In June, law enforcement agencies throughout Terry County and Lubbock County raided over a dozen locations to bust a major drug trafficking ring in West Texas. The raids were an effort headed by federal and state police to catch over a dozen individuals who had been involved in a conspiracy since January to move drugs. During the raid, police seized a pound of cocaine and five pounds of marijuana. Firearms and vehicles were also taken.
Some of the individuals involved in the ring were already being held in jail for state charges. Collectively, 20 people were charged with the following federal crimes:
- conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana
- distribution and possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, cocaine base, and marijuana
- unlawful use of a communications facility
- bulk cash smuggling
The penalties for these charges vary, but if convicted, any of the 20 individuals could face years – and even decades – behind bars.
Penalties for Federal Drug Trafficking Charges
Drug trafficking is the most serious drug crime. When the federal justice system is involved, penalties may be even harsher. The average sentences for federal cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking in 2017, respectively, was 72 and 88 months.
When additional drugs and deadly weapons are involved, penalties may be extended. Second and third convictions also factor into more time behind bars. If any of the individuals are facing a third charge, it is possible that they could end up behind bars for life.
Moreover, while most of the individuals are American citizens, a handful of people involved in the drug trafficking ring are Mexican citizens. These individuals will face deportation if they are convicted.
So, what is next for the 20 who were charged?
They Could Take a Plea Deal
Years behind bars, especially in the face of mandatory minimums, can be terrifying. Before many of these individuals head to trial, though, they may be offered some “relief” in the form of a plea deal. These deals are offered by prosecution to get a guilty verdict and speed up the process of convicting individuals in court.
Plea deals are an exchange of a guilty plea for a reduction in charges and/or penalties. Say an individual is facing up to 10 years in prison. A prosecutor may tell the defendant that if they plead guilty in court, they will only get three years behind bars.
These plea deals are tempting, and many people who cannot afford a private lawyer will take any plea deal offered. However, in many situations this is not a good idea, and there are ways to leave the courtroom without any jail time at all.
They Could Go to Trial in Federal Court
Just because these individuals have been charged doesn’t mean they will go to jail. Even the defendants who were already behind bars for state charges may see these new charges dropped.
There are a number of different defense strategies that can be used to fight drug trafficking charges. Some of the individuals may try to get the more serious charges (conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, for example) dropped in exchange for pleading guilty to something like bulk cash smuggling – a lesser crime.
The best defense strategy is to reach out to a skilled federal crimes lawyer who has experience fighting drug trafficking charges. Enlisting the help of a knowledgeable attorney can help you craft a defense that gets your charges or penalties reduced, dropped, or dismissed without a guilty plea.
Charged with drug crimes in Texas? Give our office a call. A free consultation will give you more information about your options and what you can expect going forward.
About the Author:
Brandon Fulgham has an in-depth understanding of both Texas law and Texans themselves. Before practicing law here, he received his undergraduate degree from TCU, and his law degree from South Texas College of Law in Houston. After graduation, he worked in District Attorneys’ offices as a prosecutor, building cases designed to put people behind bars. Now, he uses that knowledge to protect the rights of people in and around Fort Worth, making sure they receive the strongest possible defense when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. He has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, Fort Worth Magazine, and others.