Drug trafficking criminal enterprises are difficult to penetrate, disrupt, and produce significant arrests. Law enforcement authorities may need months – or even years – to round up the leaders and major players in the enterprise, even when their reach doesn’t extend outside state borders.
After three years of investigation, Texas law enforcement officials are finally ready to close the books on an investigation that led to 10 recent arrests in Corpus Christi, Houston, and San Antonio. One of the members of the gang is already serving time behind bars in San Antonio.
The 10 individuals are associated with the Hermandad de Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) gang, which allegedly conspired to move drugs including methamphetamine and heroin throughout state. Charges against them include possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and heroin, and conspiracy to distribute the same drugs.
Each of these charges has the potential of putting the accused behind bars for decades. Of those charged in the investigation, multiple offenders are facing life sentences if they are convicted, based on the weight of the drugs that were discovered. They will be tried in federal court.
What’s Next? Defenses to Drug Trafficking Charges
While these 10 individuals face serious charges and have the vast resources of the federal government against them, that doesn’t mean they do not have viable defenses; namely, the presumption of innocence and right to a criminal defense. A criminal charge does not mean a conviction. The government carries the burden of proving their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
While every case is different, there are defense strategies that can work for individuals charged with drug trafficking or related crimes. If you have been arrested or charged, look over these defense strategies, but be sure to consult with a knowledgeable drug crimes lawyer about which strategy is most appropriate for your case:
The Police Did Not Obtain a Warrant To Conduct a Search/Did Not Have Probable Cause. Most drug trafficking rings are exposed after police find mass amounts of drugs that are being transported. Police cannot, however, just search whoever they choose. Police need probable cause to conduct a warrantless search, or else they must obtain a warrant. If the search produces evidence that results in an arrest, the legality of that search can be contested through what is called a motion to suppress hearing. If the court determines the search was unlawful for any number of reasons, the evidence discovered in the search must be suppressed. Without the evidence, a judge may drop your charges.
Lack of Intent. Let’s look at one of the specific charges – possession with intent to distribute. This charge has two parts: possession and the intent to distribute. It is the intent to distribute make the penalties much more severe than a simple possession charge. If you can show the judge that you never intended to distribute the drugs that were found, you may be able to mitigate the charges and your sentence. This defense strategy could even potentially lead to a judge dropping your charges.
Wrong Place at the Wrong Time. Drug trafficking operations involve large groups of people who are often grouped together as a gang or a ring. If an individual is not actively involved in the trafficking, but is caught alongside others who are, the police may assume the individual is involved and put them under arrest. Sometimes people are just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Proving this may include providing alibis for meetings held by the gang or showing a lack of association prior to the arrest.
Unaware of Trafficking Activities. Trafficking operations are extensive and often include dozens of people moving drugs. As part of its operation, drug traffickers may recruit innocent people who are unaware of the presence of drugs in their car, suitcase, and so forth. If this happened to you, you deserve justice. A lawyer can help you prove that you did not know that drugs were present in your possession, and that without the knowledge of the drugs, you were not breaking any laws.