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What Is A Federal Drug Charge Indictment?


An indictment is a way of charging someone with a felony after a complaint has been filed. After receiving the complaint, the U.S. attorney would present evidence before a grand jury. The grand jury is a secret proceeding in which neither the defendant nor their attorney can participate. At the grand jury, the United States attorney does not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard at a grand jury is a much lower one. The grand jury must determine whether there is probable cause to go forward with a charge. Because of this low standard, all but the very weakest cases result in a true bill of indictment.

A true bill of indictment means that a grand jury has determined there is probable cause to move forward in a case and the charges have been formalized and will proceed to the trial court.

Why Can Someone Be Indicted In Federal Court?

A person can be charged with a crime in federal court for a variety of reasons. For example, in a situation where a federal law enforcement agency is pursuing and investigating a crime, such as the FBI, the DEA or the ATF, usually that offense will be charged as a federal case. However, sometimes for a variety of reasons, the federal agency or the U.S. attorney might decide to give a particular case back to the state to handle. Also some crimes must be charged federally because there is not an equivalent state charge. But when it comes to drug or narcotic cases, generally the case is charged in federal court when it either involves a large group of individuals participating in the scheme or a large quantity of drugs.

Does Someone Face Stiffer Sentences In Federal Court?

The federal criminal sentencing system is governed by the federal sentencing guidelines. These guidelines use different factors in a case to determine the sentencing range for a particular offense. Typically, the sentences are longer in federal than state court, but the cases are generally more serious too. For instance, it’s uncommon to see a person receive probation in federal court even for a first offense. This alone is a reason to retain a quality federal criminal defense attorney.

How Long Of A Sentence Can Someone Expect In A Federal Drug Case?

The sentencing range for drugs and narcotics cases in federal court range from probation to life in prison. Most federal criminal drug cases will not qualify for probation because of mandatory minimum sentences. The possible sentence would depend on the defendant’s criminal history, the amount of drugs allegedly involved and the extent of the defendant’s participation in the crime among other factors. I have had good success avoiding long prison sentences for my clients.

When Might Someone Be Charged With Conspiracy In A Federal Drug Case?

Federal criminal drug cases frequently involve the charge of conspiracy. Basically, this means that you and at least one other person or persons agreed to participate in some sort of a drug transaction or other crime. With a conspiracy charge you can be found guilty even if you never saw or touched the drugs. If the United States government can prove that you participated or assisted in some other way that might be enough for you to be found guilty and sentenced to prison. These types of conspiracy charges are the ones you may have heard or read about, such as someone’s wife or girlfriend being convicted and sentenced even though they may have been an unwitting participant. Conspiracy is a very powerful tool and weapon that the federal government uses in these types of drug charges.

What Are Some Other Common Charges That May Accompany Federal Drug Charges?

Federal drug charges might use different names than the state courts, but the concepts are the same. In federal court, you still see possession, as well as possession with intent to deliver, delivery of a controlled substance and trafficking. Along with those, we frequently see weapons offenses; and as we’ve already said, conspiracy often goes along with federal drug charges.

For more information on Handling Federal Drug Offenses, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (815) 290-9170 today.

Donald N. Macneil, Esq.

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