Firearms in Connection to Drug Trafficking Crime
When it comes to drug trafficking, the federal government takes a harsh stance with little leniency for alleged federal drug offenders. As such, if the court can proved that an alleged drug trafficker used (or possessed) a firearm during the alleged crime, the court can stack on additional charges and sentence the defendant to several more years imprisonment. In fact, depending on the circumstances of the alleged crime, the defendant may be facing anywhere from a couple extra years in prison to several decades.
Due to the extensive penalties associated with this crime, as well as very broad application of the word “uses” in regards to a firearm connected with a drug trafficking crime, you need to consider the benefit of a highly experienced team of criminal defense lawyers who have dealt with cases involving drug trafficking, federal drug charges, and firearm crimes. Our federal criminal attorneys at Grabel & Associates are fully prepared to give you the best defense in Michigan, defined by aggressive representation and negotiation, a no-stones-unturned legal approach, and full knowledge of state and federal laws.
Weapons Charges in Drug Trafficking Cases
Weapons charges in connection to drug trafficking crimes are governed by the federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Essentially, this statute imposes a mandatory minimum imprisonment of five years if the alleged offender used or carried a firearm in relation to a drug trafficking crime. It is important to note that this is in addition to the punishment of the drug trafficking charge.
Before the Supreme Court case, Bailey v. United States (1996), this federal statute defined the word “use” as something a little more serious than simple possession, such as discharging, brandishing, or even conspiracy to commit murder. However, following Bailey v. United States, the Supreme Court stated that the word “use” actually meant “active employment,” which essentially means that possession of a firearm satisfies the requirements for the crime.
What Prosecutors Need to Prove
As noted above, one aspect that the prosecution needs to prove is that the defendant used or carried a firearm during and in relation to the drug trafficking offense. This means that the defendant had, at least, a firearm in his/her possession. The phrase “during and in relation to” also means that the presence of the weapon was not a coincidence.
Secondly, for prosecutors to obtain a successful conviction, they also need to prove that the defendant possessed the firearm in furtherance of the drug trafficking offense. This means that there needs to be a specific connection between the firearm and the charge, such as possessing the firearm and keeping it loaded and within reach. A simple example could be a drug trafficker keeping a gun to protect the drugs. Some factors that prosecutors look for include:
- The type of gun
- Whether or not it was stolen
- Whether it was loaded
- The specific of the drug crime
- When and where the firearm was found in relation to the alleged drug crime
Defending This Weapons Charge
Defending a firearm charge in connection to a drug trafficking crime means challenging the prosecutor’s allegations as well as the available evidence. However, in these cases, there are generally two specific defense strategies designed to keep defendants from being wrongly convicted, including:
- There was no link between the firearm and the crime. If the defense can show that the defendant did not carry or use the gun in furtherance of the drug trafficking charge, than the related weapons charges may be dropped.
- Law enforcement conducted an illegal search that led to the discovery of the firearm. When police overstep their bounds and violate the Constitutional right of illegal search and seizure, than the defense attorney can initiate a motion to suppress the physical evidence.
In addition to these two defense strategies, we at Grabel & Associates will thoroughly investigate every aspect of the alleged offense, searching for violations of your rights, flaws in the prosecution testimony, and more.
For a Free Consultation, Contact Grabel & Associates Today
The defense lawyers at Grabel & Associates have extensive experience with state and federal drug charges, including drug trafficking, as well as weapons offenses. Convicted individuals of the firearm crime may have a minimum of five years added to their sentences, with the possibility of a minimum of 30 years for some cases. With harsh penalties for these crimes, you should consider the best defense lawyers in Michigan to represent your case. For a free consultation with the defense team at Grabel & Associates, call us today at 1-800-342-7896 or contact us online.