It used to be that if a person was stopped on the interstate with a large
amount of U.S. currency or drugs, they were charged with crimes of either
possession with intent to distribute marijuana or possession of drug money in violation of Nebraska Revised Statute Section
28-416(17). Back in those days, if the federal government got involved
in cash seizures, most of the time it was to pursue a
civil forfeiture action to seize the cash with no federal criminal actions. With the legalization
of marijuana in several other states and the amount of currency on the
Interstate, the landscape has changed.
Sometimes if an individual is stopped with a large amount of marijuana,
heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine and cash, the State pursues criminal
proceedings for the drugs and the federal prosecutors pursue civil forfeiture
proceedings for the cash. In some instances involving large amounts of
hard drugs, the entire prosecution is turned over to the federal government.
It is not uncommon in large drug and cash seizure cases both state and
federal, for prosecutors to pursue drug conspiracy charges.
For example, an individual stopped with a large amount of cash, usually
over $250,000.00, may face money laundering drug conspiracy charges or
conspiracy. It is very easy for law enforcement to obtain that warrant.
Law enforcement will mine the electronic devices and look for information
pertaining to text messages, emails, social media, GPS data, cell power
data, property records, bank records, and contacts with other individuals
suspected to be involved in narcotics trafficking to further the investigation.
Often this data leads to search warrants and eventually a federal indictment.
In cases where there are smaller amounts of currency and the federal government
does not get involved, some county attorneys in the State of Nebraska
will also attempt to prosecute for drug conspiracies. Here is why. The
Nebraska Drug Money Statute is difficult to prove. There is a very strong
argument that, in order to violate the Nebraska Drug Money Statute, the
prosecutor must show that something more than the Defendant was headed
to a state where marijuana was legal to purchase in. This is akin to the
argument that anyone can drive through the State of Nebraska to gamble
in the State of Nevada even though gambling is illegal in the State of Nebraska.
In some cash seizure cases, prosecutors have obtained warrants and evidence
in the suspect’s home state indicating that there was an agreement
to distribute drugs in another state. While this certainly does not happen
as often as federal conspiracy cases, it does happen in cases where the
evidence is weak that the large sum of cash found was going to be used
for the distribution of narcotics. The bottom line is after a traffic
stop where drugs or money is seized, the investigation is not over, but
usually just beginning. In other words, initial felony charges won’t
necessarily be the only charges.
Finally, it is worth noting that, in most cases, if federal prosecutors
pursue a case that was previously charged in the State of Nebraska, the
State of Nebraska does not always dismiss its immediate charges. It is
true that often when the federal charges arise that most of the time THE
State dismisses its case, however, this is not always true.
If you would like further information on interstate drug stops and drug
conspiracy cases, contact Berry Law Firm.