On Dec. 14, judges and other professionals met in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to determine if there was racial bias in fake drug stash-house stings that were conducted by federal agents. The stings date back to the 1990s and could have an impact on the futures of more than 40 people who were convicted as a result.

Typically, agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives pose as cartel couriers and attempt to talk targets into agreeing to rob drugs from a stash house. These drugs and the stash houses are usually non-existent or are fictitious. Judges were looking to determine if the stash house stings did or did not discriminate based on race using statistics. If it is determined that the stings have a racial bias, law enforcement agencies might curtail or abandon the use of this tactic.

A defense expert noted that, of the 94 individuals who were caught in the stash house stings between 2006 and 2013 in Chicago, 74 were black. Another 12 were Hispanic. White individuals made up just eight of the defendants. He argued that the criteria for picking the targets had a racial bias. Government lawyers noted, however, that the stings were focused in the parts of the city where drug crimes were highest, which included Chicago’s South and West sides. Further, many of the defendants had histories of violent crimes.

When a person is convicted on drug trafficking charges, he or she will likely face a prison sentence and numerous other consequences that could have a major impact on his or her future. In some cases, if a criminal defense attorney finds that authorities did not have probable cause or a warrant to search a person, the defendant may have the grounds to seek an appeal.