Virginia Federal Drug Indictments

Indictment is a document that is handed down by what’s called a Grand Jury.  In a case where a prosecutor is seeking an indictment in a federal drug case, the prosecutor will have to present evidence to that Grand Jury about the crime that they are alleging has occurred.  The Grand Jury will then consider the weight of that evidence and determine whether or not to issue an indictment.  The only standard of proof required for a Grand Jury to issue an indictment is the showing of probable cause that a crime was committed.

Indictments Before and After an Arrest

People are not typically indicted before an arrest.  In fact, in many cases, people are arrested before indictment.  However, on larger cases, and on cases where the government believes they can establish a conspiracy, the government may choose to indict before arrest to preserve the integrity of an ongoing investigation.  

However, in many drug cases, they do like to bring people in and arrest them on charges before they get indicted in an effort to try to get those people to cooperate with the government and perhaps serve up another defendant or two who might be further up the chain.  That’s a very common tactic for federal investigators today.

When a person is arrested, and that person is considered by the federal investigators to be somewhat of a small-time dealer, the investigators want to find out his or her source and they want to get that person under the threat of prosecution to deliver that source to the authorities.  In that situation, a person can gain some leverage to negotiate what charges that they might ultimately be convicted of.  Once a person is indicted, however, it becomes much more difficult to negotiate.

When determining whether to indict or simply arrest the person, the main consideration that the government factors in is whether they believe that person can deliver another defendant who might be higher up the chain.  If they believe you would cooperate and they believe that cooperation would be successful, then they’ll most likely arrest you and sit you down with your lawyer and tell you what it is that they’re looking for you to do.

Federal Drug Arrests After an Indictment

For federal cases, indictments are sealed unit the person is arrested.  So in many cases, you’re not going to know that you’ve been charged or indicted until the authorities show up at your door to arrest you.  There are certain circumstances where you might be made aware that you are the subject of an investigation and if you are indicted, you might have the opportunity to self-surrender.  But under most circumstances, if you’re indicted first, the first indication you’re going to have is when the Federal Agents arrive at your front door to place you under arrest.

Surrendering Yourself

If you find out about it and there is an arrest warrant, not only can you but you should surrender yourself.  It does help your case because there will come a time very shortly thereafter where you’ll be in front of the Magistrate Judge who will determine what, if any, conditions of release can assure about the safety of the community and your future appearance in court.

Surrendering yourself is helpful to you in that regard because it lets the Judge know that you’re willing to comply with the process, that you’re willing to appear in court and submit to whatever prosecution is about to take place.

Learning of a Federal Drug Indictment

If you are indicted by a grand jury before you have been arrested, it could take months, years, or even one day before you learn of the indictment.  It depends entirely on the nature of the investigation and how much more the Government thinks they can get by continuing to investigate.  If an indictment handed down and it is placed under seal, it could sit there for any amount of time before they choose to act on it.  However, they won’t act on it until they are convinced that no further investigation will reveal any future conduct or other defendants.