For the federal government to have jurisdiction in a drug case, the case has to involve the crossing of state or national borders, an international organization, federal land, or the military. These cases are usually investigated by the DEA and the FBI. If the case involves small-scale or local trafficking or sale, state governments usually will be the ones to get involved (either the state’s Attorney General or the District Attorney’s Office).

What Is the DEA? What Does It Mean for Someone’s Criminal Case If They Are Being Investigated by the DEA?

The DEA is the Drug Enforcement Agency. This agency investigates all types of drug crimes, though they mainly concentrate on large-scale cases involving international actors. If the DEA is involved, it usually means that it is a serious case.

Does the DEA Get Involved in Only Federal Cases or State Cases, as well? 

Many task forces investigate drug cases throughout the United States. These taskforces are made up of law enforcement personnel who come from various agencies, state and federal. They investigate all types of crimes, including local and state criminal matters. 

What Penalties Can Someone Face If They Are Convicted of a Federal Drug Charge?

The penalties will depend on the statute of conviction and the weight of the drug. Was it 50 grams, or was it five pounds? These two factors will greatly affect the sentence. Life in prison is a possibility. There is a fentanyl statute that sets the mandatory minimum sentence at 10 years. 

During the War on Drugs in the 70s and 80s, mandatory minimums of 10 to 20 years were added to many federal statutes, which took away much of a judge’s discretion. If someone was convicted on certain charges, then no matter what happened, the judge had to give at least the minimum. These mandatory minimums still exist as a relic from that time, though the federal sentencing guidelines have created what is called a “safety valve” if the defendant met certain conditions. This safety valve has two benefits since it qualifies the defendant for a two-point guideline adjustment and allows the judge to ignore the mandatory minimum sentences. 

United States Sentencing Guideline §5C1.2 provides that as long as one meets the criteria in 18 U.S.C. §3553(f)(1)-(5), which is also in §5C1.2, the court for offenses under 21 U.S.C. §841, §844, §846, §960, or § 963, can sentence without regard to any mandatory minimum sentence:

  1. the defendant does not have more than one criminal history point, as determined under the sentencing guidelines before application of subsection (b) of §4A1.3 (Departures Based on Inadequacy of Criminal History Category);
  2. the defendant did not use violence or credible threats of violence or possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon (or induce another participant to do so) in connection with the offense;
  3. the offense did not result in death or serious bodily injury to any person;
  4. the defendant was not an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor of others in the offense, as determined under the sentencing guidelines, and was not engaged in a continuing criminal enterprise, as defined in 21 U.S.C. § 848; and
  5. not later than the time of the sentencing hearing, the defendant has truthfully provided to the government all information and evidence the defendant has concerning the offense or offenses that were part of the same course of conduct or of a common scheme or plan, but the fact that the defendant has no relevant or useful other information to provide or that the government is already aware of the information shall not preclude a determination by the court that the defendant has complied with this requirement.

Could I Face Federal Drug Charges Even If I Physically Did Not Handle or Touch Drugs?

You could still face charges if you are involved in a conspiracy. A drug conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to do something illegal with drugs. Drug conspiracy penalties will depend on the amount and type of drugs involved. If the minimum sentence for importing fentanyl into the United States is 10 years, then engaging in a conspiracy to import fentanyl into the United States also would carry a 10-year minimum sentence. 

Would Using the Internet to Set Up a Drug Deal Enhance It to a Federal-Level Offense?

Usage of the internet is likely to enhance the charges to the federal level. 

For more information on Facing Drug-Related Charges in Federal Court, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 989-2908 today.