Federal drug charges were recently filed against 12 people who authorities claim were involved in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine throughout Florida and other states. The defendants are up against numerous narcotic and gun charges, and though it may seem hard to believe, they could face up to life in prison and up to a $10 million fine.

Initially, law enforcement served a search warrant at one of the defendant’s homes in February. According to authorities, about five kilograms of cocaine were found. After he was arrested, the house owner apparently told police about his participation in drug distribution, but whether such a statement was obtained legally remains to be seen. Prosecutors have since claimed that the alleged conspiracy started in early 2011 and continued until the most recent arrests.

South Florida residents with drug charge concerns should note that seven different agencies — including local, state and federal — worked together on the investigation. That means there is a good chance that a considerable amount of evidence has been accumulated to take the case to federal court. Individuals charged with federal drug crimes should take the allegations very seriously, but also keep in mind that law enforcement officers have been known to make mistakes at all levels.

Because drug offenses can be both state and federal crimes, people arrested on drug charges may end up in federal court. This is significant for two main reasons. First, federal minimum sentencing laws are notoriously severe, and there is little chance of parole once a person is placed in federal prison.

Second, federal courts function differently than state courts, and a fluency in federal procedure is required for an optimal outcome for defendants. Federal prosecutors typically don’t have to concern themselves with both systems and can focus on their own, meaning an especially vigorous defense is necessary for the protection of defendants’ rights in federal cases. No one deserves to be put in a cage for life for a drug offense, and defendants should do what they can under the law to prevent that from happening.

Source: News Herald, “12 charged in federal drug indictment,” Zach McDonald, May 15, 2012

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