A sharp rise in drug smuggling in border states like Texas has led to a surge in federal apprehensions, and most of the people being taken into custody by federal agents are not United States citizens. A report released on Aug. 22 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that narcotics arrests now account for two-thirds of the federal apprehensions in the Southern District of Texas, the Western District of Texas, the Southern District of California, the District of New Mexico and the District of Arizona. That figure stood at 33% in 1998.
A former Texas police officer was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Aug. 7 for possession and conspiracy to distribute more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana. The 39-year-old man began his law enforcement career with the Starr County Sheriff's Office in 2002. At the time of his 2016 arrest, he was working as a detective with the Rio Grande City Police Department. The man would have faced a longer sentence if he had been convicted following a trial. However, he avoided that fate by entering into a plea agreement with U.S. attorneys in April 2017.
A recent Pew Research Center study reveals that only 6% of state criminal prosecutions around the country go to trial. Plea bargains are even more common in the federal system with 97% of prosecutions being resolved in this way. Texas prosecutors like plea agreements because they are quick and straightforward and allow them to avoid the risks of arguing their cases before a jury, but civil rights advocates are disturbed by some of the tactics they use to obtain them.
A person involved in the criminal justice system usually has one huge concern hanging over their head – prison. Just about any conviction for a federal or state felony comes with the possibility of incarceration. While it is possible to avoid time behind bars, there is a lot of pressure for the courts to "punish" people convicted of crimes.
Prosecutors in Texas and other states have received letters from progressive advocacy groups including Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union. The letters were written after media outlets in Florida exposed violent and racist Facebook posts written by sheriff's deputies, and they ask prosecutors not to pursue criminal cases that rely on testimony from police officers with a history of misconduct, bias or racism. The letters also urge prosecutors to compile lists of officers with troubled pasts that may be shared with criminal defendants and their lawyers.
Nine individuals in Texas were indicted in early July 2019 on alleged weapons and narcotics violations. The individuals were detained by police later in the same month. The indictments were the result of an investigation by the ATF Eastern District of Texas Violent Crime Task Force. The task force is a cooperation of the Paris Police Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and other law enforcement agencies.