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Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

Often the drug Norco, a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone, is prescribed for pain. Perhaps you or someone you know has been prescribed Norco following surgery or to treat a chronic condition. You may also know that Norco and similar pain relievers containing hydrocodone can be abused and can cause the user to become dependent on the drug. Hydrocodone is highly addictive and the abuse of Norco and other drugs containing hydrocodone has become a serious drug problem in the United States. In August of 2014, hydrocodone was up-scheduled from a Schedule III drug to a Schedule II drug. A Schedule II drug such as Norco may still be prescribed by a doctor but with the warning that these drugs have a high potential for abuse and may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.

Unfortunately, many people in the United States have become addicted to Norco after having been legitimately prescribed this pain-killer. Others have become addicted after buying it on the street and using it recreationally. And because doctors are often reluctant to prescribe prescription pain-killers, some people resort to the black market to self-treat their chronic pain. It is dangerous enough to take this drug without a doctor’s oversight but the danger has been amplified by the illegal sales of a powerful synthetic opiate analgesic, fentanyl, which is being illegally sold on the black market as Norco. The street fentanyl, which is also a pain-killer, is similar in appearance to Norco but is far more potent than Norco. In fact, fentanyl is so powerful that it said to be 50 times more powerful than heroin. While fentanyl is legally prescribed in this country for severe pain, the DEA suspects the black market fentanyl is manufactured in China and smuggled through Mexico by the Mexican drug trafficking cartels.

The fake Norco caused six deaths and 22 overdoses in Sacramento County in just one week this past March. Since then and as of this writing there have been three more deaths in that county and 20 additional hospitalizations related to the counterfeit Norco pills. While the news broke in Sacramento County, the DEA is now issued a public safety alert regarding the fake Norco.

The Marijuana Laws Are A-Changin’

Back in 1964 when Bob Dylan sang “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” marijuana was called the “killer weed” and even simple possession was a felony in California carrying a sentence of one to ten years. Now over 60 years later, the citizens of California will decide whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The wheels of change grind slowly.

California was the first state to enact laws allowing the regulated sale, cultivation, and use of medical marijuana. Since then, other states have pushed forward and made the recreational use of marijuana legal. Recreational use is now legal in Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and Alaska, as well as the District of Columbia. California has its own ballot initiative, which will be before the voters in the 2016 elections. If the initiative passes, the recreational use of marijuana will become legal.

IS COERCED TREATMENT FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSERS THE RIGHT APPROACH?

A recent study that has garnered a lot of attention is the finding by two Princeton economists, one a Nobel prize winner, that there is what has been termed an “epidemic” of substance abuse by middle-aged white Americans. In fact, the study found that for white Americans aged 45 to 54 with no college education, the increase in deaths attributed to substance abuse, which includes alcohol, heroin and prescription opioids increased at an extraordinary rate from 1999 to 2014. The debate swirls around the causes of this increase but of more pressing concern is how to abate this phenomenon.

Enter Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. In that state, 1,200 people died from drug overdoses in 2014. Addressing what has been termed a “brutal opioid epidemic” in his state, Governor Baker has proposed legislation that would give hospitals authority to force treatment on drug addicts who are a danger to themselves or others. The legislation, if signed into law, would be similar to Massachusetts statute that permits the commitment of mentally ill individuals, often against their will. The proposed legislation would give hospitals the power to hold addicts for three days, against their will, in order to evaluate them. If the hospital determines that a longer commitment is needed, the proposed law would allow the hospital to seek legal permission to hold the addict for a longer commitment. The law would apply not only to drug addicts but to those addicted to alcohol as well. Massachusetts already has a law that allows families, police officers, and doctors to seek 90-day civil commitments for addicts who pose a serious risk to themselves or others, but this new law would up the ante for what is called “coerced treatment” by shifting the focus and authority to the hospitals.

California’s Proposition 47, which was considered a controversial measure, appears to be producing the results it was intended for.  However, there are still those skeptics who question whether or not the desired results are being met.  But, according to reports by the Stanford Justice Advocacy Project, any criticism of Prop 47 seems to be based on anecdotes and scare tactics rather than evidence and data.

The report further went on to highlight the positive effects of Prop 47 which includes a 13,000 inmate decrease in jail and prison population in California.  This alone will save the state and counties more than $300 million per year.  Early releases from county jails has been reduced by 35 percent, which means that overcrowding in jails has gone down.  The report went on to say that of the prisoners released under Prop. 47, less than 5 percent have returned to prison or been convicted of a new crime.  This seems to support the claim that there is no connection between any increase in crime over the last year and  inmates being freed due to Prop. 47.

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Possession Of A Controlled Substance Now A Misdemeanor

In California, possession or a controlled substance use to be a “wobbler” meaning that it could be filed as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the type of drug and other circumstances surrounding the arrest and prior criminal history. However, since the passage of Proposition 47, possession of a controlled substance is now a misdemeanor and although not as serious as a felony, being convicted of a misdemeanor drug offense can carry serious, long-lasting consequences.

I have been practicing criminal defense law in Orange County for more than 20 years and have gained extensive knowledge in defending possession cases. Knowing how the district attorney and police agencies build their cases has given me a great advantage in defending my clients and minimizing the consequences if convicted.

One of the most important pieces to the defense of a possession case is the actions of the law enforcement officer who first came in contact with my client. It is my job to review all discovery, looking for mistakes, inaccuracies and even blatant disregard for the law, on the part of the officers involved. It is not uncommon for officers to violate the law when it comes to search and seizure and it is my job to identify when this has happened.

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California Proposition 47, Do You Qualify?

California Proposition 47 is a recently approved law, which allows many individuals who have criminal convictions, to reduce their felony conviction(s) to misdemeanor convictions. Further, it allows those who are currently being prosecuted for felonies, to have their charges reduced to misdemeanors and prosecuted as misdemeanors. It is important to note that not all felony convictions and charges are eligible and not all individuals are eligible. Below is a brief overview of Proposition 47 and who qualifies.

Simply put, the new law reduces the classification of most non-serious and non-violent crimes from wobblers or felonies to misdemeanors. Wobblers are crimes that may be prosecuted and either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the circumstances. Typically, the types of crimes eligible for Prop 47 are property and drug crimes. However, individuals who have prior “disqualifying” convictions will not qualify for Prop 47. Those convictions include any felony offense, which requires Penal Code 290(c) registration or convictions under Penal Code 667(e)(2)(C), (serious, violent crimes, including murder and certain sex and gun crimes, and registered sex offenders). The following are some of the crimes eligible for reduction of penalties under Proposition 47:

Two graduates of an exclusive Pennsylvania prep school were charged with operating an extensive drug ring that dealt cocaine and marijuana to students at high schools and colleges in an affluent part of Philadelphia, authorities said on Tuesday.’

These two young men reportedly led the effort to create a “monopoly” on drug sales in the area and used high school students to deal drugs at their local schools. They are being accused of using the schools to create drug addicts and using their privileged connections to move the drugs through the suburban neighborhoods.

It is being reported that the young men referred to the drug network as the “main line take over project” which employed students from five of the local high schools and three colleges, to distribute cocaine, marijuana, hash oil and ecstasy. It is also being reported that the two young men, the leaders of the operation, expected the “sub-dealers” to meet quotas at the schools they were assigned to sell to.

Border Patrol officers in San Clemente intercepted $6.7 million of cocaine at a freeway checkpoint last week when a man claiming to be a U.S. citizen was stopped. The 54-year-old man was nicely dressed in a suit and tie and driving a relatively new automobile but there was something about him, or the car, that caused the border agents to be suspicious.

If anyone has ever gone through one of these border checkpoints, you know that most of the time you are just waived through. Occasionally you are stopped briefly and asked where you are coming from, where you are going, and if you have any produce in your car. Apparently this is all they need to decide whether or not they want to investigate further. The Border Patrol agents at checkpoints can stop and question anyone even if there is no reason to believe that there are any illegal aliens inside. The United States Supreme Court determined this. It was further ruled that the Border Patrol agents “have wide discretion” to request that the car, and the occupants, pull over to another inspection area for further questioning.

In this particular situation, when the man told the officers that he was a citizen, apparently they were suspicious and ran a record check. This revealed that he was actually a Mexican national and arrested him. This was all they needed to be able to then search his car. The search revealed several large cardboard boxes in both the backseat and trunk of the car. The large cardboard boxes in the back seat may have been what brought attention to the man and caused suspicion. It was discovered that 53 packages of cocaine were inside the boxes, which was estimated to weigh approximately 670 pounds. On the street, that would be worth around $6.7 million.

Possession of a controlled substance is a crime in California. However, possession with intent to sell is a much more serious crime with more severe consequences. It is unfortunate, but most people who are arrested for drug related charges are typically addicts who require some sort of treatment for their addiction. But, what they face if convicted, may include:

1. Probation;
2. 1 year in County Jail; or
3. 2, 3 or 4 years in a California State Prison.

Possession for sale of marijuana is a felony and is punishable by up to 4 years in State Prison.

Crimes involving illegal drugs may include any of the following:

1. Possession for personal use;
2. Possession of drugs with intent to sell or distribute;
3. Trafficking, transporting, buying, or selling;
4. Distribution
5. Cultivating or manufacturing; and
6. Conspiracy to do any of the above.

To prove intent to sale, the prosecution does not need to prove that you sold anything, only that you intended to. This proof can be made based on the following:

1. The amount of drugs found;
2. Other items found such as baggies or scales;
3. Conversations with undercover officers or informants; and
4. High volume of traffic to and from you residence.

When a police officer arrests someone for possession of narcotics, they will almost always take possession of that person’s cell phone. They will review the text messages looking for any sign of sales, whether it is the person looking to buy something or, whether someone is requesting to buy from that person. Often if the text messages reveal that the person is looking to buy, the officers will pressure the person into revealing who their supplier is. This is one way police officers are able to find and arrest people for drug sales.

There are drug related charges that may be prosecuted as misdemeanors. They include: possession of marijuana, being under the influence of a drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Fortunately, there are defenses to all of these crimes. Some include:

1) Illegal search and/or seizure;
2) No intent to sell;
3) Lack of possession; and
4) Lack of knowledge.

If convicted of a drug related charge, alternatives to jail and or prison time should be the goal of your attorney. There are many drug rehabilitation programs available for those who can afford it. There are also “sober living” houses, which typically are more affordable and are designed more for those who are on their way to recovery. Sober living houses are a sort of second step in the recovery process and can be a very successful tool for someone who is serious about getting and staying sober.

Other alternatives include Prop 36 and PC 1000. For more information on these programs see the link provided.

Every county and every courthouse has it’s own way of doing things. It is important to have an attorney who is familiar with how things work in the County where your case is pending. An attorney who is experienced in defending drug related charges and who has a good relationship with the Judges, prosecutors, probation officers and the court staff, will be in a much better position to get the best possible outcome for their client.

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Thousands are sent to California prisons every year as a result of law enforcement agencies aggressive crack down on drug trafficking. Undercover operations can last a year or longer before an actual arrest is made. This was true in an operation that lasted a year and ended with the arrest of 16 people in Santa Ana, on suspicion of being involved in illegal distribution of narcotics. The distribution of narcotics operation included distributing crack cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

Often times, many of those arrested and/or convicted are innocent and many are drug addicts who are in need of treatment. Addressing a person’s drug addiction is much more effective than sending them to prison.

Transporting, importing and selling or distributing controlled substances is a felony in California. This is also known as drug trafficking.

Transportation of Narcotics: Is when an individual or group knowingly transfers the substances from one place to another. Whether the amount is small or large, transporting drugs is considered a serious offense.

Drug distribution: Is the act of selling narcotics to others.

The consequences of drug transportation and/or distribution vary depending on several factors. Some of the mitigating factors include:

1. The type of drug,
2. The location,
3. The amount, and
4. Whether or not minors are involved.

Consequences of being convicted of drug transportation or drug distribution may include the following:

1. A long prison sentence,
2. Large fines,
3. Parole or probation which may include, drug testing, rehab, counseling, and search and seizure of property,
4. Being required to register as a narcotics offender,
5. Forfeiture of assets, and
6. Deportation (if not a U.S. citizen).

If you are found guilty of importing large quantities of narcotics from another country, the penalties are much more severe.

As a criminal defense attorney who has defended many individuals for drug transportation and sales, I am aware of the many important factors associated with this crime. I pay close attention to all details but two very critical details are: the quantity of drugs and, prior criminal record, specifically prior drug convictions. The quantity will point to the question of whether or not the drugs were for personal use or distribution. Someone with a prior conviction of sales of narcotics could be facing a minimum 3-year enhancement, which is added to the time he would serve if convicted on the new drug charge.

As an experienced criminal defense attorney, I am well aware and equipped to utilize the best defenses and/or sentence alternatives to get the best result possible. For example, drug treatment would be more appropriate than jail time. Especially for non-violent individuals who may suffer with a drug problem. Depending upon the situation, there are alternatives.

In California, if you qualify, you could be eligible for Proposition 36, which would allow substance abuse treatment instead of jail time, or Diversion, is another alternative, which would allow the case to be dismissed after a period of time if all requirements were fulfilled. There is also Drug Court, which is a program that involves supervision and treatment.

There are alternatives and therefore, it is critical that anyone being charged which a seriuos drug charge needs the representation of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

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