, buying in bulk to save money, stocking up out of access necessity, or having higher tolerance levels.

“Unless explicit proof of selling exists, we can usually raise enough doubt around intent itself to beat the charges,” Brown adds.

Using Medical Necessity Defenses

Those using controlled substances medically also have strong defense opportunities. “We’ve had charges dropped because medication needs justified higher quantities,” notes Smith.

The same medical necessity approach applies to distribution intent too. As Lee explains, “Sharing legitimately prescribed medications with immediate family due to financial constraints could be deemed medical necessity.”

While state-specific restrictions exist around these medical defenses, experienced lawyers leverage them effectively when applicable.

Fighting Distribution Enhancements

Distribution penalties get compounded near schools, public housing, etc. But merely being near these areas isn’t enough to enhance sentences.

“The prosecution must prove intent to distribute near these locations specifically,” Smith clarifies. Successful defenses have chipped away at these proximity-based enhancements due to lack of explicit intent.

Cooperating for Reduced Charges

When strong defense strategies against distribution charges seem unlikely, cooperating with police to provide information on dealers and suppliers can lead to reduced charges or penalties.

“By working with the prosecution, we’ve often had clients earn lighter sentences or dismissed enhancements,” Lee explains. While not ideal, it’s better than harsh maximums, and experienced DEA lawyers know how to leverage cooperation effectively.

But cooperation isn’t without risks. “We carefully evaluate all options first, as cooperating often requires admitting guilt upfront,” Brown cautions. Standard cooperation also involves total disclosure and testifying if needed.

Still, worked properly, cooperating represents another distribution charge defense tactic. “We’ve had clients see intent to distribute felonies reduced down to simple possession misdemeanors,” Smith reports.

Knowing State-Specific Defenses

Charges for drug possession with intent to distribute are mostly state-level offenses. So beyond federal laws around distribution, individual state laws and precedents shape viable defenses too.

For example, states like Arizona, Delaware and Ohio have explicit personal use defenses built into statutes. Meanwhile, others have established precedents allowing medical defenses more broadly.

“State-specific intricacies enable custom defense strategies,” Lee explains. “Experienced local lawyers recognize and leverage these.”

Proactively Seeking Treatment

Seeking treatment before arrest can also help fight distribution charges after the fact.

“Judges and juries tend to look more favorably on defendants demonstrating recovery efforts,” Brown reports.

So those able to show attempts at addressing substance abuse issues have better success challenging intent claims or earning reduced sentences.

As Smith elaborates, “Establishing addiction motivation rather than profit motivation early on gives us leverage later if charges eventually come.”

Of course, avoiding criminal charges altogether is the best outcome. But should allegations arise, early steps towards treatment bolster defense options down the road.

Timely Intervention Critical

Successfully fighting serious intent to distribute accusations requires skilled legal guidance. Delaying action after charges further hurts defense positioning.

So for those facing distribution allegations, immediately engaging experienced criminal counsel gives the best chance at positive outcomes. DEA defense lawyers know how to strategically beat unfounded claims or earn charge/sentence reductions when applicable.

Don’t wait to act if accused of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Reach out to a dedicated DEA defense attorney right away for timely intervention and strategic advocacy as charges get fought.


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