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Dysart Willis

When lower-level federal charges inflated with drug charges

There's no such thing as a lightweight federal charge. As experienced attorneys in North Carolina can tell you, very often the first charges brought in a federal case represent only the first volley from U.S. Attorney's Offices.

That first indictment demands a prompt and assertive response on behalf of a defendant. The goal should be to set the stage for an optimal outcome that minimizes possible consequences. And the stakes only get higher if more serious allegations, such as drug charges, are brought.

This comes to mind in light of a recent news item with North Carolina links. It involves an alleged ring of tobacco smugglers. According to reports, a federal grand jury issued indictments last month against six individuals, including three law enforcement officers in New Orleans. Authorities claim the ring sought to peddle cigarettes and cigars across state lines without paying mandated state and federal excise taxes.

But the federal investigation apparently didn't stop with the purported tobacco smuggling. About a week after the initial indictment was handed up, authorities leveled drug charges against one of the original defendants.

The criminal complaint alleges that as part of the tobacco probe, an informant working with authorities arranged to sell the suspect several kilograms of cocaine and another kilogram of heroin. Police arrested the individual and another man in a sting just after completing the alleged transaction.

An attorney speaking on behalf of the 29-year-old defendant says the man is denying the charges. Still, when he appeared for his first court appearance on the charge, he was ordered held without bail.

Being charged with a drug crime, whether it is at the state or the federal level, involves complicated laws. For the sake of protecting individual liberties and rights, an attorney should be contacted at the first opportunity.