Have you or a loved one been arrested for a federal drug charge? Are you concerned that the grand jury may be considering an indictment against you for federal drug charges? The first thing you need to do is speak to an Oklahoma federal criminal defense attorney with experiencing fighting for clients facing federal criminal charges. Fighting federal drug charges in federal court is a completely different ballgame that fighting drug charges in state court. In this article, you will learn the basics of federal drug charges, the punishment for the most common federal drug crimes, and how to fight federal drug charges.  

At Cannon & Associates, we are passionate about fighting for clients facing federal charges and ensuring every client understands the complex process of fighting federal drug charges. Additionally, we ensure each client feels supported and that they have a Fierce Advocate® on their side throughout the process. We know how important the outcome of you or your loved one’s federal case is and we want to support you through it all.

As experienced federal criminal defense lawyers representing clients in federal drug charges, we’ve broken down everything you need to know, including tips on how to fight your federal drug charges.

What are Federal Drug Charges?

Federal drug charges often involve criminal involvement in drug offenses across state lines or a violation of federal law. Federal drug charges are often more serious than state drug charges and are handled by a different set of characters on a different stage. 

  1. Investigation: federal drug charges are often investigated by federal police organizations, such as the DEA or FBI. However, some federal drug cases are investigated by local law enforcement and turn federal during the process.
  2. Filing Charges: federal drug charges are most often filed or brought against an individual through the Grand Jury process. In grand jury proceedings, the prosecutor or U.S. Attorney will present the investigation by federal investigators or local law enforcement for the Grand Jury to determine if sufficient evidence exists to support the Indictment or federal charges. 
  3. Prosecutors: federal drug charges are prosecuted by federal prosecutors, referred to as United States Attorneys or Assistant United States Attorney, typically called AUSAs.
  4. Court Proceedings: federal drug charges are prosecuted in federal court, i.e. in Oklahoma the Western District of Oklahoma, the Northern District of Oklahoma, or the Eastern District of Oklahoma. These Courts operate under federal law and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which are far different from state court prosecution. 

Common federal drug charges revolve around the possession, manufacturing, sale, transportation, and distribution of illegal substances across state lines. A drug charge may also become a federal case if the accused was arrested by a federal law enforcement body like the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or in Oklahoma, if the defendant is a member of a tribe based on the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt. 

As with the other consequences of federal criminal law, the consequences of a federal drug crime conviction are often steeper than state criminal drug consequences.

Types and Consequences of Federal Drug Charges

There are different types of federal drug charges, each with its consequences. The majority of drug crimes that result in federal indictment are conduct based. When defendants participate in the transportation of drugs across state lines or in an alleged conspiracy to transport drugs across state lines, the result is often an indictment in federal court. However, based on the landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court in 2020, McGirt v. Oklahoma, a new category of status based federal drug crimes have arisen. 

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the majority of tribal members cannot be prosecuted in Oklahoma state courts. Therefore, there has been a huge increase in the number of federal investigations and resulting federal indictments in Oklahoma. Additionally, the Department of Justice and the FBI have both brought exponentially more resources into the state of Oklahoma to handle the investigation and prosecution of the massive amount of cases that would otherwise be prosecuted in state court, but for the defendant being a tribal member. 

Some may think that it is a benefit to have your case removed from prosecution in state court to federal court; however, the process is much accelerated, the stakes are much higher, and the rules/laws are far more complex. The status as a tribal member and the impact of the McGirt decision have resulted in literally thousands of federal drug indictments across Oklahoma. 

Below are the most common federal drug offenses and the potential consequences of being indicted for each type of federal drug offense. 

Continuing Criminal Enterprise – Drug Cartel or Kingpin Statute

Beginning with a non-very common federal drug offense, the Kingpin or Drug Cartel offense. Those prosecuted under 21 USC § 848 are identified by federal investigators and federal prosecutors as directly involved or in charge of serious drug trafficking and drug distribution. An individual or group of individuals charged under the continuing criminal enterprise have been identified as leadership in a large drug trafficking organization. This offense is not applied to drug mules or someone simply caught moving a substantial amount of drugs across the country. Defendants or five or more individuals engaging in continuing series of drug violations from which they derived substantial income will face a mandatory minimum of 20 years and up to life imprisonment as punishment. Additionally, a mandatory life imprisonment and death sentence may also be available under specific circumstances.

Distribution/Manufacturing/possession with Intent to Distribute Drugs 

21 USC § 841(a)(1) is the most commonly referenced federal drug offense statute in federal drug prosecution. This federal drug statute captures distribution of drugs, possession with intent to distribute drugs, and the most common federal drug offense drug trafficking. As these offenses are also the most serious federal drug offenses, they carry the greatest amount of potential punishment. A federal defendant that is convicted of one of these federal drug offenses faces a statutory maximum punishment of 20 years of prison time. However, when you work with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney, your chances of avoiding such a harsh consequence improves greatly. Additionally, the specific facts of your case, as well as your culpability in the overall drug enterprise plays a major role in the consequences you may face. Basically, you and your federal criminal defense attorney’s ability to tell a compelling story to the federal prosecutor and sentencing court has a great impact on your future.

More serious drug offenses fall under 21 USC 841(b)(1)(B), which is intended to punish serious drug trafficking offenses. As federal drug trafficking consequences are parallel to state drug trafficking offenses, the baseline for the seriousness of the offense is the volume or weight of the identified drugs. A federal drug trafficking defendant convicted under this statute faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five (5) years and up to 40 years in federal prison sentence if caught with the following amounts of specific drugs:

  • 1 gram or more of LSD
  • 5 grams or more of actual meth
  • 10 grams or more of PCP
  • 28 grams or more of crack
  • 40 grams or more of fentanyl
  • 50 grams or more of a mixture containing meth
  • 100 grams or more of heroin
  • 500 grams or more of cocaine
  • 100 kilogram or more of marijuana (or 100 or more plants)

Another one of the harshest federal drug offenses penalties result from prosecution under 21 USC 841(b)(1)(A), which carries an even higher mandatory minimum sentence of ten (10) years and up to life imprisonment in federal prison, if convicted of possession the following type and volume of drugs: 

  • 10 grams or more of LSD
  • 50 grams or more of actual meth
  • 100 grams or more of PCP
  • 280 grams or more of crack
  • 400 grams or more of fentanyl
  • 500 grams or more of a mixture containing meth
  • 1 kilogram or more of heroin
  • 5 kilograms or more of cocaine
  • 1000 kilogram or more of marijuana (or 1,000 or more plants)

Defendants with prior felony drug convictions or federal defendants categorized as Career Offenders (with two or more felony drug offenses or violent crime convictions) will face steeper penalties.

Defendants may face up to 20 years mandatory minimum sentence if drug use results in death or serious bodily injury to another.

When distribution of drugs involved individuals below the age of 21, under 21 USC § 859, defendants may face enhanced penalties. Additionally, 21 USC § 860 prescribes enhanced penalties for convicts charged for distribution near playgrounds, schools, arcades, youth centers, public housing, and pools.

Drug Conspiracy or Attempted Drug Conspiracy

Drug conspiracy charges carry the same potential punishment as the category above, based on the volume of drugs involved, under 21 USC § 846. Individuals convicted of federal drug conspiracy or attempted conspiracy will face the same penalties as federal drug distribution charges.

Obtaining Controlled Substances by Fraud

Under 21 USC § 843(a)(3), individuals convicted of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, misrepresentation, or other illicit means will face up to four (4) years in federal prison for drug diversion offenses.

Use of Communication Facility to Facilitate a Drug Offense 

Under 21 USC § 853(b), defendants charged with using a communication facility to enhance drug felony will face a maximum of four (4) years prison sentence for each instance they used a telephone to facilitate a drug transaction.

Simple Drug Possession

Simple drug possession charges in federal court are prosecuted under 21 USC § 844. A simple federal drug possession charge may be classed as a misdemeanor. A conviction attracts up to one (1) year in federal prison. However, defendants with prior drug convictions may face felony charges with steeper and stricter penalties.

Maintaining Drug-Involved Premises – Crack House Statute

Under 21 USC § 856, defendants convicted of opening, renting, leasing, or maintaining premises for drug manufacturing, storage, use, or distribution will face a maximum of 20 years prison sentence. Individuals caught in a drug house are often at least initially indicted under this statute; however, it is possible that the charged may be amended or a superseding indictment may be filed by agreement if an agreement for less serious charged can be reached. 

The same penalty applies to defendants convicted of managing or controlling such drug-involved premises.

Interstate Travel in Aid of Racketeering – Travel Act 

Racketeering offenses or using mail or commerce to facilitate moving drugs falls under 21 USC § 1952. Federal criminal defendants convicted of this offense face up to five (5) years maximum prison sentence for traveling or using the mail or interstate commerce instruments, including internet and telephone lines, to facilitate drug trafficking.

Can I Beat my Federal Drug Charges?

The first step to determining whether or not it is possible to defeat your federal drug charges or indictment is to retain an experienced and reputable Oklahoma federal criminal defense attorney.  You need a federal defense lawyer with experience in evaluating the laws related to federal drug offenses and a detailed understanding and experience fighting suppression issues to keep evidence out of court in your federal case.

Choosing the right Oklahoma federal criminal defense lawyer could be the game changer in your case, especially as your lawyer can analyze your case, the indictment against you, the evidence available, and determine how your case can be attached. The most common avenue to fight federal drug charges is through suppression of evidence, including the drugs found or seized via showing the federal judge in your case that the evidence or information against you was illegally seized. 

Your attorney can also guide you in navigating complex issues, including speaking to federal investigators and evaluating whether or not you should make a statement to anyone in the process. Additionally, an experienced federal criminal defense attorney can keep you informed and help you make every decision with knowledge of the pros and cons of each step in your case.

At Cannon & Associates, we understand the potential impact of a federal conviction in such cases and how it can affect your freedom, job, relationship, family, finances, and other aspects of your life. Our attorneys are bound by the attorney-client confidentiality privilege, meaning every piece of information you share with us is privileged. We will work closely with you to ensure that you’re aware of the severity of the charges against you and the legal strategies we intend to use in your favor.

Be aware of the charges against you 

Hiring an experienced federal criminal lawyer is a great first step to protecting yourself and shaping the narrative of your case. But you ought to know what you’re battling in court. Speak to your lawyers about the indictment in your case and what each charge of the indictment means to you and your freedom.

Understanding the specific charges against you helps you prepare better for what’s coming.

Be aware of the penalties 

Federal drug crime charges can be complex, especially federal sentencing in drug cases. Not only are there potential penalties of incarceration or prison time, there are also financial penalties and a period of post imprisonment supervised release through the U.S. Probation office.  These factors are important to understand and even more important to your future. 

Knowing what you’re fighting and what is at stake can help you prepare your mind for what’s to come. Your attorneys can also walk you through the charges against you as well as the best and worst-case scenarios.

Avoid cooperating with the government without speaking to a lawyer

Some defendants facing federal drug crime charges may be offered lenient or reduced punishment in exchange for their investigative cooperation with the government. Accepting such a deal without speaking to your attorney can very negatively impact your future and the opportunity to fight your case.

It is best to speak to your federal defense attorney and ensure that all decisions and communications are routed through your defense attorney. This can significantly reduce the chances of your implicating yourself for a crime and put you in a better position for a desirable outcome.

Our federal drug crime lawyers at Cannon & Associates will always protect your rights and interests. You can trust that we will carefully review all documents, including cooperative documents presented by the government, to ensure that your best interest is protected. You should not make a deal to conduct a Rule 11 meeting federal investigators or prosecutors without ensuring you have a solid understanding of the benefits you will receive for conducting such a meeting and the meeting takes place with your federal criminal defense attorney present. 

Review the prosecution’s evidence

The prosecution has the burden to prove the defendant’s involvement in criminal activities. Although the federal government has the resources and manpower to draw evidence, your attorney can also fight the admissibility and sufficiency of evidence to prevent a conviction.

Our attorneys at Cannon & Associates will request all evidence possessed by the prosecution and review them thoroughly to ensure your rights were not violated and that the government has sufficient evidence to potentially seek a conviction at trial, prior to ever advising you to consider accepting a plea agreement. We are Fierce Advocates® for every client and go the extra mile to challenge the evidence against every client, while seeking the best outcome possible, which allows every client to make an informed decision. 

Fight drug conspiracy charges

Serious federal drug charges often come with drug conspiracy charges. These charges allow the government to pursue charges against co-conspirators allegedly linked to the federal drug crime case. Alleged co-conspirators may also be arrested even if no crime was committed.

Under 21 U.S. Code §§ 846 and 963, “Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense defined in this subchapter shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.”

Given the above, a defendant can be charged and convicted for conspiracy simply by signing a contract or entering an agreement with one or more people involved in drug crimes.

It is important to fight these evaluate the strength of the government’s case for any conspiracy allegation prior to considering accepting a plea agreement versus fighting the case. You must consult with an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer before making such a decision. 

Present the Best Defense Possible

the strength of your federal defense can make a difference in the outcome of your case. This is another reason you need an experienced Oklahoma federal criminal defense lawyer in your corner.

At Cannon & Associates, we understand the consequences of federal drug crime charges. Our team will formulate a compelling legal strategy based on a careful analysis of the facts and relevant law in your case. We will thoroughly review the pieces of evidence against you and help you determine the strength and/or weakness of the prosecutor’s case.

Contact – Cannon & Associates: Oklahoma Fierce Advocates® for Federal Defense

The Fierce Advocates® at Cannon & Associates, have the experience you need to represent you or your loved one in federal criminal court, including federal drug crimes. We have successfully handled several cases in the past for clients and wish to speak to you on how best to protect your rights and interests. Contact Cannon & Associates by completing the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-883-4427 for a free, confidential case strategy meeting and to have your questions answered by our team.