Federal authorities in Texas have arrested 17 people for allegedly conspiring to distribute drugs in Travis County. Four other defendants were already in custody.
According to the U.S. attorney who brought the charges, the defendants allegedly began distributing cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs in the Austin area in December 2016. Over the course of an 18-month investigation, federal and state law enforcement officers seized around 20 kilograms of methamphetamine, 7 kilograms of cocaine, 5 kilograms of heroin and nearly $600,000 in cash and assets.
If convicted, the defendants could each be sentenced to between 10 years and life in federal prison. The investigation was conducted by members of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and local Austin police departments.
Texas residents charged with drug crimes can face severe consequences, including decades of incarceration, years of probation, the seizure of certain assets, thousands of dollars in fines and a permanent criminal record. However, not all drug defendants are convicted. With the help of a criminal defense attorney, some defendants are able to successfully fight the accusations leveled against them and protect their future. For example, the attorney might find evidence casting doubt on the prosecution's case or find signs that the defendant's constitutional rights were violated during the course of the investigation, which may cause the case to be dismissed.
Another strategy might be for legal counsel to negotiate a plea bargain that allows the defendant to plead guilty to reduced charges. While this will lead to a conviction, it might also help the defendant obtain a significantly lighter sentence. For instance, certain first-time offenders may be allowed to complete community service or a drug diversion program instead of going to prison.