A recently published local news report discusses the indictment and arrest of seven Chicago-area men for felony federal drug charges after a joint investigation allegedly uncovered a multi-state drug trafficking ring that supplied heroin to drug users in parts of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. According to the report, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and police from Michigan City, Indiana cooperated in an undercover investigation that infiltrated the defendants’ alleged drug enterprise and uncovered evidence of a drug trafficking conspiracy. The investigation resulted in seven men being arrested and charged with aiding and abetting a conspiracy to distribute over 100 grams of heroin. Further details of the investigation have not been released, and each of the defendants remains innocent unless and until they are convicted of a crime.
The joint investigation discussed in the article was performed by both federal and state law enforcement agencies, but the men were charged with only federal crimes. There are several reasons why state law enforcement agencies cooperate with federal authorities to make arrests in drug distribution cases.
Alleged drug distribution networks that exist in multi-state metropolitan areas, which are common around the Great Lakes area, can give the federal government jurisdiction to prosecute drug possession or distribution as a broader federal conspiracy charge. It is sometimes easier for prosecutors to prove a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance than it would be for state prosecutors to obtain a conviction under state law for a similar charge. Federal authorities can more easily gather evidence across state borders, and federal mandatory minimum sentences are often more severe than the sentences imposed by state courts for the same conduct. For these reasons, it is common for state and federal authorities to cooperate in investigations that result in federal conspiracy charges.