Dallas Federal Drug Crimes – Being arrested on federal drug charges is a traumatic experience. For the family of someone arrested on federal drug charges, the experience is very stressful, because they usually do not understand the process, and everything seems mysterious. To try to help make the process more understandable, this blog will describe what happens when someone is arrested on federal drug charges from the perspective of Dallas federal criminal defense attorney, Attorney John Helms.
When someone is arrested, they must be brought before a federal magistrate judge in a courtroom for an “initial appearance.” According to Rule 5 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, this must be done “without undue delay,” which usually means within 24 hours of the arrest, unless the arrest was on a weekend.
At the initial appearance, the defendant is told about the Constitutional rights that all criminal defendants possess, and the defendant is told what crime has been charged.
Defendants are usually charged based on a law enforcement officer actually observing that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a crime, or based on an indictment. The first alternative could happen, for example, if there is a sting operation and a DEA agent watches someone buy illegal drugs from an informant. An indictment is a formal charge. In federal drug cases, arrests based on indictments occur when a law enforcement investigation has already identified people who the Government believes have committed crimes. A prosecutor writes up the charges and presents them to a grand jury, which votes on whether there is probable cause to believe the person committed the crime. The procedures for these two alternatives are somewhat different.
If the defendant is arrested based on what a law enforcement officer has observed, according to Rule 5(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the law enforcement officer must “promptly” file a sworn written statement in court, called a “complaint.” The complaint must state facts showing that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed a crime.
The defendant also has a right to a “detention hearing,” in which the Magistrate Judge hears testimony and decides whether or not the defendant should be held in custody while the case proceeds. This depends on whether the Magistrate Judge finds that the defendant is a flight risk or a danger to the community. According to 18 U.S.C section 3142(f), the detention hearing must be held “immediately” after the initial appearance, unless the Government or the defendant asks for a continuance. The Government cannot get a continuance of more than 3 days, and the defendant can not get a continuance or more than 5 days, both not counting weekends.
A defendant who has not been indicted has the right to a “preliminary hearing,” which is a hearing in court where the Government must prove to a Magistrate Judge that there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime charged. If the defendant is in custody, this hearing must be held within 14 days of the initial appearance. If the court decides there is not probable cause, the defendant is released, and the charges are dismissed.
If the defendant has been indicted, the same procedures apply, except that the defendant does not get a “preliminary hearing,” because a grand jury has already decided that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime.
Unless the crime was allegedly committed in another district, after these proceedings, the case begins. If the crime was allegedly committed in another district, the defendant may either be taken to that district or required to appear there.
Federal drug charges in Dallas are extremely serious. If you or a loved one is charged with a federal drug crime in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, or Sherman, Texas, you should immediately contact an experienced and skilled federal criminal defense lawyer in Dallas who will fight for the rights of the accused. Call (214)-666-8010 and discuss your case with Attorney John Helms today.
Dallas Drug Crime Lawyer John Helms