Being on trial for drug charges is an extremely serious matter. If convicted of a drug crime, the sentence can mean years in prison and very high fines. Government officials know that someone arrested on a serious drug charge will be worried about these punishments, and they will use this fact to gain leverage. The decision to comply with cooperation requests can completely alter the rest of the trial. The individual under arrest must decide whether or not to cooperate quickly. Any delay could mean the loss of a chance at a reduced sentence.
The Debriefing Process
When someone decides to cooperate with the government in a drug case, a specific process is set into motion. Although each case is different, this process will generally unfold according to certain standard procedures. First, the prosecution and police will set up a debriefing. A debriefing consists of an interrogative session between the person under arrest and law enforcement. Next, the defendant’s attorney will secure a special letter, known as a proffer letter, that will ensure that any information that the defendant provides cannot be used against him.
During the debriefing, law enforcement agents will ask the defendant to provide information that they already possess. This is done to determine if the defendant will be truthful. It can also get agents information that they do not already know. If the defendant provides new information, further sessions will be conducted to compile cases against other individuals. This type of information gathering is used by the federal government to accomplish most of their actions against drug distributors, and they are usually willing to greatly reduce a sentence for someone who offers good information.
The Risks of Being an Informant
For the most part, a defendant who cooperates in a drug conspiracy case will be protected by the government. However, the decision to cooperate carries a significant amount of risk. For example, a person who is arrested as a result of information provided by another person cooperating with law enforcement can sometimes, by deduction, figure out the identity of the person who pointed them out. Also, an attorney can file a motion to attempt to force the government to identify the cooperating individual or that individual may be called as a witness at a trial. Any of these scenarios can bring serious risk to someone cooperating with the government.
Drug criminals can be very dangerous people and, in the criminal community, no one is reviled more than a “snitch.” This is why it is so important for anyone arrested on drug charges to contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible.
To find out more about the process of cooperating with the government in a drug conspiracy case, talk to Madrid Law at 713-877-9400.