Drug cartels are typically traditional mafia groups that are involved in the transportation and sale of drugs across state and national borders. Cartels may be smaller groups such as street gangs or large networks that operate across an entire region. However, regardless of their size, a cartel is basically any organization that is involved in drug trafficking. These groups or cartels have been widely feared and have affected how law enforcement officials operate.
History of Drug Cartels
Drug cartels are feared because of the manner in which they are organized. A number of these cartels wield an enormous amount of power and influence, which can wreak havoc in communities or even entire cities. One time period that comes to mind is Chicago in the 1920s when cartels were not only involved in illicit drug trafficking, but also with the sale of alcohol at the time of the Prohibition, money laundering, embezzlement, extortion schemes, and even murder.
Today in Mexico, drug cartels in border towns engage in mass murder terrorizing community members, perpetrating widespread corruption among officials and even kidnapping residents and tourists. The law in the United States has evolved to deal with drug cartels and organized crime. Law enforcement has had some success in cracking down on cartels and organized crime by passing tough new laws and creatively utilizing existing drug crime laws to crack down perpetrators.
What Are Some Common Charges?
Members of drug cartels are not just charged with drug crimes and related charges, but also a number of other criminal charges unrelated to drugs. When it comes to organized crime and drugs, individuals may face other charges including but not limited to assault and battery, fraud, embezzlement, prostitution, money laundering, theft, bribery, and murder. However, prosecutors find it challenging when it comes to charging members of a drug cartel because their goal is often to increase the criminal penalties to the extent where cartel members will choose to enter plea agreements.
To that end, prosecutors may try to use different strategies. They might file conspiracy charges against members of a cartel where one person assists another in the commission of a crime such as murder. In that case, the person could be found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, even if the murder didn’t actually occur. If the person had the intent to commit the crime, he or she could be found guilty of conspiracy. These types of charges are extremely effective against drug cartels and other organized criminal groups.
Fighting Drug Crime Charges
Another effective strategy employed by prosecutors is to charge defendants separately for under state and federal laws. This could result in significant punishment, for example, a lengthy prison sentence. This strategy often scares defendants into accepting a plea deal. Another law that comes into play in these cases is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or RICO, which is a federal law targeting the heads of cartels and other organized crime groups. Under RICO, such individuals may be subject to additional penalties for each racketeering charge.
It is important to understand that these are extremely serious charges with devastating, lifelong consequences. If you have been charged with a drug-related crime, it would be in your best interest to contact a Los Angeles drug crime defense lawyer who will protect your rights and fight the charges.