Articles Posted in Drugs

Broward County commissioners have voted unanimously to slash the punishment for those caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana. The measure allows a person to be issued a civil citation instead of an arrest if:

–The amount of the drug with which they are caught is 20 grams or less;
–The person did not also commit domestic violence, DUI or some other felony;
–The person has not had three or more prior citations for marijuana possession.

Commissioners at this point have taken it as far as they can. They cannot decriminalize a drug that is illegal under state (and technically, federal) law. That means police and prosecutors will be given discretion. They can choose to issue a citation that comes with a civil fine, or they can treat the offense as a misdemeanor.

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A former pediatric surgeon who was later in retirement worked part-time for a pain clinic in Palm Beach County has been acquitted of murder charges related to the fatal overdose of a 24-year-old patient on Oxycodone. However, the 81-year-old physician was convicted of “selling” (over-prescribing) high quantities of Xanax to a patient – coincidentally a former chef for Donal Trump, no a U.S. Republican presidential candidate – who was undergoing treatment for substance abuse addiction.pills8.jpg

The patient did not die, but the charge is still a third-degree felony, for which the doctor could face up to five years in prison. However, there is no minimum mandatory, so it will be up to the jurors and judge to decide the sentencing. The case was connected to a one-time “pill mill empire,” which involved a $40 million operation with clinics in both Palm Beach and Broward Counties.

The two twin brothers who owned the operation – now serving 15- and 20-year prison sentences – testified against the doctor. He faced 11 charges, including second-degree murder, drug conspiracy and drug trafficking.
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A number of cities are weighing local proposals to reduce the penalties for low-level possession of marijuana. The measures would effectively decriminalize possessing the drug in small amounts for personal possession. firstbuds.jpg

So far, council members in Miami Beach and commissioners in Miami-Dade County have offered preliminary support for an action that would reduce possession of cannabis from a misdemeanor to a civil offense. Hallandale Beach commissioners are also weighing a similar proposal.

Instead of offenders facing jail time and a criminal record, they would instead be cited for a civil infraction and fined $100.
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Four people in South Florida have been arrested for trafficking in synthetic drugs that were reportedly ordered from a group of Tampa residents from suppliers in China, who then shipped the drugs to various locations throughout South and Central Florida.
According to the Sun-Sentinel’s recent report, the operation allegedly netted the four Florida-based traffickers funneled millions of dollars worth of synthetic marijuana into the state.

The substance goes by the street name “Spice,” and its a concoction of chemicals whose effects are supposed to mimic those of marijuana.
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The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The law requires that with only a few exceptions, law enforcement officers have to get a warrant before they can conduct a search and seizure upon a suspect.
Most modern technology we enjoy today – cell phones and computers in particular – did not exist when these protections were written. That means legislators and the courts are constantly trying to keep pace in determining how and when these laws apply and what exactly constitutes a “search” in the digital sphere.

Cases like the recent Kendrick v. Florida, before Florida’s First District Court of Appeal, underscore this point.
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Police officers may not enter one’s dwelling, absent consent by owner or a warrant, except in the most extreme circumstances. Such a case might involve the reasonable belief that someone inside is in danger.
Beyond that, any evidence collected as a result of unlawful entry – no matter how powerful – may not be used against a defendant in a court of law.

This point was underscored yet again in the recent case of Milam v. Commonwealth, wherein officers entered a fraternity house connected to a Kentucky university without a warrant.
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In criminal prosecutions in Florida, the state has to establish a “chain of custody” for certain kinds of evidence in order for it to be admitted.
Prosecutors have to show that what they are offering into evidence is exactly what they purport it to be. For example, the drugs being shown to the judge and jury are exactly the drugs that were found on the defendant, or the pieces of clothing are the exact garments that were stolen from a given store in a shoplifting case.

In order to prove that those items are one in the same, prosecutors have to show who had possession of those items at all times between the time they were seized by law enforcement until the time of trial. This is the “chain of custody.” It’s the reason why storage of evidence is often critical in criminal cases, particularly when certain exhibits may have been altered or tested. A break in the chain of custody could result in suppression of evidence, which is typically an advantage for the defense.
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In the recent case of Green v. Florida, a man convicted of trafficking cocaine appealed on several grounds, most notably for the fact the court allowed officers to testify he was arrested in a high-crime neighborhood.

Although the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld conviction, it wrote to address this particular issue (rejecting without comment claims of entrapment and improper admission of hearsay evidence).

According to court records in the case, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms established an undercover operation an economically depressed neighborhood which authorities had designated as “high crime.” An undercover agent worked as manager of the store. The operation was reportedly established to address violent crime, with a focus on drug crimes and firearms violations. A multi-agency task force identified this neighborhood as a target for enforcement using crime mapping statistics.
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For the first time in the history of the Sunshine State, a jury in Broward County acquitted a man for growing a Class I illegal substance based on his argument of medical need.

Defendant was the first in Florida to argue medical need in a marijuana case, despite the fact the drug remains illegal for all purposes.

Dozens of others states in recent years have passed legislation allowing exceptions to the federal prohibition on the drug for those with a proven medical need. Now, there are even a few states who allow the drug to be sold and possessed for recreational purposes. Florida is not one of those states. Last year, a bill that would have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes in Florida was narrowly defeated, though it is expected to be reintroduced at the next election.
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A man previously convicted of drug dealing has been given another trial, after Florida’s First District Court of Appeal ruled certain testimony from a law enforcement officer was improperly admitted.
According to court records in Smith v. Florida, an officer, over the objection of defense counsel, detailed the “typical” drug dealing patterns and likened them to the actions of defendant.

Citing the 2010 ruling in the case of Austin v. State, justices ruled this was improper. Specifically, it “invaded the province of the jury” with the suggestion that an inference should be drown from the facts before them to the general patterns of criminal behavior. It serves to unfairly prejudice defendant.
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