Federal Continuing Criminal Enterprise Charges

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If the federal government thinks you have been running a business that makes money by selling controlled substances, it might charge you with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE). That crime (also known as the federal “Kingpin” statute) requires the government to prove the following:

  • The defendant committed a continuing series of three or more drug offenses;
  • The defendant committed those offenses by working with at least five people;
  • The defendant organized, managed, or supervised those people; and
  • The defendant made a substantial income from the business.

Defense Strategies

Since the crime applies only to people who were running the business or supervising others, whether the defendant had managerial or supervisory authority sometimes provides a basis for defending against the charge.

In addition, the phrase “substantial income” is ambiguous. If the government cannot point to substantial property, investments, or stockpiles of cash that the defendant owns or controls, whether the defendant earned a substantial income is often a fact that can be contested at trial. Many CCE charges base proof of a “substantial income” on the testimony of informants, and the credibility of informants can always be attacked.


The penalty for CCE depends upon whether the defendant has a prior conviction for the same offense. It can also depend upon the size of the enterprise. In addition to a possible prison sentence, fines and costs can be imposed as well as a term of supervised release.

First offense

The mandatory minimum sentence for a first CCE conviction is 20 years in prison. The maximum term of imprisonment is life.

Second offense

The mandatory minimum sentence for a second or subsequent CCE conviction is 30 years in prison. The maximum term of imprisonment is life.

Any offense

Regardless of whether the conviction is for a first or subsequent CCE offense, the mandatory minimum sentence is life imprisonment if the enterprise grossed $30 million or more in one year or if it involved at least 300 times the drug quantity that triggers the most severe penalty for distribution of that drug.

In conclusion, for more information on this topic please reach out to our experts from the Texas Criminal Defense Group at (866) 557-4343 or through our contact page.