Building a strong defense

Drug-related offenses, which are often prosecuted alongside money laundering, carry some of the most severe punishments in the United States. Those convicted of drug trafficking face a possible sentence of life in prison and fines of up to $10,000,000, while those guilty of money laundering can be punished with up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 (or twice the amount of money laundered, whichever is greater), with the money subject to asset forfeiture. 

When accused of one of these offenses, it is absolutely vital to be represented by effective legal counsel.

While numerous factors can impact final sentencing in drug trafficking-related crimes, those that carry the most weight are the type and amount of drugs involved and the role of the accused in a crime in which drugs are possessed, smuggled, delivered, manufactured or intended for import to the United States.  

Conspiracy charges

Conspiracy, when two or more people act in concert to commit a greater offense, is one of the most commonly prosecuted crimes in drug trafficking cases in U.S. federal courts.

Conspiracy represents an extremely powerful tool for law enforcement as it can be used to prosecute every single member of a criminal organization involved in a criminal offense, such as drug trafficking, regardless of their importance or role. Not only does the law give prosecutors the ability to charge all members of the criminal organization with the crime, it also holds each one accountable as if they had committed the entire offense themselves, regardless of their level of involvement.

Though prosecutors are ultimately interested in the main players of an organization, they may use a conspiracy charge to put pressure on lower-level members in order to coerce them into cooperating. A low-level member of a criminal organization, realizing that he or she may go to prison for the same amount of time as his or her more culpable co-conspirators, will most often turn on them, providing law enforcement with valuable evidence enabling them to successfully prosecute higher-level members.

Given that a large part of law enforcement, in particular counter-narcotics, is based on intelligence obtained from cooperating sources, prosecutors are also able to use conspiracy charges to persuade higher-level members to provide information and evidence against their partners and those who act as suppliers or help them operate, including those in finance roles who assist in laundering money.

Though it may be difficult to prove the exact extent of a higher-level member's involvement in such a complex organization, the crime of conspiracy is a highly effective tool in prosecuting criminal organizations that may otherwise prove difficult. It is far easier and equally effective to prove that a person has participated in a criminal activity than it is to show to what extent. 

The law behind conspiracy is complex and the charge is itself is a grave one. Due to the nature of the charge, a defendant may be responsible for the acts of his or her co-conspirators and, as such, it is important to be able to protect oneself from co-conspirators who may turn on other members of the organization.

Money laundering charges

In the United States, it is a crime to “wash” or “clean” the proceeds of any crime, including drug trafficking. Money laundering represents an additional liability in drug trafficking, as it is possible to charge a person for drug trafficking and money laundering simultaneously.

In some cases, a prosecutor may opt to pursue a drug-trafficking operation solely through its finances. This is often the case when there is insufficient evidence to charge a person with drug trafficking, but enough to accuse him or her of money laundering.

Fighting charges

Consulting a lawyer is the best way to understand conspiracy charges and the consequences. The legal process and federal sentencing guidelines are complex and require an expert who can advise on the correct strategy. A criminal defense lawyer will first analyze possible defenses or motions to suppress evidence, for instance illegally obtained statements and information gathered from wiretapping.

When a prosecutor is faced with the possibility of losing valuable evidence, a criminal defense lawyer may use the opportunity to negotiate a favorable settlement without going to court.  In cases in which a favorable settlement cannot be reached, the attorney may file a motion to have the evidence in question excluded from the trial, weakening or even eliminating the prosecutor’s ability to win.

When faced with drug trafficking or money laundering charges, a tight and fast-moving legal defense is paramount.

As a criminal lawyer in Miami-Dade County, Jay White has successfully defended many clients in drug trafficking, conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Voluntary surrender & extradition

Extradition is a formal process between two countries in which a wanted person is transferred from one country to the other for the purpose of facing criminal prosecution and sentencing. As such transfers are managed jointly between the countries, the process is complicated and is regulated and governed by treaty.

Extradition can be an extremely slow process, as the U.S. Government must adhere to a very specific and formal procedure. Individuals wanted by the authorities and subject to extradition may prefer to opt for voluntary surrender and the benefits that accompany it.   

When a person wanted by the American government is facing capture and extradition it is possible to organize a negotiated surrender through a lawyer. Before being apprehended, a wanted person has significant leverage due the time, effort and money that the extradition process represents for the U.S. Government. This opportunity to influence the process can be used to negotiate a global solution for the case.  Oftentimes, the first to negotiate fares better.

When subject to extradition, it is of interest to deal with the inevitable on terms that one can control and benefit from. Waiting without taking action will only serve to waste a valuable opportunity and even worsen the situation in the case of capture or arrest.

Consultations with a lawyer are always confidential. As a criminal defense attorney, Jay White represents clients in extradition cases in Miami-Dade County.

International Drug Trafficking and Extradition FAQ

How can I know if I am in trouble with the law for a drug-related issue?

There are numerous ways to confirm if a person is at risk of facing criminal prosecution in relation to drug trafficking. To do so, it is necessary for a lawyer to carry out a series of inquiries in accordance with the law in order to access crucial information which is then analyzed and verified with other available information in order to fully assess the situation.

In some cases, direct sources of information will surface and the lawyer will be able to contact the prosecutor or agents working on the case or related cases. By asking the correct questions, the lawyer can confirm the exact situation that the person in question is facing and define a defense strategy that will best serve his or her needs.

How do I know if I have a provisional arrest warrant (PAW)?

As a general rule, information regarding arrest warrants is not available to the public. However, by working with a lawyer with a well-established network of contacts, there are numerous ways to obtain such information if one wishes to resolve his or her problems.   

How can I confirm what charges and evidence exist against me?

If it is possible to locate an open case against a co-defendant in the U.S., a lawyer can obtain a significant amount of information regarding a case. For example, a copy of the charges can be very revealing, as it is possible to scrutinize all information and dates related to the case.

A lawyer can also consult with the defense lawyers of co-defendants and review the evidence of the case, which may include reports by agents, wiretapping reports and lab reports, all of which can provide valuable information on the client’s case.

Even if there are no pending charges against a fellow suspect, an experienced lawyer will be adept at using different channels to verify information on a client’s case. For instance, a lawyer who has good relationships with public prosecutors may be able to speak with them and inquire as to a particular defendant. This is only possible if a client wishes to resolve their situation.

What length of time could I be facing in jail?

In matters of a criminal nature, the United States legal system has made Federal Sentencing Guidelines available to federal judges. These advisory guidelines found in the Guidelines Manual serve as a reference for judges in determining sentencing, and do take into account the nature of the offense.  To fully understand the situation it is advisable to consult with a lawyer.

What is simplified extradition?

Simplified extradition is a legal process that allows an accused person incarcerated in a foreign country to renounce the defenses allowed by extradition in order to significantly accelerate the extradition process, avoiding a prolonged incarceration in their country.

Are there any alternatives to extradition?

Every case is unique and it is important to understand the different options available and the possible consequences. To avoid extradition, one may decide to voluntarily surrender and, in doing so, accept responsibility for his or her actions. This can have a favorable impact on the case, possibly preventing asset forfeiture and unwanted media attention in one’s home country.

What are the benefits of voluntary surrender?

There are a number of scenarios in which a person can voluntarily surrender using a lawyer as an intermediary in order to ensure favorable outcomes that defend his or her interests. By surrendering voluntarily, a person may be able to:

  • Avoid arrest
  • Prevent an extradition process
  • Avert unwanted media exposure for himself and his family resulting from arrest or extradition, both of which can damage one’s public image
  • Prevent asset forfeiture
  • Secure modification or dismissal of charges
  • Negotiate special conditions during imprisonment
  • Establish the possibility of being more favorably received by the prosecutor
Is it possible to voluntarily surrender after charges have been filed?

Yes, it is feasible to voluntarily surrender even if charges have already been filed. For example, if a client is in another country, it may be possible to arrange surrender to the United States federal authorities and avoid the extradition process.

What are the federal guidelines for sentencing?

In a sense, there are none, as federal guidelines for sentencing are of advisory, not mandatory, nature. For this reason, a well-constructed defense can have a significant impact on final sentencing. Knowing how to manage the process, what information to provide and how to present it, including demonstrating the positive character of the accused at the hands of a mitigation specialist, can have a decisive effect on the judge’s decision. 

Is it better to go to trial or plead guilty?

This is one of the most important decisions a client must take (with the advice of his or her lawyer) in a criminal case. The decision will depend on the strength or weakness of the Government’s case. In other words, can the Government prove its case?

A guilty plea provides the client certainty in knowing the length of the sentence he or she is facing. Sentencing Guidelines may also provide the defendant with a small reduction in the sentence for having assumed responsibility for the crime.

On the other hand, trial by jury obliges the Government to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubt. If the Government is unable do so, the jury will declare the defendant not guilty.

An experienced lawyer will help his or her client make a decision on how best to proceed. All cases are different and the benefits of going to court versus pleading guilty vary from one case to another.

Which countries have extradition treaties with the United States?

For a complete list of the countries which have extradition treaties with the United State, consult the State Department website.

What can happen to the family of someone accused of a drug trafficking-related crime?

The family of a defendant charged with a drug trafficking or money laundering crime will often have their visa denied or revoked if there is any evidence that they are benefitting from illegal money acquired from the proceeds of the crime.

There is no judicial review of this denial or revocation and while a waiver available, it is very difficult to obtain.