Federal Drug Charges in Las Vegas
Criminal Defense Attorneys with Experience in Federal Court
A Federal drug charge is perhaps the most
serious drug charge a person can face in Las Vegas. Sweeping drug crime legislation took effect
decades ago which imposed mandatory minimum sentences for persons convicted
of many common federal drug crimes. For example, many federal drug crimes
carry a minimum of 5 or sometimes 10 years in federal prison. Perhaps
the most common drug charge brought in Las Vegas federal court is possession
with intent to distribute methamphetamine (federal drug charges which
involve cocaine, or MDMA / ecstasy are also common).
The charge of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine requires
the government to prove:
- The defendant was in possession of methamphetamine
- The defendant either knew he or she was, or intended to be in possession
- The defendant intended to distribute some or all of the methamphetamine
to another person
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Importance of Amount of Drugs in Federal Drug Charges Cases
The amount of the illegal drug involved in a federal drug case may play
a crucial role at time of sentencing, so it is important that the jury
make a specific finding as to the amount of the illegal substance. In
cases involving a federal drug charge, the sentencing guidelines increase
the potential range of incarceration based on the amount of illegal drugs
recovered in a case. Las Vegas is within the jurisdiction of the United
States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit requires that
where the amount of drugs in a federal drug case “increases the
prescribed statutory maximum penalty to which a criminal defendant is
exposed,” the amount of drugs must be decided by a jury beyond a
reasonable doubt. Therefore, when applicable, this is treated as an additional
element. A jury must unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt as to
the amount of illegal drugs associated with these charges.
Conspiracy to Distribute or Manufacture Illegal Drugs
Another very common charge brought in Las Vegas federal court is conspiracy
to distribute or manufacture. Again, most often this drug charge usually
involves methamphetamine, but
conspiracy to distribute or manufacture cases involving cocaine are also common.
A conspiracy to distribute or manufacture case involving methamphetamine
requires the government to prove:
- That during a certain time period (the government will allege certain dates),
there was an agreement between two or more persons to either distribute
or manufacture methamphetamine.
- The defendant joined in the agreement knowing of its purpose and intending
to help accomplish that purpose.
In essence, this federal drug charge requires the government to prove that
the conspirators met, discussed matters of common interest and helped
one another with the intent to either distribute or manufacture a controlled
Burden of Proof and Evidentiary Issues
The prosecution bears the burden of proving this and all other federal
drug crimes. This means that the prosecution must prove every element
of the federal drug charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Federal criminal
law allows the prosecution to meet this burden in various ways. Permissible
forms of evidence which the jury may consider include both direct and
circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is proof of a fact, such as testimony
of an eyewitness. Circumstantial evidence is indirect evidence, that is,
proof of a chain of facts from which one could find that another fact exists.
Prosecutorial use of Informants
Many times, in part, prosecutors seek to prove a federal drug charge by
using informants. The widespread use of informants in federal drug cases
is fairly controversial. Frequently, federal drug case informants are
drug users who are also addicts with lengthy criminal records. Often informants
become nightmares for their law enforcement handlers as well. Many a career
has been ruined by failure to properly manage a case informant. When defending
a client against federal drug charges, in a federal drug case, a conscientious
criminal defense lawyer will always seek to obtain a copy of the informant
file maintained by law enforcement. Obtaining the information contained
in the informant file is often the make or break issue in the case. It
inevitably involves a lengthy battle. To say that the prosecution hates
disclosing the contents of an informants file is an understatement.
An informant file typically includes a goldmine of information. Generally,
a copy of the informant’s agreement to work for the government,
his or her criminal history, the amount of money the government has paid
in exchange for cooperation, and what he or she can expect to happen with
their own criminal cases when sentenced in return for cooperation. Given
the overwhelming presence of informant’s in cases which include
a federal drug charge, it is always necessary to do everything possible
to obtain these files. Having this critical information can enable our
Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers to destroy an informant on cross-examination
in front of the jury.
Federal Drug Charges Require Strong, Tenacious Representation
Federal drug charges are complex and carry severe consequences if convicted.
Our criminal defense lawyers at Oronoz, Ericsson & Gaffney LLC have
extensive experience successfully defending federal drug charges. When
you or a loved one is charged with a drug crime in Las Vegas federal court,
do not risk having an amateur handle your case. Hire a trusted firm. We
have a proven track record of success defending federal drug charges.
Contact our legal team
today at (702) 904-8858.