Throughout the existence of the federal government’s “war on drugs,” thousands of people convicted of possessing illegal drugs have also been charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess controlled substances. In many of these cases, law enforcement can use the drugs that have been allegedly sold or possessed in the past to increase any sentence handed down by a federal judge. This strange concept is also referred to as “ghost dope.” Understanding how federal conspiracy charges work may help improve your chances of a successful outcome if you find yourself in this difficult situation.
How Charges Are Brought
No one is immune to the possibility of conspiracy charges. Consider this common scenario: you’re stopped by law enforcement on a major highway, then consent to a search. If drugs are found, even if they are not yours, the initial charge will be based on the amount they find. However, depending on the quantity in possession or if the stop is in regard to a police sting, things can become complicated. For example, if someone sells drugs to an undercover officer or discusses other transactions in their presence, law enforcement could push for conspiracy charges.
The evidence that law enforcement uses is called “ghost dope” because the weight of drugs can be used against you even if you were never caught with it. Those that discuss their drug distribution activity through text or leave records of upcoming or previous transactions could find themselves with conspiracy charges even though there is no physical evidence that the transactions took place. This is highly controversial, of course, and people suffer the consequences even if the allegations never happened.
Consequences of “Ghost Dope”
Federal court systems work differently than state and local court circuits. Even if the accuracy or credibility of the evidence is questionable, judges will take it very seriously. Inflated accounts or misinterpretations can have a significant impact on the severity of the punishment. This is common with snitches in the federal system trying to get themselves out of trouble. For example, if drug quantities in text messages are exaggerated or completely non-existent, the court may assume that it was real and treat each interaction as offenses which can raise the offense level you face.
Convictions in federal court come with heavier consequences because of mandatory minimum sentences and the sentencing guidelines. Depending on the specific circumstances of the case, such as who was involved, what was discussed, and whether weapons were involved, will impact the sentence. For a conviction of conspiracy to distribute or possess drugs, there could be a mandatory minimum sentence of five years, ten years, or even more. If the defendant is charged with multiple counts, they could face stacked charges and life imprisonment.
Protecting Your Rights
In cases involving ghost dope, the burden of proof often falls under the “preponderance of evidence” standard. This means that the evidence only needs to demonstrate that it is more likely than not that the alleged events occurred. Even if a statement made during an encounter with law enforcement was intended as a joke or not even true, it could still be used to increase the punishment ranges under this standard. Law enforcement will work hard to get people to incriminate themselves, which is why we always remind people to use their right to remain silent.
Sometimes remaining silent in front of law enforcement can be difficult because of the immense pressure they put on suspects to incriminate themselves. Federal criminal charges are especially challenging because the sentences can be severe. Working with an attorney who has experience aggressively defending clients in federal court will give you the guidance you need during this difficult time. The office of Ryan Brown Attorney at Law will ensure that you’re treated fairly and protect your rights. To schedule a free consultation, call our office at (806) 372-5711
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