Recent Maryland Drug Case Highlights Several Legal Issues
A 34 year old man from Baltimore, Maryland, was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison on federal drug conspiracy charges. According to a news release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the man was charged with conspiring to distribute methamphetamine.
Law enforcement officers tracked the man’s vehicle as he allegedly crossed state lines to obtain narcotics, and he was stopped by Maryland State Police upon re-entering the state. After a drug-sniffing police dog alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle, the officers conducted a vehicle search and discovered almost 113 grams of methamphetamine inside. The man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison with five years of supervised release as part of a plea agreement.
This case provides an illustration of a number of important legal issues, including conspiracy, vehicle searches and federal drug crimes.
Conspiracy occurs when two or more people agree to commit a crime and take steps toward completing that crime. A person can be convicted of conspiracy even if the crime itself is never actually completed. Furthermore, for many offenses including federal drug trafficking, a person convicted of conspiracy can face the same penalties as though he or she were convicted of the underlying offense.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits police from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. When it comes to vehicle searches, the application of this law can be fairly complex. Generally speaking, police may search a person’s vehicle under any of the following circumstances:
- If the driver gives his or her permission for the search
- If the police have a warrant to search the vehicle
- If the police have probable cause to believe that the vehicle contains evidence of a crime
- If the police reasonably believe that the search is necessary to protect their own safety, for instance to search for hidden weapons
- If the driver has been lawfully arrested and the search relates to the arrest
When police search a vehicle under improper circumstances and discover evidence of a crime, it is sometimes possible to have that evidence excluded from trial.
Federal drug crimes
Many drug crimes violate both state and federal drug laws, and therefore can be prosecuted by either state or federal authorities. However, certain factors can greatly increase the chances that an offense will be charged as a federal drug crime. As seen in the story above, one such factor is the transportation of illegal drugs across state lines.
People convicted in federal court are sentenced according to federal sentencing guidelines, which can be notoriously harsh. For example, federal law imposes a mandatory sentence of 10 years to life in prison for anyone convicted of possession of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
Legal help for federal drug charges
If you or a member of your family is facing federal drug crime charges, be sure to get in touch with a knowledgeable drug crime defense lawyer. An attorney with in-depth knowledge of the federal criminal justice system can be a valuable asset to help protect the rights and long-term interests of the person facing charges.
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