It might sound like something from a comic, but kingpin charges are real and have serious consequences. From the person who manages the money to the head of the operation, it is possible for anyone to see these criminal charges leveled their way if they have had significant involvement in a drug operation.
The last thing you want is a series of harsh charges with the potential for decades in prison. Read on to learn more about:
- Kingpin Charges and their consequences;
- Involvement with a drug crime and its charges; and
- Your smaller role in a much larger operation and your legal options going forward.
Kingpin Charges: The Legal Definition and Potential Penalties
Under Maryland law, a drug kingpin can cover a range of involvement: mainly organizers, supervisors, financiers, and managers. Those who fall under these roles involved in the conspiracy to manufacture, distribute, dispense, transport, or bring “controlled dangerous substances” into the state may face kingpin charges if convicted.
Federal prosecutors take kingpin charges very seriously, as most cases involve shipments both interstate and across-state lines. The Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute (or CCE Statute) targets drug trafficking enterprises. It outlines what prosecutors must prove to pursue kingpin charges—including the organization of and income made from the business.
Kingpin charges carry steep penalties. First offense felony kingpin charges carry a prison sentence of at least 20 years (and up to 40) without the possibility of parole or suspension. Additionally, those guilty may also have to pay up to $1 million in fines to the government.
Co-conspiration rests at the heart of kingpin laws. If the government can produce proof you were a part of an organization, they will come after you. Therefore, it is essential to know the laws and contact a lawyer if you suddenly find yourself facing charges.
More Levels to Drug Crime Involvement
Though the kingpin charge sits near the top of federal and state drug charges, you should be aware of other charges related to drug operations.
In many states, prosecutors use aiding and abetting statutes to charge people for associating with a drug crime. For example, a person might do something as simple as stand around as the exchange takes place. They could also be more involved in setting up the deal or providing the transportation to the delivery.
There is no aiding and abetting statute in Maryland’s Criminal Law Code; however, laws still exist that could implicate you for similar practices.
For one, Maryland’s laws concerning drug-related crimes specifically mention penalties for “conspiracy to commit a crime,” which may include the same actions as above stated. These are second-degree crimes, whereas first-degree charges are those who perpetrated the crime.
Even these crimes carry burdensome punishments increasing with each offense; for conspiracy alone, you could face upwards of 20 years and $15,000 in fines on a second charge. After that? 25-to-40 years on third and fourth offenses. We don’t have to tell you how drastically a prison sentence that long can change your life.
Maryland also has provisions for what’s called “accessory after the fact.” This is more closely related to the “aiding and abetting” in that a felony already has to have been committed for a person to be charged with accessory. Many of the same actions could prompt prosecution. Still, evidence tampering, obstruction, and contempt could also count towards an accessory charge—especially if you were involved in the initial crime that took place.
Accessory carries up to five years in prison and/or a penalty equivalent to the maximum punishment for the underlying felony—both of which you don’t want to face in any circumstance.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are implicated in a kingpin or lesser drug crime, remember this: you have options.
How You Can Help Yourself Going Forward
Your best option is to call a lawyer. No drug case is the same; an experienced criminal defense lawyer is as adaptable as diligent in providing a strong and aggressive defense.
What can a lawyer do for you? First, law enforcement charge above-mentioned crimes like accessory based on evidence they collect from a number of sources—principle to which is the police interrogation room. With a lawyer at your side, you’ll know when to talk and when you are within your right not to answer.
Conspiracy and kingpin charges, too, rely on evidence. If you fear prosecutors or law enforcement used extra-judicial means to gather evidence against you, a skilled lawyer can help strike it in court.
Overall, too, criminal defense attorneys can help you avoid court by organizing plea deals with prosecutors. Plea deals can lessen an existing sentence through an admission of guilt. In addition, many defense lawyers use their relationships with prosecutors over the course of their careers to talk on even footing and reach an equitable solution.
Sometimes, it is not uncommon for a prosecution to offer immunity in exchange for your testimony against a more involved figure in the drug organization. Though this might sound like a good deal, talk to your lawyer. Immunity does not bar the prosecution from pursuing later charges against you—it just means they can not use your direct testimony as evidence. Taking an immunity deal is not a decision you want to make alone.
Call our office for a free initial consultation if you find yourself at the center of any drug-related charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are here to help advocate for your future and limit unnecessarily long sentences. Don’t panic if you’re arrested—call a lawyer to make things easier.