California man sentenced on methamphetamine distribution charge

A California man has been sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison for selling methamphetamine. The 38-year-old Riverside County resident learned of his fate on Dec. 23 in a San Diego district court. He entered a guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance in August as part of a plea agreement he negotiated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. He could have been sentenced to life in prison if he had been convicted after a jury trial.

Federal prosecutors say the man sold drugs to dozens of customers in north San Diego County. He is alleged to have received several pounds of methamphetamine from suppliers in Mexico each month. His illegal activities took place over a 12-month period in 2017 and 2018. The man is said to have used pagers to direct individuals transporting illegal drugs from Mexico to his customers.

The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case said in a press statement that federal law enforcement agencies have stepped up their efforts to intercept methamphetamine shipments and apprehend individuals who traffic and distribute the drug. The law enforcement push is being prompted by a surge in the number of overdose deaths linked to methamphetamine use.

The sentence in this case shows that federal prosecutors may be willing to lower the penalties for drug crimes significantly to secure a guilty plea and avoid the risks of a jury trial. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may encourage their clients to accept plea offers when the evidence against them was legally obtained and their chances of acquittal by a jury are slim. However, attorneys might suggest rejecting negotiated plea agreements if police officers may have violated rights protected by the U.S. Constitution or prosecutors are relying on unconvincing evidence like uncorroborated accomplice testimony.