Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

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Did you know there is a law in Florida that requires your drug possession / possession of controlled substances case to be dropped under certain circumstances, even if it is undisputed you possessed the drugs?  Well, there is.

In 2012, the Florida Legislature determined it was in the interest of public safety and welfare to provide an incentive to persons aware of another’s drug overdose to seek medical attention for that individual.  As a result, the Legislature enacted the “911 Good Samaritan Act.”  The Act, codified as Florida Statute section 893.21, provides anyone “acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose” is immune from prosecution for drug possession if the evidence “was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.”

In plain language, this means is if you’re present during, or aware of, another individual’s drug overdose and you call 911 or otherwise seek medical assistance to help them, and during the process of helping them law enforcement discovers drugs in your possession, you cannot be prosecuted for possessing those drugs.  A recent case in Duval County shows the breadth of this protection.  Continue reading

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There is good news if you desire to serve in the military, but you have a previous arrest for marijuana possession.  The United States Army is issuing an increasing number of enlistment waivers to those who have smoked pot and also want to serve their country.  These waivers allow previously disqualified applicants to now enter the Army.

The increase in waivers reflects the Army’s difficulty in achieving its ever-increasing recruiting goals.  In 2016 the Army enlisted approximately 63,000 recruits.  That number increased to approximately 69,000 last year.  The Army’s goal in 2018 is to enlist 80,000 recruits.  The need for new soldiers comes as Congress has reversed trends begun in the Obama administration to downsize the military.

And, the number of waivers granted for marijuana users, while relatively small, nonetheless is increasing rapidly as well.  In 2016, there were 191 waivers granted.  That number increased substantially, to more than 500, last year.  While small compared against the total number of recruits enlisted, the increasing number of waivers granted is especially significant considering that just three years ago, no such waivers were granted.  This substantial increase is one way officials are attempting to comply with directives to expand the Army’s size.  Continue reading

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Most criminal cases, including drug cases, are resolved without a trial via a process known as plea bargaining.  In that process, both the government and the defense negotiate an agreement as to the outcome of a case, such as the length of any incarceration and/or probation and the requirement of any special conditions such as drug treatment, counseling, curfews and maintaining gainful employment.  The plea agreement is then presented to the court.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, the court approves and implements the agreement as the final judgment in the case.  A federal case in West Virginia this summer, and most recently, a state court memorandum issued in St. Johns County last week, however, may well signal the end of plea bargaining in cases in the greater Jacksonville area involving the manufacture, sale or distribution of opioids.

On June 26, 2017 United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia rejected a plea agreement reached between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Defendant, Charles York Walker, Jr.    There, Mr. Walker had been indicted for three counts of distributing heroin, two counts of distributing fentanyl and one count for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  Through plea bargaining, Mr. Walker pleaded guilty to a single count of distributing heroin and the government dropped the other charges.

Mr. Walker’s plea agreement was then presented to the court for acceptance.  To pretty much everyone’s surprise, Judge Goodwin rejected the agreement.  In doing so, Judge Goodwin first noted the defendant had a substantial criminal history and that the case facts demonstrated Mr. Walker was engaged in a “continuous drug dealing enterprise.”  Continue reading

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On September 29, 2017 the First District Court of Appeal made new law concerning the type of signage posted on your property that can prevent warrantless investigation of the occupants.  The case is State of Florida v. Crowley; Case No.:  1D16-3380.

In Crowley, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers received an anonymous tip someone was growing and selling marijuana from their home.  An officer decided to visit the home and talk to the occupants. Upon his arrival at the home, the officer approached up the front walkway to the front door which bore a conspicuous “No Soliciting” sign.  Ignoring the sign, the officer knocked on the door.  Robert David Crowley opened the door and spoke with the officer.  Mr. Crowley did not ask the officer to leave the premises.  The officer inquired about a supposed lost friend.  While speaking with Mr. Crowley the officer detected a strong odor of marijuana emanating from inside the home.

After the conversation ended, the officer obtained a search warrant and returned to search Mr. Crowley’s home.  The search produced seventy-seven marijuana plants, drug paraphernalia, and a firearm.  Mr. Crowley was then arrested and criminally charged.  Continue reading

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On May 10, 2017 United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a Memorandum to all federal prosecutors titled Department Charging and Sentencing Policy.  The new policy requires federal prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses, i.e., those that carry the longest guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.

The new policy rescinds any previous inconsistent policies of the United States Department of Justice, including the Department Policy on Charging Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Recidivist Enhancements in Certain Drug Cases (August 12, 2013) and Guidance Regarding section 851 Enhancements in Plea Negotiations (September 24, 2014).

Simply put, the new policy generally requires prosecutors to seek whatever charges would lead to the most years in prison for any and all federal offenses.  But, it is expected to have the most impact upon those arrested for possessing or selling drugs. The policy, however, does allow prosecutors to seek permission on specific cases to not strictly follow it if authorized  by supervisors. But, non-adherence to the new policy is expected to be infrequent.  Continue reading

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Capable criminal defense lawyers know there are two major avenues for defending drug possession cases.  The first is to pursue traditional defenses such as investigating search and seizure issues, warrant issues, actual versus constructive possession issues and other similar traditional defenses.  The second major avenue, and one unfortunately oftentimes overlooked, is to fully investigate and develop sentencing phase “mitigation” evidence.  Effective mitigation in a criminal drug possession case, or in any criminal case for that matter, is oftentimes critical in avoiding a conviction and/or jail or prison time.

So what is mitigation evidence?  It is evidence of individual-specific circumstances generally beyond your control that significantly adversely affected your character and behavior which lead to your arrest.

Typical mitigation evidence in drug possession cases involves, among other things, showing your drug addiction arose from you initially being lawfully prescribed pain medications by a licensed physician for a medically documented injury, such as neck and/or back pain from an automobile or on-the-job accident.  The mitigation evidence generally demonstrates you were placed on an extended course of prescribed pain medications such that by the time your prescription had expired you had become addicted, through no fault of your own.  Faced with your addiction and the lack of any further prescriptions for the pain medication, your character and behavior were involuntarily altered to the extent you were left to satisfy your addiction on the “black market” or on the street.  This type of mitigation evidence often is rightfully considered by the State in arriving at a negotiated disposition of your case (in what is oftentimes referred to as “plea bargaining”) that spares you a formal felony drug possession conviction and/or jail or prison time. Continue reading