Winning a Federal Drug Case

Statistically about 95% of federal criminal trials result in a conviction. For federal drug cases the statistics are even worse.

Today Clint and I won another federal drug trial, and as always, given the odds, the victory is gratifying. Clint was first chair in this trial and deserves most of the credit.In this case our client came to the attention of the police while waiting to meet a friend at a ramshackle apartment complex in Odessa, Texas. Unbeknownst to our client a confidential informant had told the police that his friend was going to deliver drugs to someone at the apartment complex. After our client’s friend went to the apartment under surveillance he joined our client in his truck and the two drove away.

The police conducted a pretext stop in order to search the car. The police told our client that he was being stopped because his passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. They got our client out of the car, aggressively frisked him, and put him in the back of the squad car. The police saw a package containing a distributable amount of cocaine on the floor board in front of the passenger and put him in handcuffs. They then got our client out of the squad car in order to handcuff him too. He resisted arrest and was subjected to thorough pepper spraying. After the passenger was taken to the police station he claimed that our client had no knowledge of the drugs. He gave the consent to search his vehicle that was still parked at the apartment complex and in total the police recovered half a kilo of cocaine. The police also recovered $9,000 in cash from our client’s car. The police charged our client with the drugs also, due in large part, no doubt, to the fact that he resisted arrest, had three prior drug convictions, and the large amount of cash he was carrying.

Our client maintained his innocence. At first glance the government’s case appeared weak. However, we knew the passenger would have a great incentive to change his story, implicate our client, and thereby reduce his own sentence. We are also dismayed, after having researched the issue, to learn that the government would be able to inform the jury of our client’s extensive record even if he chose not to testify.

The trial began on Tuesday, and the government spent the entire day proving in great detail that our client resisted arrest. The second day began with a scare because the government produced a surprise witness who claimed to have dealt drugs with our client. He was obviously testifying with the hope of reducing his sentence and admitted to having previously perjured himself on the stand. Due to the surprise we asked for a continuance to investigate the matter which the judge seemed inclined to grant. Given the difficulties of restarting the trial a couple of weeks later, the government decided not to call the surprise witness after all.

Much to our relief, on Wednesday, the passenger stuck to his guns and insisted that our client did not know that he possessed drugs. We also called our client’s father and brother who testified that they had loaned our client the cash the day to buy another horse for the family horse racing business. After hearing all the evidence, the jury got the case and began deliberations on Thursday. After deliberating for about 2 1/2 hours they returned a verdict of Not Guilty much to the joy of our client’s family, whose faces were covered with grateful tears. As a bonus they promised to send us a couple of Boston Red Sox caps, Clint’s and my favorite baseball team.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.