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DEA announces campaign to target Chicago-area drug trafficking

Drug offenses are serious crimes that can bring strict penalties under both federal and state law. While all drug crimes can draw police attention, Chicago-area authorities have been focusing lately on counteracting Mexican drug trafficking cartels and the Chicago street gangs that collaborate with them.

In February, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced that it would be launching a new strike force designed to target drug trafficking in Chicago. As part of that campaign, the Chicago Crime Commission designated alleged Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera as its new "Public Enemy Number One."

The DEA has accused Loera and his cartel of using Chicago as a hub to distribute illegal drugs throughout the Midwest. In a recent press conference, the executive vice president of the Chicago Crime Commission said that approximately 90 percent of all the drugs sold in Chicago are believed to have originated with the Sinaloa cartel. The cartel traffics primarily in cocaine, heroin and marijuana.

In addition, authorities believe that the cartel is responsible for a significant amount of the gang violence in Chicago. The cartel uses local gangs to distribute drugs throughout the region. All too often, conflicts between these gangs are settled with violence. In 2012, there were more homicides in Chicago than in any other metropolis in the United States - a total of 506 overall. A significant number of these homicides were suspected to be linked to gang violence.

Drug trafficking penalties

The DEA has announced its attention to conduct raids that target suspected drug traffickers and their collaborators. Because of the significant penalties attached to drug charges, anyone arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking would be wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after the arrest.

The federal penalties for drug trafficking vary based on the types and quantities of drugs at issue. A first offense for trafficking between 500 and 4,999 grams of cocaine, between 100 and 999 grams of heroin or between 5 and 49 grams of methamphetamine is punishable by between five and 40 years in prison. A first offense for trafficking in larger quantities of these drugs can bring a prison sentence of 10 years to life.

The penalties for trafficking in marijuana are different, but they are still significant. A first offense for trafficking in less than 50 kilograms of marijuana can be punished by up to five years in federal prison. The penalties increase with the amount involved. On the high end, a first offense for trafficking in 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana can result in a sentence of between 10 years and life in prison.

Whatever the charge, it is important to understand just how serious drug convictions can be. Even a conviction for the sale or possession of a moderate amount of drugs can have life-altering consequences. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug offense, contact a Chicago criminal defense attorney who can help you protect your rights and your future.