Cooperation and Drug Weight
As a former Special Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the drug unit, I know that cooperation is often a key part of a federal drug case. Many defendants facing federal drug charges decide to cooperate with the Government hoping to receive substantial assistance in order to reduce the amo
What is Cooperation?An individual who cooperates with law enforcement is usually debriefed by a law enforcement agent and possibly by the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) or Special Assistant United States Attorney (SAUSA) assigned to the case. Law enforcement will ask the person being debriefed about his/her supply sources as well as his/her own "customers." Law enforcement may use this information to initiate an investigation of new targets identified in the debrief.
In addition, law enforcement will log the information provided during a debrief. If one of the new targets later becomes a federal defendant, the information provided during the debrief would likely become "historical information" that could be used against that new defendant in a federal prosecution (even several years after the information was provided to law enforcement).
How Might "Historical Information" Impact Your CasePrior to sentencing, the United States Probation Officer assigned to the case calculates the defendant's drug weight and subsequent base offense level for the Presentence Report that is submitted to the Court. This calculation can include not only the amount of drugs a defendant trafficked during the commission of the offense at hand but also the drug weight that is considered part of a defendant's relevant conduct (i.e. related, but uncharged, acts). The historical information provided by another defendant during a debrief could substantially increase a defendant's drug weight calculation/base offense level and, consequently, the defendant's advisory guideline range/ultimate sentence. If challenged, the Government would only need to prove the validity of the historical information by a preponderance of the evidence.
Therefore, a criminal defense attorney handling federal drug cases should carefully analyze historical information offered against his/her client. At a federal sentencing hearing, it is important to challenge historical information that appears untrustworthy because of the potential impact that the information could have on a defendant's sentence.
DisclaimerThe information included in this Guide is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and, therefore, does not create an attorney/client relationship with anyone.