FAQ: Federal Drug Indictment Process

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Anyone who has been charged with a federal drug crime will probably have many questions that demand answers. The FAQ below is designed to provide you with some of the basic information you need to mount a defense in your case. Remember however that your case is unique, and you need to have your situation reviewed by a top notch, experienced drug defense attorney as soon as possible.

What Is a Federal Drug Charge Indictment?

This is an official charge against you in federal court. The indictment can include several charges or counts against you. The federal prosecutor’s office will submit a set of proposed charges against you to a federal grand jury. The latter must find that there is probable cause against you before it can return with an indictment.

Note that in most cases, when charges are sent to a federal grand jury, an indictment is nearly always the result. The federal government has plenty of resources to gather evidence against you in court.

Why Am I Being Charged and Indicted in Federal Court?

Federal drug cases are usually larger cases that involve trafficking and distributing large amounts of drugs. If you are guilty of just possession, you probably would be charged at the state level. If you are being charged at the federal level, the feds probably found you in possession of large amounts of drugs, as well as items that suggest that you are distributing the drugs, such as scales or plastic bags.

You also may be charged in federal court if you were caught selling drugs in a school zone or on public property.

Will I Face a Stiffer Sentence in Federal Court?

Probably. Any federally prosecuted drug case is probably more serious than a potential state case. Therefore, you are probably facing a stiffer sentence. Keep in mind that federal judges must follow the US Sentencing Guidelines, a 600 page manual that provides a point system for defendants in federal court. The calculation of your potential sentence will depend upon how much the judge determines you are responsible for the illegal acts involved.

There have been recent developments in the federal system that may result in future drug convicts receiving lighter sentences. The focus on mandatory minimum sentences in the last 30 years has resulted in many relatively minor drug offenders spending many years in prison.

How Long of A Sentence Am I Looking At?

It entirely depends on how much drugs are involved, the type, and your criminal past. Most federal drug charges carry sentences from five to 10 years.

Remember that if you provide cooperation with the feds in the charges against you and your associates that helps in the case, the government may reduce your sentence by as much as 30%.

Cooperating includes testifying against others facing indictment, and/or providing information or active cooperation to create a new investigation/indictment against another person.

Why Am I Being Charged With Conspiracy in My Federal Drug Case?

Conspiracy charges are common in federal drug cases. There are usually several people involved who were involved in the trafficking, and/or the discussion surrounding the illegal activity. A conspiracy charge allows federal prosecutors to charge people with crimes who had a smaller role in the alleged drug crimes.

A conspiracy in a federal drug indictment is defined as an agreement between two plus people to commit a crime. It is used about 99% of the time in federal drug cases, and can make you personally liable for the illegal acts of your co-conspirators.

What Are Some Other Common Charges That Go With a Federal Drug Charge?

Weapon charges are very common in these cases. If you had any guns with you when you committed your drug crime, you will face a federal gun charge, EVEN IF you did not use the weapon during the alleged drug crime. All the government needs to show is that you carried the weapon or had it near you at the time. This includes handguns, shotguns and pistols.

Another common charge is money laundering. This is defined as making financial transactions with the proceeds of a criminal act, when you knew that the proceeds came from the illegal act.

Can I Receive Bond to Get Out of Jail While Awaiting Trial?

It depends. You could be detained by the feds if you are deemed a flight risk or a danger to the community. Note that in federal drug trafficking cases, most defendants are detained without bond.

Can My Case Be Returned to State Court?

It depends on the case, but in some cases, yes. The ideal is for your case to be acquitted. But you may have negotiated a plea deal, or the judge may decide your case should be charged at the state level. This could mean you are facing a sentence that is not as stiff, if the crime is charged at the state level.

Sources:

  • http://www.teakelllaw.com/practice-areas/drug-charges/drug-trafficking-federal-cases/
  • http://www.westmichigandefender.org/CF/Federal_Criminal_Process.pdf
  • http://www.patrickrobertslaw.com/Federal-Criminal-Defense/Federal-Drug-Charges.shtml

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