When Interstate 80 Drug Stops and Cash Seizures Turn into Federal Conspiracy Cases
It used to be that if a person was stopped on the interstate with a large amount of U.S. currency or drugs, they were charged with crimes of either possession with intent to distribute marijuana or possession of drug money in violation of Nebraska Revised Statute Section 28-416(17). Back in those days, if the federal government got involved in cash seizures, most of the time it was to pursue a civil forfeiture action to seize the cash with no federal criminal actions. With the legalization of marijuana in several other states and the amount of currency on the Interstate, the landscape has changed.
Sometimes if an individual is stopped with a large amount of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine and cash, the State pursues criminal proceedings for the drugs and the federal prosecutors pursue civil forfeiture proceedings for the cash. In some instances involving large amounts of hard drugs, the entire prosecution is turned over to the federal government. It is not uncommon in large drug and cash seizure cases both state and federal, for prosecutors to pursue drug conspiracy charges.
For example, an individual stopped with a large amount of cash, usually over $250,000.00, may face money laundering drug conspiracy charges or conspiracy. It is very easy for law enforcement to obtain that warrant. Law enforcement will mine the electronic devices and look for information pertaining to text messages, emails, social media, GPS data, cell power data, property records, bank records, and contacts with other individuals suspected to be involved in narcotics trafficking to further the investigation. Often this data leads to search warrants and eventually a federal indictment.
In cases where there are smaller amounts of currency and the federal government does not get involved, some county attorneys in the State of Nebraska will also attempt to prosecute for drug conspiracies. Here is why. The Nebraska Drug Money Statute is difficult to prove. There is a very strong argument that, in order to violate the Nebraska Drug Money Statute, the prosecutor must show that something more than the Defendant was headed to a state where marijuana was legal to purchase in. This is akin to the argument that anyone can drive through the State of Nebraska to gamble in the State of Nevada even though gambling is illegal in the State of Nebraska.
In some cash seizure cases, prosecutors have obtained warrants and evidence in the suspect’s home state indicating that there was an agreement to distribute drugs in another state. While this certainly does not happen as often as federal conspiracy cases, it does happen in cases where the evidence is weak that the large sum of cash found was going to be used for the distribution of narcotics. The bottom line is after a traffic stop where drugs or money is seized, the investigation is not over, but usually just beginning. In other words, initial felony charges won’t necessarily be the only charges.
Finally, it is worth noting that, in most cases, if federal prosecutors pursue a case that was previously charged in the State of Nebraska, the State of Nebraska does not always dismiss its immediate charges. It is true that often when the federal charges arise that most of the time THE State dismisses its case, however, this is not always true.
If you would like further information on interstate drug stops and drug conspiracy cases, contact Berry Law.