Police don’t always make their cases based on normal surveillance. There are generally three ways inpolice tactics drug trafficking which the police investigate, and apprehend suspects in drug trafficking cases.

1. Observing Hand-to-Hand Street Deals

The first kind of drug sale case that cops tend to make are the low-level drug transactions, in which a patrol officer happens to see a hand-to-hand transaction between two individuals. These cases tend to be the lowest-level drug trafficking cases that make their way into courts, and most often involve smaller amounts of drugs. 

The way that cops need to prove these kinds of cases is to testify about what they observed on the street.  In addition, the cops need to establish that the drugs involved in the transaction are of a great enough quantity that it can be inferred that the drugs were in the defendant’s possession “with the intent to distribute.”  In other words, the cops need to prove that the individual who is accused of being the dealer had enough drugs on him or her to infer that it was not just for personal use.  That would be true, of course, of the buyer, but not of the seller.  By selling, the seller has committed drug trafficking even if it is a small amount.

2. Conducting Surveillance of a Suspected Dealer

While it is possible for cops to conduct simple surveillance of someone who they suspect is a drug dealer, it is not often done.  Why?  Because surveillance takes time, it is tedious, and is not the most efficient use of police resources.  The more common strategy to investigate drug deals is to use an informant. 

In fact, informants are used in drug cases likely more than in any other area of law enforcement.  The reason for that is because drug dealers are, understandably, suspicious and will not sell to complete strangers.  So, a discussion about informants leads us to the difference between direct, controlled, and observed drug sales.   

3. Using Informants and Undercovers for Direct, Controlled, and Observed Drug Sales

  • The Direct Sale.  With the direct sale, the target unwittingly sells to an undercover cop or an informant.
  • The Controlled Sale.  With a controlled sale, more police work is involved.  The police officers have to first meet with the informant, give the informant some “buy money” make sure that the informant does not have any drugs on him, and then they send the informant off to make a deal with the target.  The informant makes the drug transaction, comes back to the police, and the police search him to see that the informant no longer has the money they gave him.  They then make sure that the informant now has the drugs he bought.
  • The Observed Sale.  With an observed sale, the police essentially organize or coordinate a controlled sale, yet they make sure that they personally observe the transaction themselves. Also, the cops could observe two random people engage in a transaction without organizing or coordinating a controlled sale.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney if You Are Charged with Drug Trafficking Offenses

The consequences for a conviction related to a drug trafficking crime are serious.  If you are facing a criminal investigation or charges, you need an experienced drug crimes attorney or drug possession attorney. We welcome you to contact the Law Offices of Steven R. Adams.  Recognized by Super Lawyers, Best Lawyers, The Best Lawyers in America, National Trial Lawyers Top 100, and one of U.S. News’ Best Law Firms, the Law Offices of Steven R. Adams is ready to help you.  Call our Cincinnati office at 513-929-9333 or fill out our online contact form.  Schedule a free consultation today.

Alex Deardorff
Criminal defense attorney Alex Deardorff is dedicated to serving her clients throughout the Cincinnati area