What is the best defense in a Federal Drug Conspiracy Case?
Interviewer: Most of these cases are so well prepared. Are you able to defend people or are you just mitigating the damage? It does not sound like you are able to get many people off; “not guilty,” free of all charges. Are you just mitigating jail time?
Paul: I think that is typically the case in, for example, a large scale narcotics distribution ring. I may be able to challenge some of the immediate evidence associated with my client; maybe evidence recovered from his house during execution of a search warrant, or evidence recovered from his car during the course of a traffic stop.
However, I find as I go through the case that three to six of the co-defendants, in order to achieve a better plea negotiation or plea offer for themselves, will agree to testify in the case against the remaining co-defendants.
So even if I can suppress a comparatively small amount of narcotics found in my client’s basement, there are four co-defendants ready to take the stand and identify my client. They will say, “Yes, he was involved; and on X number of occasions he accompanied me to this location where we picked up drugs and delivered them here, there, everywhere.”
So you find that your client gets swallowed up by the co-defendants, even if you can legally challenge a traffic stop or a search. That is the case oftentimes in these distribution rings. You are there to mitigate damage.
That does not mean you cannot effectively try some of these cases. However, I find that by the time someone is admittedly involved in that type of criminal enterprise, there are enough people involved who are aware of your client’s level of involvement. So the idea of an outright acquittal is not likely.
Interviewer: Do people understand that, or do you think they have unreasonable expectations of getting off?
Paul: From representing a lot of folks in these types of cases, I think it is part of the culture that these folks now understand: “If one or two of us start to go down, we are all going down. The first one to the U.S. Attorney’s office will get the best deal.”
Note: If you snitch you are going to be blacklisted by the time you get to the Bureau of Prisons. You can have a really bad time in there if it gets out that you cooperated or testified.
So I think the culture of cooperation, snitching etc., is really well-known to a lot of these people. They are very familiar with and very aware of what is likely to happen after the indictment drops.
Interviewer: Who comes to you, people who have been in trouble before or newbies?
Paul: It is a pretty good mix. It depends how the person got involved and how long they have been involved. Usually, someone whose involvement is very limited is in a position to negotiate for a very favorable outcome. That is if they are willing to cooperate and provide information about some of the more serious players at the table.
“The Importance of Aggressive Federal Criminal Defense”.
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