Multi-jurisdictional drug task force sets up anonymous snitch site
Designed to create a partnership between the public and law enforcement, StopDrug.Houston.org is a multijurisdictional website aimed at five counties and six cities, including Houston, encouraging the public to submit online anonymous tips about individuals wanted in connection with criminal and drug trafficking activities.
Local, state and federal agencies in Houston, Pasadena, Conroe, Beaumont, Corpus Christi and Victoria have endorsed the website as a means for the public to anonymously assist law enforcement in its efforts to not only prevent but control illegal activity in their communities.
The stated goal of StopDrugs is to educate Houston-area residents and businesses about the threat of illegal drug activity in the Houston area and provide a means for them to report criminal activity anonymously. However, government agencies encouraging and acting upon anonymous informants and snitches is troublesome.
Most citizens now have some access to the Internet. Law enforcement agencies recognize this reality and hope to use the latest public relations campaign and the internet as a valuable resource. To promote the war on drugs, law enforcement is using StopDrugs to encourage citizens to use the Internet to anonymously help law enforcement.
StopDrugs Lets Informants Submit Online Tips to Texas-Law Enforcement
Federal and Texas law enforcement agencies have joined together to address their growing concern about drug trafficking in the Lone Star State. Stop Drugs is the latest weapon in the drug war used to target and apprehend drug dealers and traffickers.
Area police, sheriff’s departments, the DEA, FBI, and the U.S. marshals are relentless in their efforts to apprehend and prosecute drug offenders. The Stop Drugs campaign has set up six different websites for citizens to anonymously submit tips on drug traffickers.
StopDrugs Stirs Fear of Drug Trafficking through Houston
The Stop Drugs program isn’t just seeking to prosecute individual dealers. The coalition of law enforcement agencies is hoping to expose cartel activity by working upwards through the narcotics chain.
According to their website, “The Houston area continues to be threatened due to the close proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border. Even with the strong law enforcement presence devoted to combating this threat, the quantity of drugs being transported through the region remains staggering.”
For example, Stop Drugs Houston asserts that the biggest threat to the Houston community is methamphetamine trafficking. “Methamphetamine was ranked most frequently as the greatest drug threat (31%), followed by crack cocaine (21%), powder cocaine (17%), controlled prescription drugs (14%), marijuana (11%), other dangerous drugs (1%), powder methamphetamine (1%), and heroin (1%).”
Methamphetamine makes a good target for scare campaign
Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in Texas, followed by cocaine and heroin. However, the Texas Poison Control Center has reported that the number of calls for human exposure to methamphetamine has increased each year since 2012; and the National Forensic Laboratory System reported that the number of methamphetamine items seized and analyzed increased significantly in both 2012 and 2013.
DTOs—drug trafficking organizations—are the primary target of all the Stop Drugs programs. Of the DTO’s investigated in 2013, 62% trafficked powder cocaine, 53% trafficked marijuana, 44% trafficked methamphetamine, and 9% trafficked heroin.
Federal and State Charges for Drug Traffickers
Both federal and state drug laws make it a crime to possess, distribute or traffic in illegal controlled substances. Those arrested on drug trafficking charges can be prosecuted in both federal and state courts. Typically, the U.S. Attorney’s Office decides to prosecute drug cases in federal court that involve large quantities of drugs, money, firearms or that involve large networks involving many participants in multiple states and countries.
The charges and punishments for drug trafficking convictions vary widely, depending on the situation. Some of the factors that will weigh heavily in the final sentence in a the case are the type and quantity of drugs involved, the area of distribution, whether violence was associated with the enterprise and other factors like whether children were used or targeted.
Texas drug laws are very harsh, even trace amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine or other controlled substances, especially those cases that involve trafficking, manufacturing or delivery are classified as felonies.
Sentences for drugs crimes vary widely—minor drug trafficking charges are punishable by sentences in state jail ranging from 180 days to two years, while the most serious first degree felony charges can carry a sentences as long as life in prison.
When Is Drug Trafficking a Federal Crime?
The primary, practical difference between federal and state narcotics prosecutions is the nature of the offense and associated conspiracy. The smaller scale drug cases, such as possession, generally are prosecuted at the state level while large drug conspiracies and trafficking-related offenses are prosecuted at the federal level. The federal prosecutions usually involve cases dealing with significant quantities of drugs, “kilos,” with the intent to distribute or which have actually been distributed.
While most people accused of drug crimes are arrested by local law enforcement, any drug case can end up in the federal system. Drug crimes involving trafficking are both a state and federal offense, but federal prosecutors are generally more interested in large quantities of illicit drugs. There are a few other exceptional situations that dictate whether a drug trial will be held in federal court.
One of the primary ways drug charges become a federal issue is when interstate and international trafficking is involved. If an individual is arrested crossing a state or national border with a large quantity of drugs, federal prosecutors will most likely pick up the case for federal prosecution because they believe the intent was to traffic in and distribute the drugs in multiple states. The same is true if evidence of selling or transporting across borders is uncovered during an investigation.
Additionally, if you are arrested by a federal officer, you will likely face federal charges. For example, if you were caught smoking marijuana in a national park or arrested in a drug bust by Federal Agents, your case would be processed through the federal system.
If someone informed on you—as in the case of Stop Drugs Houston—you may also face federal charges. Occasionally, when a small drug case is connected to a larger drug conspiracy, federal prosecutors will strike a deal with the state prosecutors to move your case to federal court, increasing the pressure and attempting to force cooperation.
As stated above, the penalties for a federal drug conviction are much harsher in most cases than state penalties. The federal courts are notorious for their mandatory minimum sentences, even with recent lessening of drug sentences, which ensure that offenders spend at serious time in a federal prison if convicted. Mandatory minimum sentences can range from 5-10 years of incarceration. Maximum penalties can include life in prison, and fines of up to $20 million.
If you’re accused of drug trafficking or conspiracy by federal prosecutors, you face enormous fines and long periods of incarceration. We strongly advise that you contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney who is well versed in federal law. The rules of evidence and other procedural rules are substantially different in federal court than in state court, so an attorney who primarily deals in state drug cases may not be able to mount a credible defense in federal court. That’s why a qualified federal trial lawyer is essential to a successful defense.