A Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent enforces the United States government’s laws and regulations regarding controlled substances. He is required to follow the agency’s directives to identify, arrest and successfully prosecute offenders. These offenders may be located in the United States or in other countries, and they may be individuals operating independently or part of a larger group.
DEA agents are increasingly involved in the investigation and prosecution of terrorist groups because of the ties these groups usually have to drugs and drug trafficking. The profits of these international drug trade deals commonly fund other criminal activity.
Based on the wide and constantly changing scope of his responsibilities, an agent is required to be exceptionally versatile and flexible in when, where and how he performs his job. He may be asked to go undercover and portray unsavory characters to gain the confidence and trust of suspected criminals. In rare circumstances, this may entail engaging in illegal activities or even ingesting controlled substances to prove his validity and remove suspicions of him being an undercover agent.
Other than working undercover, a DEA agent inspects and analyzes evidence that may help strengthen the government’s case against an alleged perpetrator. This often includes lists of purchasing or trafficking contacts, customer names and locations, and records of financial transactions. His job may also entail interviewing persons of interest who may have information that would help apprehend suspected criminals.
Agents are often the people who arrest suspects in drug sales or trafficking cases. They are also regularly called upon to provide supporting testimony in drug offense cases that they have worked on or that are connected to their cases. If depositions are involved, the agent may be asked for his input.
Accurate documentation that follows protocol is an important aspect of a DEA agent’s job. Following strict guidelines closely helps prevent evidence from being excluded, and properly securing the confiscated evidence and related records is also vital to successful prosecution.
Candidates for positions as agents normally have experience in a related field, like regional or national law enforcement, legal work or military experience. A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or law enforcement is strongly preferred.
In addition to professional and educational requirements, applicants must be United States citizen between the ages of 21 and 36 years old and have a valid U.S. driver’s license. They must submit to a background check and complete both oral and written exams. Required examinations include drug, medical and physical assessments, along with passing a lie detector test.