Legal Careers with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

As a federal law enforcement agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) must operate within the parameters of federal and state laws.  The experts that interpret the legal framework for the thousands of DEA employees engaged in anti-narcotic and anti-terrorist operations are the agency’s attorneys.  These highly qualified legal experts provide instruction across a broad spectrum of agency activities.  They are also the point of contact between the DEA and the judicial system.

Attorneys at the DEA are critical to the successful fulfillment of agency responsibilities including the apprehension, detention and prosecution of domestic and international criminals.  They provide the legal basis for entering homes, conducting searches, and eliciting information from perpetrators.  They research federal, international and state statutes and provide legal guidelines to field operatives so that criminal cases can be pursued with success.

DEA lawyers also administer a variety of legal proceedings through federal courts. Lawyers routinely request court approval for wiretaps, warrants and international extraditions.  These procedural activities are vital to agency operations because they remove hostile narcotics criminals and terrorists from the field and place them under federal surveillance or detention.

DEA Attorney Job Description

DEA attorneys must fulfill a variety of duties including:

  • Designing, preparing and executing courses for incoming personnel about federal laws
  • Describing acceptable procedures in investigations and field operations
  • Producing document support for diversion investigations
  • Requesting court approval for electronic surveillance, wiretaps, and extraditions
  • Communicating with legal, police or governmental counterparts of foreign governments
  • Working with legislators to craft laws that optimize DEA success
  • Investigating agency personnel for improprieties
  • Developing a criminal case and submitting it to the Attorney General’s office for prosecution
  • Represent the government in civil litigation cases
  • Collect data from witnesses, subpoenaed documents and law enforcement personnel

How to Become a DEA Attorney

In order to join the prestigious Drug Enforcement Administration as an attorney, applicants for these jobs must possess a J.D. and have at least one year of judicial clerkship experience, preferably within the federal judiciary. The DEA also prefers candidates who have had experience with the Administrative Procedures Act and civil litigation.  Familiarity with the pharmaceutical industry and government investigations is also preferred.  Applicants should submit a comprehensive resume, legal writing sample and a DEA Drug Questionnaire to the Office of Chief Counsel at the DEA.

Applicants should also possess the following qualifications:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Ability to pass a background investigation
  • Ability to pass a drug test and no history of illegal substance use

After approval applicants may be contacted to submit to a formal interview with DEA legal staff.

DEA Attorney Salary

An accredited and experienced attorney with the DEA earns one of the most competitive salaries in the organization.  In order to attract fully qualified law professionals, the DEA often starts attorneys at the management level salaries.  Entering lawyers can be rated GS-14 or GS-15, which had the following salaries associate with them.

  • General Schedule 14:  $84,697-$110,104
  • General Schedule 15:  $99,628-$129,517

These salaries may also be adjusted for cost of living, availability and overtime.

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