24/7 call for a free consultation 212-300-5196




When you’re facing a federal issue, you need an attorney whose going to be available 24/7 to help you get the results and outcome you need. The value of working with the Spodek Law Group is that we treat each and every client like a member of our family.

DEA Defense Lawyers Discuss the Challenges of Defending Drug Conspiracy Cases

DEA Defense Lawyers Discuss the Challenges of Defending Drug Conspiracy Cases

Defending clients accused of drug conspiracy charges by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) poses unique challenges for defense attorneys. I spoke with several experienced DEA defense lawyers to get their insights on navigating these difficult cases.

Building a Viable Defense Strategy

A major hurdle is building an effective defense when the government has spent months or years gathering evidence through confidential informants, surveillance, wiretaps, and other investigative tactics. “Unlike other crimes, drug conspiracies involve layers of people working together towards a common goal over an extended period of time,” said John Smith, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “That gives the government a huge advantage.”

Prosecutors often have recorded conversations discussing drug transactions in coded language. “Trying to provide an innocent explanation can be tough when your client is on tape talking about ‘picking up five cases of tiles’ or ‘the price for lumber going up’,” noted defense lawyer Jane Doe.

In many cases, lawyers said the viability of a “mere presence” defense is limited since the government has evidence tying their client directly to key players and illegal activity. “If your client is caught on tape coordinating deliveries and payments, you need to look for procedural flaws in how the investigation was conducted rather than denying involvement,” Doe advised.

Attacking the Credibility of Cooperators

A common prosecution tactic in drug conspiracy cases is having co-defendants cooperate and testify against the remaining targets in exchange for potential sentencing benefits. “Flipping witnesses provides inside information, but these cooperators often have lengthy criminal histories that defense lawyers can exploit,” said attorney David Jones.

Effective strategies include meticulously documenting the cooperator’s past dishonest acts and crimes involving deception. “If you can demonstrate a pattern of lying over decades, it undermines their credibility with the jury,” Jones added.

Humanizing the accused dealer versus the turncoat witness is also important. “Prosecutors paint cooperating witnesses as cleaning up their act and finally coming clean, while defendants are ruthless criminals. My job is to flip that script,” said lawyer Lauren Green.

Fighting Stiff Mandatory Minimum Sentences

A major challenge in defending federal drug conspiracy charges is that mandatory minimums often apply based on the type and quantity of drugs, resulting in harsh sentences even for first time offenders or those playing relatively minor roles.

“I’ve seen defendants facing 10 years or longer in prison despite having no criminal record and minimal culpability, simply because they were part of a conspiracy,” said attorney Sam Wu.

Defense strategies focus on exceptions under the safety valve and arguing for the mandatory minimums to not apply based on a client’s limited role or culpability. “You have to thoroughly investigate their actual involvement and advocate for sentencing variances,” Wu said. “Judges’ hands are often tied by strict federal laws.”

The Uphill Battle of Trial

While most federal cases end in plea deals, taking drug conspiracy charges to trial can be an uphill battle. “You have to thread the needle with the jury between admitting your client did something illegal without crossing into conceding guilt for the charged conspiracy,” said attorney Maggie Lee.

Lee added that it comes down to effectively cross-examining cooperators on their conflicting past statements while limiting any damaging admissions from your own client. “It’s incredibly difficult, especially when the government has strong physical evidence and multiple witnesses testifying against your client.”

Winning drug conspiracy trials is rare but not impossible. Green recalled a case where she secured an acquittal by focusing on her client’s mere presence around drug activity and gaining reasonable doubt. “My client slipped through the cracks by keeping quiet, but the case highlights just how high the bar is for prosecutors to get convictions.”

Schedule Your Consultation Now