Drug charges in federal court are often charged as a conspiracy to distribute drugs. Cases are charged and prosecuted as conspiracies in federal court for two reasons, 1) often the federal government will prosecute a group of people at one time in drug cases; and 2) it is easier for the federal prosecutors to prove guilt and also a higher quantity of drugs for sentencing purposes.
Unlike in state court where people are generally charged individually, in federal court the entire drug trafficking organization will be charged in the same case and prosecuted together through the use of conspiracy law. This means a low level dealer who may have only sold a few times to help support a drug habit can be prosecuted in the same case as the person who imported or manufactured the drugs.
In federal drug cases it is important to not only determine the specifics of the charge, but also what role the accused person played compared to the other people who have also been charged.
Although the government has stacked the deck in their favor by utilizing conspiracy law to charge a federal drug case, there are still quality defenses available.
The admission of evidence can be challenged if it was obtained unlawfully, which includes the possible suppression of drug searches and wiretaps. Every case, whether it is charged as a conspiracy or not, has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt using evidence and witness testimony. This means every case is going to come down to an event or series of events that a jury must believe is true beyond a reasonable doubt before they can return a guilty verdict.
A skilled federal criminal defense attorney will attack each of the events the government claims took place, as well as the credibility of the witnesses who testify at trial. Some of the witnesses who testify are almost always other people who have been charged with a federal offense who are trying to cooperate with the government in exchange for a reduced sentence.
Such a witness will say anything in an effort to reduce the number of years he or she faces in federal prison. Picking apart each witness and each event the government claims took place is a great way to unravel the overarching federal drug conspiracy charge.