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Heroin distribution ring busted in Pittsburgh, 13 people arrested

A massive international drug trafficking operation, functioning here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was recently busted after roughly a year investigating the drug ring. In all, 13 people were arrested, with the type and quantity of charges differing greatly from person to person. The police say about $300,000, four kilograms of heroin and a number of guns were recovered in the sting.

One charge that shows up almost universally among the 13 arrested people is "conspiracy." In drug cases, conspiracy charges are often tacked on to an accused person's list of criminal counts. They can add many years to the person's sentence if they are found guilty.

The thing about conspiracy charges is they can be excessively used by prosecutors to make an example out of the alleged offenders. How do you define "acting in a conspiracy?" Does the individual have to be actively involved in establishing the distribution of drugs? Or do they merely have to be associated with drug dealers?

Another aspect to this case that is important to criminal defense cases is the use of wiretaps. From December 2012 to the close of this case, wiretaps were in use. These wiretaps hopefully went through the appropriate channels to receive approval; and once they were in operation, hopefully the police did not abuse their new power. Any negligent or illegal use of a wiretap can lead to dismissed charges.

Last but not least, there was likely a lot of cooperation between many law enforcement groups to make this case happen. Again, this is important to due process. If the departments violated the rules on information sharing, or if they aided each other in circumventing a suspect's right to due process, then the case could be in jeopardy.

Source: WPXI, "AG: Year-long investigation nets 13 arrests, $300K in cash, 4 kilos of heroin, 6 guns," Aug. 7, 2013

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