Attorney Scott Campbell

Criminal Defense Attorney

Category: Drugs

A Whiff, But Not a Breath of Fresh Air

A Whiff, But Not a Breath of Fresh Air. For years, the government has been touting their success in taking drug dealer’s assets, thus advancing their war on drugs.  What they have consistently denied is what is, in war, euphemistically called “collateral damage.”  The government shows many millions of dollars alongside great quantities of drugs and proudly proclaims that they got the drugs and the profits.  What they don’t tell is the rest of the story.

A Whiff, But Not a Breath of Fresh Air

A Whiff, But Not a Breath of Fresh Air

What they don’t show is innocent people who accumulate cash in savings or a cash-intensive business who are stopped by police and have to prove their money was legally acquired.  The government will seize the money, then call an “expert” police witness to say the way the money was packaged or carried was indicative of drug proceeds.  However, I have seen these “experts” say money carried in a roll, folded in half, carried in bundles of round amounts, put in plastic, put in paper bags, or just not carried the way most people carry pocket money (a few dollars in a wallet) in indicative of drug money.  In other words, any way you carry money is indicative of drug money.

A Judge, who has presided over countless drug trials, then finds “by a preponderance of the evidence” (51%), that the money was drug money and the government seizes it.  Often, maybe more often, the amount is just a few thousand dollars and the victim of the seizure doesn’t want to pay an attorney more that is at stake to try to recover it.

A Whiff, But Not a Breath of Fresh Air

Put another way, imagine you have a nice watch…one that cost a couple thousand dollars.  A police officer says drug dealers have nice watches and takes it from you.  An attorney would cost more than the value of the watch, so you don’t hire one.  An “expert” police officer then testifies that drug dealers wear nice watches, so the Judge says the government can have your watch…even though you were never charged with a crime.

The Arizona legislature, in an uncommon change in the law of forfeiture, has given us a whiff of fresh air.  Now, the Judge has to find by “clear and convincing evidence” that the money was illegally obtained.  In addition, if the person whose money was taken “substantially prevails” at the hearing, the State has to pay his attorney fees.  Finally, the Attorney General has to approve a city or county spending any forfeited funds, meaning they have to be spent only on what they are legally allowed to be spent on…with oversight.

Hear the police howling?  I can.  But, it is just a whiff of fresh air.  A true breath would be to release any money taken where no criminal conviction ensued, without the need for lawyers, hearings, and “expert” police testimony.  That would be a true breath of fresh air.

A Whiff, But Not a Breath of Fresh Air

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Arizona Drug Crimes

Arizona Drug Crimes – What are the punishments? Today’s guest blog is by Powers Law, P.C in West Islip, NY.

Punishments for drug crimes in Arizona can vary, depending on a number of factors, namely the illegal substance in possession, the amount of said substance, the person’s previous criminal record, more specifically their record of drug-related crimes.

Arizona Drug Crimes

Arizona Drug Crimes

Those convicted of drug crimes in Arizona can be penalized heavily with jail time, probation and fines which can reach up to $150,000 for drug charges for individuals and $1,000,000 for drug charges for enterprises.

Illegal substances and their classifications

Possession charges carry different punishments depending on the drug that the person is being charged with possessing.

Possession of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor, but it is most often charged as a class 6 Felony offense. A class 6 Felony offense is punishable by up to 2 years in prison.

Possession of narcotic drugs is considered a class 4 Felony offense in Phoenix. There are many different drugs that may be classified as a narcotic drug in Arizona, including cocaine, crack, heroin and prescription drugs. A class 4 Felony offense is punishable by up to 3.75 years in prison.

Possession of dangerous drugs is also classified as a class 4 Felony offense. Dangerous Drugs include a variety of different drugs such as Methamphetamine, PCP, Ecstasy, Mushrooms, and LSD. A class 4 felony is punishable by up to 3.75 years in prison.

Arizona Drug Crimes

Charges for single offenses

For a possession for personal use charge, the court generally gives probation to first-time offenders. Completing a drug treatment or education program is one of the probation conditions, and the court requires defendants to bear the cost of the program to the extent that they are financially capable of doing so. Probation is also common for second-time offenders, but the court may make incarceration a condition of probation. Various other circumstances affect whether the court imposes incarceration for these offenses or not.

The more serious offenses of distribution, transportation, etc., are class 2 felonies with maximum sentences of several years in prison if they involve narcotics, a listed “dangerous drug,” or more than 2 pounds of marijuana. Methamphetamine is singled out for an even higher maximum penalty.

Charges for multiple offenses

Most drug charges in Arizona involve multiple offenses. This means that the defendant is accused of several illegal acts based on the same event. For example, possession of a drug combined with possession of drug paraphernalia, or both transportation for sale and the actual sale. For multiple offense cases, Arizona provides a comprehensive scheme based on whether it is the first, second, or third and higher offense, and whether the quantity of drugs exceeds the statutory threshold amount.

The penalties cover a broad range even for the same offense. For example, a class 2 felony that is a second offense involves a quantity below the threshold amount, and the presence of other mitigating factors draws a 3-year sentence. If the class 2 felony is a third-time or higher offense, involves drug quantities above the threshold amount, and other aggravating factors, then it draws a 15-year sentence.

Arizona Drug Crimes

Author Bio:

Competent attorneys at Powers Law, P.C provide strong representation for family law, commercial litigation, and real estate cases.

Proposed Change in Federal Marijuana Law; a Tip of the Hat to Federalism

I am seldom stunned by what is done in Washington. I simply chalk new things I hear up to the continuing march of the American Lemmings down the path to completely centralized government.  In the past few days, however, I heard a proposal that truly surprised me.

In response to many States passing laws that, to one extent or another, allow people to possess and use marijuana, there is a proposal in congress to change marijuana from a Schedule I drug to another category, allow the possession and use in those States that allow it, tax it, and move enforcement of marijuana laws from the DEA to the ATF (to be renamed Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana, and Firearms).

Wow.  What an idea.  Letting people do what they want.  Letting States decide such momentous things as regulating the use of a substance.  Letting people who reside in States decide to have different laws than other States.  Allowing social norms to be decided on a (more) local level.  Federalism.

After many, many years of the federal government deciding such things as how much water can be in your toilet tank, they finally present an idea for consideration on what the State government can decide you can put in your body.  I know, it is a small stem to personal freedom, but it is a surprising one nonetheless.  I actually think this is like 1968 when there was a critical mass of people who wanted Washington to get out of Viet Nam.  It took a huge grass-roots groundswell to get them to change.  Now, after 15 or so States thumbed their noses at Washington, Big Brother has finally seen a groundswell.

Don’t get too excited.  Republicans still think it is the evil weed.  Also, it took from ’68 to ’75 to get out of Viet Nam.  But it is a start.

Arizona Medical Marijuana Laws Are Fraught With Danger

Two years ago, voters in Arizona passed a citizen’s initiative that legalized medical marijuana.  The law (actually a series of statutes) legalizes some things, prohibits others, and creates many shades of gray.

When the initiative passed, I became intimately familiar with it, parsing the minutiae to find out exactly what was allowed and what was not.  I found that the laws, written by an activist group, left much to be desired for clarity.

Many people, perhaps over 200, have been referred to me to consult on what is allowed, what is not allowed, and how gray certain areas are.  I have heard many business plans, especially those involving the sparsely-addressed area of “caregiver,” that sought to profit from growing and selling marijuana.  Almost always, the person said he was not “selling” marijuana, but was taking a “donation” for some service.  I won’t go into the plans, or my advice, here.

In addition to consulting on the ins and outs of the laws, I have represented people charged with crimes involving marijuana where the medical marijuana laws impacted the charges.  I have been able to have over 20 felony charges thrown out because of the confusion in the laws.

What I find now, though, is disconcerting.  I am seeing a trend of people either listening to others who do not know the law and doing illegal things and, worse, I see people I have counseled doing it “their way” and being charged with crimes.  I don’t like being in the position of saying to someone charged with a crime “why didn’t you follow my advice?”

The Maricopa County Attorney and the Arizona Attorney General are making every legal effort to have the Arizona medical marijuana laws voided.  This should tell you something; they think marijuana is evil and they will prosecute you if you violate the medical marijuana laws even slightly.

Before you decide to get involved in medical marijuana, please consult with someone who knows the laws, and follow their advice.  If the police show up, realize that they may or may not know the law, don’t consent to any search, and above all don’t talk to the police.  Call a lawyer.

The Failed Attempt To Outlaw Drugs

I read this article by John Stossel.  (edited for space)  It states my opinion of the “war on drugs.”

 

Forty years ago, the United States locked up fewer than 200 of every 100,000 Americans. Then President Nixon declared war on drugs. Now we lock up more of our people than any other country — more even than the authoritarian regimes in Russia and China.

A war on drugs — on people, that is — is unworthy of a country that claims to be free.  Unfortunately, this outrage probably won’t be discussed in Tampa or Charlotte.

The media (including Fox News) run frightening stories about Mexican cocaine cartels and marijuana gangs. Few of my colleagues stop to think that this is a consequence of the war and that decriminalization would end the violence. There are no wine “cartels” or beer “gangs.” No one “smuggles” liquor. Liquor dealers are called “businesses,” not gangs, and they “ship” products instead of “smuggling” them. They settle disputes with lawyers rather than with guns.

Everything can be abused, but that doesn’t mean government can stop it. Government runs amok when it tries to protect us from ourselves.

“Our discomfort with the idea of heroin available at drugstores is similar to that of a Prohibitionist shuddering at the thought of bourbon at the corner store. We’ll get over it.” – John McWhorter

Drug-related crime occurs because the drugs are available only through the artificially expensive black market. Drug users steal not because drugs drive them to steal. Our government says heroin and nicotine are similarly addictive, but no one robs convenience stores to get Marlboros. (That could change with confiscatory tobacco taxes.)

Are defenders of the drug war aware of the consequences? I don’t think so.

John McWhorter, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, indicts the drug war for “destroying black America.” McWhorter, by the way, is black.

McWhorter sees prohibition as the saboteur of black families. “Enduring prison time is seen as a badge of strength. It’s regarded (with some justification) as an unjust punishment for selling people something they want. The ex-con is a hero rather than someone who went the wrong way.”

He enumerates the positive results from ending prohibition. “No more gang wars over turf, no more kids shooting each other. … Men get jobs, as they did in the old days, even in the worst ghettos, because they have to.”

Would cheaper and freely available drugs bring their own catastrophe? “Our discomfort with the idea of heroin available at drugstores is similar to that of a Prohibitionist shuddering at the thought of bourbon at the corner store. We’ll get over it.”

The media tell us that some drugs are so powerful that one “hit” or “snort” will hook the user forever. But the government’s own statistics disprove that. The National Institutes of Health found that 36 million Americans have tried crack. But only 12 percent have used it in the previous year, and fewer than six percent have used it in the previous month. If crack is so addictive, how did 88 percent of the users quit?

If drugs were legal, I suppose that at first more people would try them. But most would give them up. Eventually, drug use would diminish, as it has in Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs, and the Netherlands, which allows legal marijuana. More young men would find real jobs; police could focus on real crime.

If we as adults own our own bodies, we ought to get to control what we put in them. It’s legitimate for government to protect me from reckless drivers and drunken airline pilots — but not to protect me from myself.