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DC Federal Drug Crime Arrests

Federal drug arrests usually take place either before or after an indictment. If they take place after an indictment and a person already has an attorney, sometimes their DC federal drug lawyer can walk them into court to prevent them from being arrested at their home or in the middle of the night which can sometimes prevent them from being held without bail.

In contrast, sometimes an indictment will be issued for federal law enforcement agents to go and round up people who have been indicted. They show up in the middle of the night at the person’s house, arrest them, and take them to jail.

Another thing that can happen is when federal drug charges arise out of incidents that are not the results of long-term drug investigations. For example, a traffic stop where a large amount of drugs and a weapon are found, the person driving the car is arrested and charged federally.

With these things in mind, a person does not have to be arrested by a federal agent to be charged with a federal drug offense and there are many instances in which people are arrested by local law enforcement officers who are not federal agents. If this happens, the case is moved from local court, where it was originally brought to federal court. The court in which a charge has been brought has nothing to do with the agency the law enforcement agent works for.

Things to Know About Being Arrested By Federal Agents

If a person is arrested by a federal drug agent, under no circumstances should they make any statements. 

An individual cannot talk their way out of the arrest. If a decision is made to arrest, it will not change. There is no penalty, aside from the infinitely small chance that not speaking could hurt a person. There is no advantage in talking to law enforcement and no disadvantage to not talking.

A person should know that, depending on what time they are arrested, most likely they will be held in jail for at least a day or two until they get to court. There is a going to be a battle to get them out of jail once they are in court. It is not a simple bond process like in some states.

Arrest Scenarios

If a person is indicted federally, but local law enforcement arrests them on a traffic stop or executes an arrest warrant, the individual is brought to a local court. After the existence of a federal arrest warrant or federal indictment is revealed and the individual will be transferred over to federal court to be charged.

In other instances, local law enforcement conducts a traffic stop and finds, for example, a large amount of drugs in the trunk. The officers arrest the driver and the driver is brought to local court. In the meantime or even weeks later, federal authorities can decide to charge that person. If it happens weeks later, the local charge is dismissed and the person is charged in the federal court. It can also happen without a local charge being lodged. A federal charge is lodged and the person is transferred over to a federal court.

Sometimes a person has a chance to surrender, to turn themselves in at court if they find out that an indictment is issued. That is very helpful because it demonstrates to a judge that the person can be trusted. This will generally demonstrate that the individual does not need to be held without bond and will come back to court.

Decision to Arrest

In a federal drug case, usually, the government waits for an indictment, excluding circumstances where something happened that is unexpected like a traffic stop where drugs are found in the trunk. Sometimes there are other considerations such as multiple people the government is looking for. Sometimes there are decisions made that they should wait. For example, someone is out of the country and the authorities wait for their return. If someone is out of state, they wait until they come back to the state to be charged. There are many scenarios that might cause law enforcement to wait.
State authorities typically handle cases that arise more spontaneously. In other words, a domestic violence assault case or an allegation of assault. Someone calls the police, the police show up, and make an arrest. That is the more typical local or state law enforcement scenario.
It is common in federal drug cases for the government to build an entire case before arresting someone, rather than conducting an investigation after the arrest. Given the techniques the federal government uses such as wiretaps, cooperating witnesses, undercover officers, and conducting searches for records; most of this happens before the arrest.

Federal Drug Indictments

In an investigation by a federal agency, whether it is the FBI, DEA, or another agency that leads an investigation, along with the prosecutors, they seek an indictment, an official charge against the person. That involves taking some of the information gathered by the federal agency conducting the investigation to a grand jury. A grand jury is a group of people designated to serve as a body that decides whether or not there is probable cause that a crime occurred and that the defendant was involved. They vote on it. They usually sit for a couple of months as grand jurors, hear the case, and issue the indictment. In reality, prosecutors control that process. If the prosecutor decides they want to indict someone; that is a guarantee that the person is going to be indicted.

Indictments can stay under seal for years if law enforcement agents are looking for people who may not be in the country or if people cannot be found. The indictment can be under seal until an arrest is made. If law enforcement knows or should know where a person is and they do not make efforts to arrest them, there could be a challenge raised to the charge saying that too much time has lapsed.

Indictment vs. Arrest

Whether people are indicted before being arrested depends on the type of case. If the case is a result of a long-term investigation, involving wiretaps and other types of resources, generally an indictment is issued before a person is arrested.

Sometimes, if the situation is more unexpected, for example, the result of a traffic stop where drugs are discovered in large quantities, the person is arrested first before they are indicted.

One of the factors is the nature of the investigation. With a long-term investigation, usually, a person is indicted before they are arrested. When the situation is more fluid or unexpected, the arrest may happen before being indicted.

Sometimes, the government alleges they had evidence that a person was about to engage in violence or had access to a large amount of weapons and they use that as justification to arrest them for indictment.

Actual Arrest Process

When someone is arrested, they are handcuffed. They are put in that back of a police car or a van. If they are arrested federally, like for example by the FBI, they are taken to an FBI field office and a booking procedure ensues in which a person is photographed, fingerprinted, and an interview is attempted.
If the interview is refused, which it should be by everybody, the person is normally taken to federal court directly depending on the time of day or to a holding center in Virgina. A person could end up in a central cell block. If the person is arrested early enough in the morning, they may go directly to federal court where they will have their initial hearing or arraignment and a decision is made by the judge about where the person is going to be for the next few days.
By right, the government has the authority to ask for detention for three business days after which there must be a detention hearing. If the government does not ask for that, then theoretically, a person can be released on conditions.

Contacting An Attorney

There is no law that allows you to contact an attorney. There is no set time at which you are given a phone call. Typically, a person needs to ask a police officer if he or she can get you a phone. Those are the times that people are able to get a short phone call out. That phone call should be used to try to get an attorney and in the meantime, there should be no conversations with law enforcement.

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