According to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the federal
government spends about $15 billion a year investigating drug offenses.
State and local government agencies spend another $25 billion, for a total
of $40 billion a year, which equates to $500 per second. The DEA works
alongside the FBI, CIA and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to fight drug
crimes at both the national and international level. State and local police
agencies investigate drug offenses within their jurisdiction and often
work together to form task forces in hopes of sharing resources and knowledge.
In Monroe County, New York, the drug task force is known as Greater Rochester
Area Narcotics Enforcement Team, or GRANET.
Developing a Suspect
The first step in most significant drug arrests is developing a suspect.
It is possible that a traffic stop coincidentally leads to a major drug
bust, but that is very unlikely at the highest level. More often, "word
on the street" or unreasonably expensive lifestyles of particular
individuals gives police suspicion. Investigators will spend weeks, months,
and sometimes even years investigating an individual or group for a case.
For instance, I represented a client following a joint DEA/FBI investigation
that spanned 5 years, totaling 6,100 man hours. The differing time frame
results from the severity of the case, criminal background of the individual
and types of drugs, among other factors.
How Is an Investigation Conducted?
Police tactics are technical and complicated. Drug investigators use pole
cameras to monitor suspects coming and going for their homes, work or
other important locations. They use GPS trackers to show where a suspect
goes throughout the day and night. Police may tail suspected drug dealers
for days on end, following them to the grocery store, or neighborhood
pub, in hopes of finding a break in the case. If a warrant leads to a
wiretap, police will often monitor phone calls as well. If there is not
probable cause for a wiretap, police may use a pen register, which only
shows who a suspect is communicating with, but not the contents of the call.
Other techniques include monitoring electric usage to detect high use,
which is required to operate grow lights for cultivating marijuana indoors.
Another famous variation is to monitor the amount of heat coming through
the walls of a building by infrared imaging. Technical investigation can
lead to significant evidence, but is not the most effective or efficient
method of investigation.
Gathering Evidence from Informants
The most efficient form of investigation is getting information from other
drug dealers. The most successful drug investigators are those who "work
up the chain." The process involves catching someone selling or in
possession of drugs. Almost immediately, the defendant is offered some
kind of deal, which usually includes their release on certain predetermined
conditions, like providing information to the police that would allow
the arrest of a bigger drug dealer. Theoretically, the defendant is spilling
the beans on their sources, who are arrested, and then turn in their sources
to save themselves from more severe consequences.
Police use drug dealers as informants because the method is significantly
more effective than anything else. These are the people that are operating
in the world the police want to know about; they experience it first-hand
on a regular basis. No matter how much technical investigation there is,
the police are rarely aware of the personal interactions between the players.
Criminal defendants are highly motivated and take significant real life
risks to maintain their freedom.
In any case, criminal defense attorneys are necessary to assist defendants
with the legal process. If you or someone you know has been charged with
a drug crime, contact our
Rochester drug crime lawyer for a
free consultation to discuss the situation and find out what approach we recommend. Attorney
Robert King has significant experience in jury trials and, as a former
prosecutor, brings an intimate knowledge of criminal law to every case.
Call The Law Office of Robert King today schedule your confidential case evaluation!