Federal Appeals Court Bars DOJ From Prosecuting Medical Marijuana Cases

On August 16, 2016, a three- judge panel of the 9th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals (this is the federal appellate court that covers California) ruled against the Federal Government, holding the Department of Justice (DOJ) cannot prosecute marijuana cases when a STATE permits medical marijuana &/or a business or individual is in compliance with state law.

In 2014, Congress passed a bill known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment that DOJ cannot use any of its funding in any given fiscal year to interfere with medical marijuana laws in the states. In other words, the Federal Government is barred from preventing states from how they regulate the use or sale of marijuana.

This is a victory for proponents of medical marijuana laws, but there are two apparent limitations:

  • The cases will likely turn on whether there is strict compliance with the relevant conditions of state law; and
  • The Congressional appropriation restriction noted above expires 9/30/16 and, unless Congress passes a new bill to extend that prohibition, it will soon expire.

This is a unique situation inasmuch as the Federal Government has not updated its laws for40-50 years while approximately 41 states authorize at least one form of medical marijuana use. Some commentators argue the Federal Government is out of step with [what seems] a growing trend in a majority of states

We can expect to see new legislation by Congress regarding this subject very soon.

 

Unintended Consequences of Criminal Offenders Being Transferred from State Prison to County Jail

The growing population of over 150,000 inmates in state prisons in California has exceeded the level the U.S. Supreme Court opined in 2011 is permissible. There has been litigation in Federal Court to obtain a more speedy reduction of the state prison population, and a new law has been enacted as a result of the Governor and Legislature in California establishing the state’s prison realignment; this is the name given to transferring inmates to county jails to reduce the state prison population to about 110,000. A Federal three-judge court previously set June, 2013 as the deadline for California to reduce by over 37% its state prison population beyond each prison’s building capacity. The date was recently extended to February, 2016.  This narrative has been based upon the perceived challenge of the State of California to provide adequate health care to inmates.

The Federal Court allowed this additional period of time subject to transferring state prisoners to private correctional centers and county jails in California, but not any longer to out of state facilities. This was also based upon, among other reasons, the representation of Governor Brown that shorter sentences would be imposed on non-violent criminals; issuing additional good behavior credits to prisoners so they could be eligible for an earlier release; speeding up and expanding early parole for those over 65 years of age with at least 25 years in prison; along with those who are medically incapacitated, as well as expanding the rehabilitation programs provided to inmates.

The problem is not simply the transfer of inmates to County Jails, but now the local detention facilities statewide are overcrowded. Moreover, it has been alleged there is an even greater conundrum in that far more sophisticated criminals are now incarcerated in County Jails.  For example, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department that oversees the jails in this County has reported there has been an increased number of drugs being smuggled into the jails; this drug trade that previously was typical of state prisons has now become a serious problem in county jails.  It has been reported there were 221 of these drug and alcohol cases in the San Diego County Jails in 2012, which constitutes over a 50% increase from that in 2011. There was a total of 279 of such cases in 2013, and about 335 of these particular cases between January and September, 2014.

To better address one of  these problems, San Diego has installed body scanners at a cost of $150, 000 each unit and $10,000 each year to provide service and maintenance. This month, the County Board of Supervisors also approved spending more than three-quarters of a million dollars to obtain four additional scanners and for a five year maintenance agreement. Besides visitors hiding contraband, some of those picked up for minor probation and parole violations have been smuggling drugs into the jails, as they may only be incarcerated for up to 10 days.

But what is the best solution? Clearly, we need to implement greater rehabilitation and educational programs. For the most part, we are spending the money to incarcerate people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs, have a mental illness and/or do not have sufficient education and labor skills, when rehabilitation will have a far greater impact on this growing societal problem. Many advocates believe it can help to let local and state legislators know our political views, and of course, to become more involved in community programs.

 

 

Should law Enforcement Be Permitted to Stop and Search on the Basis of an Anonymous Tip of Reckless Driving?

In the U.S. Supreme Court case of PRADO NAVARETTE et al. v. CALIFORNIA, 12-9490 (April 22, 2014), the Court held the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was not violated and, therefore, the traffic stop by a CHP law enforcement in which the officer searched the bed of a pickup truck and found about thirty pounds of marijuana was lawful since he had a reasonable suspicion of criminality, smelling marijuana and having a belief the driver was intoxicated.as a result of an anonymous tip given by a 911 caller.

The Dissenting opinion in this case captured the essence of the issue by writing a compelling summary stating all of us are at risk of losing our freedom of movement by an anonymous telephone tip such as this one regarding a reckless driver, whether true or false. Further, other opponents of these types of searches argue law enforcement should not be able to stop and search the public on an en masse basis. Criminal and constitutional lawyers maintain this Supreme Court opinion constitutes a further loss of our freedom to be secure from government intrusion.

Senate Committee Approves Eliminating and Reducing Certain Criminal Sentences

On January 30, 2014, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would abolish mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders who do not have a prior criminal history, as well as reducing by 50% mandatory minimum sentences for specified nonviolent drug offenses. The proposed law among other things eliminates mandatory minimum sentences if there is a finding by the Judge that the defendant does not have any previous conviction for crimes involving a firearm, violence, terrorism, a sex offense, racketeering or conspiracy involving illegal drugs. It would also reduce mandatory minimum sentences from 20 to 10 years, from 10 to five years, and from five to two years. There would be no change lowering the maximum sentence.

Opponents believe this law could result in prosecutors being unable to curtail gangs and drug organizations (drug cartels, etc.). Moreover, it is argued that there are very few criminals in federal prison for only simple drug possession, and the rest are mainly drug dealers that are the subject of the bill.

Proponents site the overcrowding and excessive costs of our Federal prisons, the latter estimate being as much as $3 billion over 10 years. They also claim the current laws do not sufficiently distinguish career criminals from low level offenders, and further that nonviolent drug offenses only would be the subject of the new law if it is passed by the full Senate, and goes through the rest of the process in which new laws are made.

Man Arrested & Government Seize Nearly $900,000 in Marijuana

A United States citizen was arrested for drug trafficking near the San Diego-Mexico border over the weekend. The 59-year-old allegedly attempted to smuggle almost $900,000 worth of marijuana into the U.S.  The arrest took place after authorities noticed a person hiding in a bush several yards away from the international line.

Officers discovered the suspect transferring bundles from a Dodge Ram into a motor home and then proceeded to question him. They determined the man was engaging in a smuggling operation. Agents found 40 packages of cannabis, with an estimated street value of $857,000.

 

Police arrest four drug suspects following high-speed chase

 

A high-speed chase in San Diego ended with the arrest of four individuals who are now facing drug charges.

 

According to the report, authorities had information that led them to believe the vehicle was involved in narcotics trafficking or use.

However, the driver refused to pull over when asked and instead led police on a pursuit during rush hour. With the help of a police helicopter, the suspects were captured shortly after leading an officer down an embankment.

An investigation led to the discovery of meth, drug paraphernalia, and a firearm inside the abandoned vehicle. In addition to narcotics charges, the suspects also face felony evading and failure to yield.

Methamphetamine is a growing problem throughout San Diego

Methamphetamine drug use and distribution are some of the most prevent drug crimes in San Diego. According to this news report, methamphetamine killed an estimated 174 people in this Southern California city in the year 2012.“It’s prevalent and I don’t know if people know how much it is,” said the founder of a rehab facility for teen and adult addicts.
In the 90s, San Diego became known as the meth capital of the world because of an increase in labs that emerged throughout the city. Methamphetamine drug use and problems in San Diego did not end there. Today, meth is considered to be the number 1 reason why people seek rehabilitation.

DEA says San Diego drug ring stops with arrests

Despite the beauty that is San Diego, it is not free from the perils of crime. Due to location and accessibility, San Diego is often home to a plethora of drug crimes. The article referenced below is a great example of the threat that drug crimes pose. A total of 13 individuals have been arrested by federal officials and as a result, a drug ring that was bringing methamphetamine and cocaine into San Diego County was stopped.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the drug ring was profiting highly from the drug ring. Out of the 12 suspects that were arrested on Wednesday, 7 are from Vista and two from San Marcos. The rest are believed to be from Spring Valley, Los Angeles, and Oceanside. The arrests are a result of a year-long investigation.

 

8 Year Old Removed From Home After Deputies Find Meth

An 8-year-old California boy was removed from his home after adults in the residence were arrested for various drug charges. Deputies found methamphetamine and arrested the 6 adults on several charges, including probably cause of using a controlled substance and a felony bench warrant.  A 51-year-old woman at the resident was arrested on probable cause of willful cruelty to a child without injury or death and several drug charges. The rest of the adults were charged for possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia drug charges.  A San Diego County Sheriff’s Deputy stated that only two suspects were in possession of meth and that the others were under the influence of the ring.  Although two juveniles were found in the home, an 8-year-old and a 17-year-old, the youngest was the only one taken into custody.

 

 

 

22 students arrested in drug sting (Sam Spital)

COMMENTARY BY SAM SPITAL, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY- SAN DIEGO:

“Fox 5 digital news reported on December 12, 2012 an illegal drug ring was discovered by an undercover drug investigation in which officers posed as students in several high school campuses in the Temecula Valley area of Riverside County, a community adjacent to San Diego. In total there were 22 arrests of which 20 minors were taken to Juvenile Hall and 2 adult students taken into custody were arrested for sales of narcotics and child endangerment. Seized in the sting were cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine (meth), ecstasy, LSD, marijuana and illegal prescription drugs.

It strains credulity that so many of our youth fall into the trap of experimenting with and/or using drugs to feel good. Life has many challenges, but equally true is the fact there are far greater opportunities. However, we have to question whether our schools are providing sufficient information, case studies and material in their curriculum as well as using appropriate resources to build self-esteem, positive values, goals and dreams to motivate students to achieve happiness. Instead, far too many students experiment with drugs in order to get ‘high.’ Substituting artificial, extremely dangerous and addictive drugs only to provide an extremely short lived result can only lead to a trap as in the case of quick sand, offering no long term pleasure, relief &/or remedy while posing the risk of a life time of further complications as well as death. Although so much money is spent to solve social ills and problems, it hardly seems to have had a sufficient impact to reduce the scourge of illegal possession, use and sales of drugs and narcotics.”

–Sam Spital