Drug Enforcement Administration

DEA Investigation Looming? Secure An Experienced Federal Defense Attorney

If the DEA is investigating you, every second counts. Quick and competent legal counsel is crucial for protecting your rights and mounting a successful defense. Cofer Luster Criminal Defense Lawyers focuses on federal criminal defense and our lawyers have the skills and experience to navigate the legal system. Whether you’re facing drug trafficking, distribution, or any other federal drug charges, we’re here to help.

You can consult with our experienced Texas criminal defense lawyers at (682) 777-3336 or contact us online for a confidential assessment of your case. Act now to secure your future; let a focused lawyer help you through these challenging times.

About The DEA

The Drug Enforcement Administration, commonly known as the DEA, was established in 1973. This agency’s main task is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations across the nation. While this agency operates extensively throughout the country, the DEA has a significant presence in Texas, with multiple divisions serving various areas.

Understanding The DEA’s Mission

The DEA’s mission is multi-faceted and includes both law enforcement and public safety objectives. At the core, the DEA aims to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States. This includes identifying, arresting, and bringing to justice the individuals and organizations involved in the illegal manufacture, distribution, and trafficking of controlled substances.

What Laws Does The DEA Enforce?

The DEA operates mainly under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which categorizes substances into five schedules based on their medical use, potential for abuse, and safety or dependence liability.

Schedule I Substances

These are substances that have a significant potential for dependency or abuse, no medical use that is currently accepted, and a lack of established safety for use under medical supervision. Marijuana, heroin, and LSD are some examples.

Schedule II To V Substances

These include drugs with decreasing levels of abuse potential and increasing medical uses. Examples include prescription medications like Vicodin and Xanax.

DEA Offices And Divisions In Texas

The DEA has numerous offices and divisions across the United States, with 241 Domestic Offices in 23 Divisions, as well as 93 Foreign Offices in 69 countries. Texas is home to multiple DEA divisions:

Dallas Division

Covers Fort Worth, Lubbock, and Tyler, Texas, as well as Oklahoma. It is led by Special Agent in Charge Eduardo A. Chávez.

El Paso Division

Covers New Mexico and parts of Texas including El Paso, Alpine, and Midland. The acting Special Agent in Charge is Eric Castañeda.

Houston Division

This division serves a broad range of areas in Texas such as Austin, Beaumont, Brownsville, and San Antonio. The Special Agent in Charge here is Daniel C. Comeaux.

DEA’s Diversion Control Division

The Diversion Control Unit/Division of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) aims to prevent, detect, and investigate any diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals and listed chemicals from legitimate sources.

Diversion Of Controlled Pharmaceuticals: Federal Laws And Regulations

Controlled pharmaceuticals include narcotics, stimulants, and depressants that have a medical use but are also subject to abuse. Federal law mandates that all entities and individuals who import, export, manufacture, or distribute these substances must register with the DEA. Compliance with strict regulations concerning security and record-keeping is required. For example, The Controlled Substances Act is the primary law that governs these controlled substances and sets forth the various schedules and requirements for registrants.

Registrants include everyone from health professionals, like doctors and nurses who are authorized to dispense these substances, to pharmacies that are licensed to fill prescriptions for them. Diversion investigations can involve a wide range of actors: doctors selling prescriptions to drug dealers, pharmacists falsifying records to sell drugs, employees stealing from inventory, prescription forgers, and even individuals robbing pharmacies and drug distributors.

Monitoring And Control Of Listed Chemicals

Synthetic drugs that are prevalent in today’s market are often manufactured in clandestine labs that use specific chemicals. Several acts like the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act of 1988 and the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 provide the legal foundation for DEA’s oversight.


DEA Aviation Division

The Aviation Division supports the DEA in enforcing this act by helping to identify, locate, and assess illegal narcotics-related activities. The Aviation Division is involved in surveillance, photographic reconnaissance, personnel and cargo transport, and even the transportation of fugitives and prisoners.

Federal Law Enforcement Agencies: A Collaborative Effort

It’s worth noting that the DEA’s Aviation Division collaborates with other federal law enforcement agencies. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the United States Coast Guard are just a few of the organizations that may work alongside the DEA in joint operations.

El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) In Federal Law Enforcement

In recent years, EPIC has transformed into an all-threats center, including tactical, operational, and strategic intelligence. This information is disseminated to Federal, State, local, tribal, and even international law enforcement organizations.

EPIC operates under various federal laws that grant it the authority to collect and disseminate intelligence. EPIC also operates in accordance with mandates specified under Homeland Security laws and regulations, specifically relating to the sharing of information between federal agencies.

What It Means For Someone Who Might Be Charged With A Federal Crime

For someone who might be charged with a federal crime, it is essential to be aware that EPIC could potentially be involved in the investigation, especially if the case is related to drug trafficking, immigration issues, or other cross-border activities. Because EPIC collaborates with multiple agencies, the center has access to a broad array of information and intelligence. This means that EPIC can contribute significantly to federal investigations, possibly leading to federal charges against individuals.

DEA Intelligence Program

Key Functions Of The DEA Intelligence Program

The DEA Intelligence Program serves several functions. First, it collects and produces intelligence data to support the DEA Administrator and other agencies involved in drug enforcement. Second, the program aims to establish strong working relationships with all agencies that are either producing or using narcotics intelligence. Furthermore, the program focuses on improving the efficiency in reporting, storage, retrieval, and sharing of this information.

Types Of Intelligence

The DEA categorizes the intelligence it collects into three main types:

Tactical Intelligence

This involves information that can lead to immediate enforcement actions such as arrests, seizures, and interdictions.

Investigative Intelligence

This supports ongoing investigations and prosecutions, helping to dismantle criminal organizations.

Strategic Intelligence

This provides a broader view of drug trafficking trends and activities, from cultivation to distribution, and aids in resource allocation and policy planning.

DEA Asset Forfeiture

The DEA can investigate drug crimes and initiate asset forfeiture procedures. In conducting these activities, DEA agents are bound by constitutional laws and their actions are subject to federal court scrutiny.

What Constitutes Asset Forfeiture?

Asset forfeiture is the legal process by which the government seizes property deemed to have been used in, or derived from, unlawful activities. The list of assets that can be seized is extensive and includes money, vehicles, and real estate. This tool serves multiple objectives for law enforcement agencies:

  1. Deprives criminals of proceeds gained from illegal activities.
  2. Removes the tools used in committing crimes.
  3. Deters criminal activities by impacting the profitability of illicit enterprises.
  4. Aids in breaking up organized criminal groups, such as drug cartels.

Types Of Asset Forfeiture

There are primarily two types of asset forfeiture procedures: administrative and judicial. Administrative forfeiture is an out-of-court process initiated by the DEA by sending notices to parties who have an interest in the seized property. The process can convert to a judicial one if a valid claim is filed against the seizure.

On the other hand, judicial forfeiture involves formal legal procedures where the U.S. Attorney’s Office files either a civil or a criminal complaint. In criminal forfeiture, the asset seizure is tied to the criminal charges against an individual. Civil forfeiture is more nuanced, as the property itself is considered to be involved in the crime, irrespective of the owner’s guilt or innocence.

Legal Standards And Constitutional Safeguards

The Fourth Amendment requires law enforcement agencies like the DEA to have probable cause and, generally, a warrant from a judge before seizing property. The Due Process Clause in the Constitution also provides property owners certain rights:

No Cost Bond

Claimants are not required to file a cost bond to claim their property.


DEA is obligated to notify all interested parties within 60 days of the asset seizure.


The DEA must publicly advertise the asset seizure for 30 days.

Burden Of Proof

In judicial forfeiture cases, the government must prove that the property was involved in criminal activity by a preponderance of the evidence.

How To Challenge DEA Asset Forfeiture

If you find yourself in a situation where your assets have been seized, there are generally two avenues to reclaim your property. The first is to petition to the DEA directly for the return of the property. The second is to file a valid claim, indicating that you intend to challenge the forfeiture in federal court. The latter transforms an administrative forfeiture into a judicial one.

High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA)

What Is HIDTA?

HIDTA, or High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas, is a program designed to enhance collaboration between federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies. These agencies work together to address the issue of drug trafficking in designated regions of the United States. As of 2021, there are 33 HIDTAs that span 50 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia. The program has an annual budget of $290 million and involves over 1,500 DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) agents who are specifically authorized for HIDTA operations.

Criteria For HIDTA Designation

To be designated as a HIDTA, an area has to meet certain criteria. This criteria is:

  • The area should be a significant hub for illegal drug activities, such as production, manufacturing, importation, or distribution.
  • State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies in the area must commit resources to address the drug problem, showing a proactive approach.
  • Drug-related activities in the designated area must have a considerable negative impact both locally and nationally.
  • An increase in federal resources is needed to adequately deal with the drug-related activities in the area.

Implications For Those Facing Federal Charges In Texas

If you are in an area designated as a HIDTA, it is crucial to understand that the likelihood of facing federal charges for drug-related offenses is considerably higher. This is due to the increased presence and coordination of law enforcement agencies and the federal resources allocated for combating drug trafficking. If you’re charged under federal laws, the consequences can be severe and may include long prison sentences and hefty fines.

Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF)

What Is The OCDETF?

Established in 1982, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces Program was designed as a coordinated attack on the illegal drug supply in the United States. Its objective is to diminish not only the availability of narcotics, but also the violence and other criminal activities tied to the drug trade. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., OCDETF operates nationwide, bringing together resources from the DEA and various other federal agencies to target drug trafficking and money laundering organizations.


Structure Of OCDETF: The Strike Forces

A significant part of OCDETF’s operations is its 19 Strike Forces. These are teams consisting of members from various state and federal law enforcement agencies. Each team is situated in key cities across the United States. The Strike Forces employ the OCDETF national strategy but tailor their activities to target threats specific to their locations.

The CPOT List

Managed by OCDETF on behalf of the Attorney General (AG), the Consolidated Priority Targets (CPOT) List is a catalog of leaders from the most significant drug trafficking and money laundering organizations affecting the United States. The DEA collaborates with other agencies to target individuals on this list, aiming to disrupt and dismantle their operations.

Focus On Opioid And Methamphetamine Crisis

OCDETF is deeply involved in battling the opioid and methamphetamine crisis through their National Heroin Initiative (NHI) and National Methamphetamine Initiative (NMI). These programs provide essential resources to the DEA and other member agencies to develop street-level cases into larger-scale investigations targeting higher-level drug traffickers.

Federal Laws Related To Opioids And Methamphetamine

The laws governing opioids and methamphetamines are subsets of the Controlled Substances Act. Violations related to these specific substances can attract severe penalties under 21 U.S.C. § 841, which addresses the manufacturing and distribution of such drugs.

DEA’s Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program

What Is The Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program?

The DCE/SP is a nationwide program solely focused on curbing illegal cannabis growth and cultivation by drug trafficking organizations (DTO) in the United States. Established in 1979, the program initially funded eradication efforts in Hawaii and California. Over the years, it expanded its scope and now includes 115 state and local law enforcement agencies. The program utilizes shared intelligence, technology, and manpower from participating agencies to identify and eliminate illegal cannabis growth and cultivation sites.

Federal Law Concerning Cannabis

Cannabis is listed as a Schedule I controlled substance under the CSA. This means that under federal law, the cultivation, distribution, and possession of cannabis can result in criminal prosecution. The DEA, backed by federal statutes like 21 U.S.C. § 841 (which prohibits manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing controlled substances), leads efforts to enforce these laws.

Facing DEA Investigation? Consult A Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Now

Being investigated by the DEA for a federal offense is a grave matter that requires immediate and competent legal counsel. The consequences of facing federal drug charges can be catastrophic, impacting not just your freedom but also your reputation and future opportunities. This is not the time to go at it alone. At Cofer Luster Criminal Defense Lawyers, our lawyers are well-versed in dealing with federal agencies like the DEA and can provide you with the focused representation you need. If you are under investigation, don’t delay. Call us today at (682) 777-3336 or visit us online to schedule a confidential consultation with a seasoned lawyer.

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