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Undercover Officers in DC Federal Drug Cases

There are a wide array of methods law enforcement officers in Washington, DC use to collect evidence against those suspected of federal drug crimes. Below, a DC federal drug lawyer discusses one of the most popular methods: confidential informants. To learn more about your rights when interacting with an undercover informant or on entrapment, call and schedule a consultation with an attorney today.

How Does Law Enforcement Use Undercover Officers In Federal Drug Cases?

A lot of times, law enforcement will try to place an undercover agent into a situation where he or she can become the buyer or engage in a controlled purchase of narcotics. What will happen in these situations is the government has what’s referred to as a confidential source (someone who has been working with the government). Investigative agencies will often use a confidential source to introduce an undercover agent to the target of the investigation and to see if they can get that target to sell narcotics to them. They will be, of course, wearing a wire or have their car videoed during these transactions.

If, using these audio and video recording methods, the investigation can capture what appears to be a drug transaction, that’s certainly powerful evidence of distribution. Typically, the investigators will try and get a target to engage in a series of controlled transactions because this is good for leverage in plea negotiations, and it also closes off the avenue of escape for a target. They do it to say, “Well, we don’t have just that one transaction. This guy’s done six.”

Entrapment in Federal Drug Cases

Entrapment is a legitimate, potentially viable defense in drug cases. However, the main thing that you have to prove in order to sustain a entrapment defense is that the person that was engaged in the transaction would not have done so if it weren’t for the undercover officer, and that they were not predisposed to engage in a drug transaction. In other words, it must be shown that they have never engaged in drug transactions before, they had no prior criminal history that involved drug transactions, and that the inducement that they were offered essentially overpowered their will.

Entrapment, can be a difficult defense. There are many situations where, people who are accused of engaging in large-scale drug transactions have a prior criminal history that involves drugs. When this is the case, it makes it more difficult to say that the defendant was not predisposed. The other issue with establishing an entrapment defense is that the inducement in question has to be so great that the defendant really can’t resist it—and this subjective assessment is sometimes difficult to establish.

To summarize, it’s possible to use entrapment as a defense in a federal drug case, but it’s almost impossible to do so effectively without the help of an experienced federal drug lawyer.

How Do You Know If You Are Being Investigated In a Federal Drug Case?

Often, it’s not that difficult to tell that you’re being investigated because you’ll have a law enforcement agent who approaches you and says, “I’m investigating you,” and they’ll try to get you to talk.  In other cases, people become aware that something has been subpoenaed, whether it that involves bank records or other types of records or financial transactions.

Regardless of what leads you to draw the conclusion that you are being investigated, it’s a good idea to involve an attorney early in the process. An attorney can interface with law enforcement without any penalty or detriment to the client. When an attorney speaks to law enforcement agents in order to get an idea of what’s going on, more often than not, they’ll get a straight answer from them. They’ll say, “Yeah, we’re investigating the client and we want him to come in and talk to us.” At this point, I politely decline, and inform the law enforcement agent that they should not approach my client to get them to speak and that I will act as the liaison between law enforcement and the client.

Does Law Enforcement Have To Tell You If You’re Under Investigation?

Law enforcement is not required to inform an individual that he or she is being investigated. More often than not, however, they do. This is because by the time law enforcement approaches a client, they believe they can get that person to talk. They’re normally pretty far along in their investigation at that point, and they want the client to know that he or she is under investigation because they have already done a great deal of fact gathering.

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