Federal Drug Trafficking and Conspiracy Lawyer
Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer Representing Clients under Investigation in High-Level Drug Conspiracies in Houston, Throughout Texas, and in Federal Courts Nationwide
John T. Floyd is an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer with over twenty years of experience representing individuals who have been investigated or charged in high-level federal drug conspiracy cases. Mr. Floyd is a criminal law expert, Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and recognized by Thomson Reuters in its prominent Super Lawyers list. John T. Floyd has published hundreds of articles about federal criminal law, including federal drug laws and sentencing.
John Floyd has successfully represented high-level drug cartel members, celebrities, and other prominent individuals alleged to be involved in drug conspiracies and money laundering allegations related to drug trafficking.
Do Not Talk to the Feds
If you are under investigation by federal agents in regard to a drug conspiracy, it is urgent that you contact an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer immediately. Do not speak to law enforcement agents regardless of their threats, promises of leniency, or other interview techniques designed to get you to talk.
Drug Conspiracies and Continuing Criminal Enterprises
Over the years, Congress has enacted dozens of conspiracy laws, but only one of those statutes, found in 18 U.S.C. § 371, prohibits conspiracy to commit other federal crimes. 18 U.S.C. § 371 conspiracies carry a five-year maximum term of imprisonment. The other conspiracy laws are included along with specific criminal codes that outlaw conspiracies to engage in certain forms of criminal conduct, like drug trafficking.
Partners in Crime Targeted by Conspiracy Statutes
While these statutes have various differences and some similarities, they exist for the reasons discussed in a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court decision: “collective criminal agreement – a partnership in crime – presents a greater potential threat to the public than individual derelicts. Concerted action increases the likelihood that the criminal object will be successfully attained and decreases the possibility that the individuals involved will depart from their path of criminality.”
Because, as the court pointed out, “the danger which a conspiracy generates is not confined to the substantive offense which is the immediate aim of the enterprise,” Congress has responded with an array of conspiracy laws that target terrorism, organized crime, white collar corruption, health care fraud, and drug trafficking, seeking to increase the ease of prosecution along with the severity of the prison sentences.
Drug Trafficking Conspiracies
The two laws targeting drug trafficking are probably the most far-reaching of all conspiracy laws. Those laws are in 21 U.S.C. § 846 and 21 U.S.C. § 848.
21 U.S. Code Sec. 846 Drug Conspiracy
Section 846 prohibits conspiracy, or attempts to conspire, to commit any drug trafficking or possession offense, all of which are listed in 21 U.S.C. § 841. Section 846 requires that the mandatory minimum of the predicate offense be imposed upon conviction.
21 U.S. Code Sec. 848 Continuing Criminal Enterprise
Section 848 punishes four types of misconduct associated with a continuing criminal enterprise with severe mandatory minimum sentences: First offense, 20-year minimum; second and subsequent offenses, 30-year minimum; acting as the “kingpin” of the continuing criminal enterprise, life without parole; and engaged in a continuing enterprise and intentionally kills an individual or law enforcement officer, 20-year minimum.
Elements of Federal Conspiracy
All federal conspiracy laws have at least two essential elements: (1) an agreement (2) between two or more parties. Each member is legally accountable for any “foreseeable” crimes another member may commit in furtherance of the conspiracy. And any statement by one conspirator is admissible against all the conspirators. This is why the use, and abuse, of snitches and cooperating co-defendants, have become so widespread in federal prosecutions.
Congress enacted Sections 846 and 848 during a national election season in 1988 that featured a “tough on crime,” fear-mongering political campaign. Its intent was to target high-level drug kingpins for the harsh mandatory minimum sentencing schemes lawmakers had implemented in 1986.
Liability for All Involved in Conspiracy
The result of these 1988 drug laws, however, was that they made everyone remotely associated with a conspiracy to traffic drugs liable for every act of the conspiracy. For example, a lookout at a crack house can be held responsible for every rock of crack sold from the house, or, worse yet, he or she can be held liable for all other drugs distributed by the organization created by the drug kingpin.
Federal prosecutors quickly saw larger benefits in the 1988 conspiracy statutes. They began packing the federal court system with defendants who played only trivial roles in charged “drug trafficking conspiracies.” This created an almost endless line of low-level snitches seeking to sell testimony in exchange for reduced sentences, increasing the number of convictions and conviction rates.
The federal prison population naturally grew by nearly 500 percent over the next decade.
Prosecutors will use the conspiracy charges “… as a threat to get people to comply and turn over people up the food chain,” Minnesota attorney Blair Nelson told VICE this past September. “The likelihood of being charged with a conspiracy is directly proportionate to how much information the government thinks you’re able to give them.”
Conspiracy with People Unknown
Beyond being often unfair, drug trafficking conspiracy charges can be difficult to understand because the individual facing the charges can be charged with, and held responsible for, engaging in conduct with dozens of other people he has never met or even know exist.
Essentially, the government consolidates a number of individual cases through questionable agreements or “overt acts” into a single indictment. This tactic can not only be used as leverage to develop “snitch” information but to coerce guilty pleas in order to make year-end conviction statistics seem more impressive than they actually are.
Forcing Cooperation and Snitches
97% of all federal drug offenders plead guilty in drug trafficking conspiracy cases, too often coerced by prosecutorial threats and demands for cooperation. The information derived from legally permissible coercion is often unreliable and sometimes demonstrably false.
The tragedy in these kinds of cases is that innocent or very low-level people are frequently ensnared in the wide conspiracy net cast by the government. Given the potential for gathering information from individuals fearful of lengthy federal prison time, prosecutors tend to be more inclusive when asking grand juries to indict individuals connected to a drug trafficking enterprise. They will often seek to indict low-level actors, or tangentially involved family members, who they know they can push for cooperation, beginning the crumbling of the defense for all involved in the conspiracy.
In this context, federal prosecutors hone their prosecutorial skills, motivated by an ambition to move up the professional success ladder.
The Numbers Do Not Lie
In Fiscal Year 2012, federal prosecutors brought 5,658 drug conspiracy cases under Section 846 alone— meaning that 40 percent of all drug indictments secured by the U.S. Justice Department included a conspiracy charge.
Why so many?
Most people think drug conspiracies are difficult to prove because of the number of conspirators charged in an indictment. Not so. A higher number of defendants actually increases the likelihood of convictions.
Statements of Co-Conspirators “Tell the Story”
Federal prosecutors have a great deal of flexibility under Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d) (2) (E) in using statements of co-conspirators who do not testify.
This allows prosecutors to meet their burden of proving (1) that two or more individuals agreed to violate the controlled substances act; (2) that the individuals knew their agreement was unlawful; (3) that each individual willfully joined in the agreement; and (4) that their “conspiracy” involved a certain type and quantity of a controlled substance.
A Justice Department attorney, Jason F. Cunningham, has written that Rule 801 allows federal prosecutors “to tell the story” of a drug trafficking conspiracy “through witnesses who describe exactly what the co-conspirators said in furtherance of the criminal enterprise.”
The storytelling is made easier because every federal circuit has recognized that, in varying degrees, Rule 801 is a “co-conspirator exception” to the hearsay rule. This flex in the traditional hearsay rule allows prosecutors to push the envelope on the evidence they introduce at trial.
From the defense perspective, co-conspirators “tell the story” through induced or coerced testimony and fearful or lengthy imprisonment. These individuals, under threat of extreme punishment, will say anything, even fabricate events, to save their own necks.
Juries Need Information to Fairly Judge Reliability of Witnesses
It takes a skilled criminal defense attorney to combat this prosecutorial strategy by investigating the background of cooperating co-conspirators and discovering every facet of the benefit the government has given him or her in exchange for their cooperation in telling the prosecution’s story. Whether it is a direct payment of money in exchange for a witness’s cooperation and testimony or a significant reduction in the possible range of imprisonment, these witnesses are selling their testimony and have a direct reason for bias or motive to lie. It is, therefore, vital that these “agreements by disclosed to the defense and that this information is presented to a jury so that it may adequately measure the reliability of the testimony.
FBI, DEA, ICE, IRS…
Federal Law Enforcement Involved in Federal Drug Investigations
Law enforcement agencies as diverse as the FBI, DEA, and IRS conduct sweeping drug trafficking conspiracy investigations upon which the government bases its indictments. While the FBI and DEA primarily conduct “criminal investigations,” the IRS uses the Bank Secrecy Act and the Money Laundering Act to conduct what it calls “financial investigations” into drug trafficking enterprises. These financial investigations aim to dismantle “criminal enterprises” by seizing and forfeiting their assets.
For example, the IRS has thus far this year conducted 955 financial investigations resulting in 872 indictments that led to 580 individuals being sentenced to an average of 71 months in prison.
A typical FBI drug trafficking investigation was recently announced in Portland, Oregon. In that case, federal prosecutors brought an indictment that charged 24 defendants with a conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and a conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The FBI and federal prosecutors said the conspiracy involved “a vast drug trafficking conspiracy in which drug cartels, criminal organizations, and gangs were sourcing a large drug trafficking organization operating within Washington County, Oregon, with hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine, which in turn was being sold to other drug distributors within the area.”
Federal Criminal Drug Conspiracy Defense Lawyer
The John T. Law Firm is proud to defend individuals caught up in these often over-expansive federal drug trafficking investigations. We know that many injustices occur in the name of the government’s war on terror.
All drug charges are serious, but federal drug trafficking conspiracy charges are by far the most serious. We stand on the premise that attacking the government’s case at the outset is the best way to minimize or mitigate any damage done to our clients by these serious criminal charges. It takes a skilled federal defense attorney who can navigate the muddy waters inevitably associated with drug trafficking conspiracy cases to get his client ahead of the prosecutorial drive to win at all costs.
Experienced Federal Drug Crimes Lawyer
The John T. Law Firm has extensive experience dealing with suppression issues and combating wiretapping evidence collected by secret recordings prominent in federal drug trafficking cases. The sweeping nature of most of these conspiracy investigations inevitably leads to reckless, improper, and illegal investigative procedures. We know how to get at the heart of these procedures, argue against the admission of illegally obtained evidence, and aggressively put the government to its burden of proof.
We know that no matter how unpopular a high-level drug defendant may be, that jurors do not expect or condone dirty law enforcement agents or the illegal conduct in which they sometimes engage. Prosecutors know this as well. Sometimes simply discovering illegally obtained evidence or law enforcement agents who have stepped over the legal line, can have incredible benefits to an individual facing serious time in federal prison.
Do not Speak to a Federal Law Enforcement Agent without a Lawyer
If you become a target, or even a person of interest, in a federal drug trafficking investigation, do not speak to any law enforcement officer, either at the state or federal level, without consulting an experienced federal drug defense lawyer. Demand to speak to an attorney. You have an absolute Sixth Amendment right to demand this. Call the John T. Floyd Law Firm. We stand ready to provide you with the effective assistance of counsel you are constitutionally entitled to.