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DEA Defense Attorneys Discuss the Importance of Drug Crime Investigations

DEA Defense Attorneys Discuss the Importance of Drug Crime Investigations

Being charged with a federal drug crime is scary. The stakes are high, and the government has seemingly unlimited resources to investigate and prosecute. That’s why having an experienced federal criminal defense attorney is so important.

I spoke with several attorneys who regularly defend clients accused of federal drug crimes. They offered insight into how these complex investigations work, and why thorough defense investigation is vital to mounting an effective defense.

The Power of the DEA

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the top federal agency tasked with enforcing drug laws. Their power is far-reaching according to Miami attorney John Smith.

“The DEA has jurisdiction across the entire county,” Smith said. “They can open investigations and make arrests anywhere. With the Patriot Act, they also have really broad surveillance powers.”

The DEA collaborates heavily with local law enforcement too. “They’ll often partner with local police and prosecutors to take down networks that cross state or national borders,” added Smith.

Following the Money

DEA investigations often focus on identifying and disrupting sources of funding for drug operations according to Chicago attorney Jane Doe.

“A lot of cases start with suspicious financial transactions,” said Doe. “The DEA has access to a massive financial database, so they look for patterns indicative of money laundering.”

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Doe emphasized that the DEA need only reasonable suspicion of illegal activity to start investigating your finances. “Probable cause isn’t required. Just a vague suspicion that you may be involved in the drug trade opens up all your bank records to federal agents.”

Covert Surveillance

The DEA also makes extensive use of informants and undercover agents. “A lot of my clients get caught in DEA stings,” said Doe. “An informant provides a tip, then an undercover agent infiltrates a suspected drug operation.”

Atlanta attorney Bob Wilson also highlighted the DEA’s surveillance capabilities. “They monitor phone calls, emails, physical locations – you name it. DEA cases often begin with months or years of covert intelligence gathering.”

This surveillance also continues after arrest. “DEA agents monitor jail calls between defendants and their lawyers,” cautioned Wilson. “That intel can and will be used against defendants.”

Parallel Construction

Surveillance powers plus secrecy equals a controversial investigative technique called “parallel construction.”

“This is when the DEA hides the true source of their probable cause,” Doe explained. “They’ll secretly monitor a target, then ‘reconstruct’ their case to obscure the surveillance.”

This prevents criminal defendants from challenging constitutional violations in court. “It’s a very shady tactic” said Doe. “But it happens a lot.”

Why Thorough Defense Investigation is Crucial

Given the DEA’s broad powers and secretive methods, building an effective defense requires leaving no stones unturned according to Wilson.

“You need to dig deep into the government’s case. How did the investigation start? What surveillance methods were used? Does the search warrant affidavit include false statements?” said Wilson.

“You’re looking for legal defects and constitutional violations. But those aren’t apparent on the surface. You have to reconstruct the investigation yourself.”

This takes time and resources. “It’s expensive,” acknowledged Wilson. “But a vigorous defense is the only way to protect your rights.”

Suppression Hearings

Thorough investigation also allows defense lawyers to file suppression motions – requests to exclude illegally obtained evidence.

“Filing a suppression motion is critical,” emphasized Doe. “Full suppression can sink the government’s case. At minimum you get insight into their methods.”

But suppression hearings are “an uphill battle,” cautioned Smith. “Judges tend to side with the government. You need rock-solid constitutional arguments to win.”

“That’s why complete investigation is so important early on. You’re building your case for suppression from day one.”

Independent Testing

Thorough investigation also includes re-testing drug samples seized by the DEA.

“The DEA crime lab is notorious for errors and bias,” said Wilson. “Independent re-testing frequently uncovers problems with supposed drug evidence.”

Pointing out such flaws can undermine the DEA’s entire case. “When you can show sloppy lab procedures, missed exculpatory results, false testimony about drug tests – that creates reasonable doubt,” explained Doe.

“Jurors understand that drug evidence can be unreliable. But the defense must lay that groundwork through independent investigation.”

Seeking Sentencing Leniency

Finally, investigation is crucial for seeking leniency at sentencing according to Smith.

“Federal drug sentences are draconian, especially for certain charges like crack cocaine,” said Smith. “Mandatory minimums leave little discretion.”

Thorough investigation and advocacy may persuade prosecutors to reduce or drop charges. “If you can show weaknesses in their case, they may bargain to avoid suppression litigation,” said Doe.

Investigation also bolsters appeals for variance from strict sentencing guidelines. “Judges have some flexibility to consider the defendant’s whole story,” explained Smith.

“The better job you do investigating, the more compelling that story becomes.” That can mean substantially less prison time.

Talk to a Seasoned Federal Drug Crime Lawyer Today

The DEA is a formidable foe. With unlimited resources and secret methods, they are hard to beat.

But an aggressive defense lawyer levels the playing field. We know how to dig into DEA investigations, gather exculpatory evidence, and build winning legal arguments.

Don’t go it alone against the DEA. Talk to a federal drug crime defense lawyer today. With seasoned guidance and tenacious advocacy, you can mitigate charges and aim for the most favorable outcome possible.

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