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Posts tagged "cocaine"

Search Warrants Often Lead to "Collateral Damage"

Search warrants often lead to charges against not just the target of the search warrant, but also frequently lead to charges against other people with whom the target lives. Those of us in the criminal justice system such as police, prosecutors and defense attorneys refer to such defendants as "collateral damage," borrowing from the military term referring to civilians who are killed or wounded, when the actual intended target was something of military value to the enemy.
The classic collateral damage search warrant scenario takes place when one housemate or roommate sells an illegal drug to a confidential informant, who has done a controlled drug buy for the police. The confidential informant then tells the drug detective that he saw a massive amount of drugs or weapons in the targeted dealer's residence. The police will then seek a search warrant, hoping that the little eight ball of blow purchased by the CI may lead to the discovery of kilos of cocaine and a large stack of cash. Often times, the police will obtain a search warrant for the entire premises, and not just the dealer's bedroom, especially if contraband was seen in a common area. Invariably, the police will discover drugs and paraphernalia in other bedrooms, because the type of people who are going to sell drugs, usually are not going to be living with straight edge people.
More often than not, collateral damage defendants are only charged with misdemeanors such as drug paraphernalia for possession of drugs for personal use, usually a small amount of marijuana. Sometimes the police also find alcohol and fake IDs, leading to additional charges for underage possession of alcohol and possession of a false identification card by a minor. If enough drugs or other indicia of dealing are found to warrant felony charges against a person who was not the target of the search warrant, then it is debatable as to whether such a defendant can be classified as collateral damage. Defense lawyers would likely call such a defendant collateral damage, while police and prosecutors would tend to reserve the term for mere users with misdemeanor charges.
Sometimes, a defense attorney can successfully challenge the validity of a search warrant for an entire residence. Whether or not the police have probable cause to search an entire residence, and not just a targeted dealer's bedroom, will depend upon the specific facts of each individual case, so it is important for any collateral damage victim/ defendant to talk to an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If the police lacked probable cause to search every room, then a Common Pleas Court judge could grant a motion to quash the search warrant, meaning that any evidence obtained pursuant to an unlawfully issued search warrant cannot be used against the collateral damage defendant. This essentially ends the District Attorney's ability to prosecute the case.
Quite frankly, a lot of drug users enjoy the convenience of living with a dealer. Not only do they have a constant source, but they usually get a combination of price discounts and free drugs. But the downside is that one could easily become a collateral damage victim if the dealer roommate sells to the wrong person. Thus, if you don't want the police ransacking your room, you are better off not living with a drug dealer.

What are Narcotic Drugs?

Perhaps the most misused term in the world of criminal law is "narcotics." Many people who should know better, such as police officers, prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys and crime beat reporters, use the term "narcotic" as a synonym for any illegal drug. Thus, in their use of English, marijuana and cocaine a narcotics, while Oxycodone is a "prescription drug." When I hear such misuse of the term "narcotic" I want to pull out my hair and scream. As a criminal defense attorney interested in linguistics, it is one of my major pet peeves.

Penn State Grad Founded Cyber Drug Market Known as "Silk Road"


It turns out that the founder and operator of the "Silk Road" website, which had frustrated law enforcement for the past several years, has a masters degree from Penn State. Ross Ulbricht, who earned a masters in material science and engineering from Penn State in 2010, was arrested yesterday in San Francisco on a variety of federal charges related to his operation of Silk Road, as well as charges related to a murder for hire plot, in which Ulbricht allegedly sought the murder of someone who was trying to extort money form him, and an employee to had defrauded Silk Road users out of a substantial amount of money.

Santa Muerte Fails to Protect Mexican Drug Dealers in Pennsylvania


Six people have been charged in York County, Pennsylvania with charges related to a cocaine distribution ring, which allegedly distributed the stimulant throughout South Central Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Following the conclusion of "Operation Special Delivery," the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office alleged that the organization was moving three to four kilos of cocaine a month, or the equivalent of 857 to 1,143 eight-balls, a standard unit in which the drug is often sold to users.

Drugs: Bath Salts Remain a Problem in Pennsylvania Despite Ban

Bath salts have been an illegal drug in Pennsylvania since August, 2011. Possession of bath salts is an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $5,000 fine, while the sale or possession with intent to deliver bath salts is an ungraded felony punishable by up to five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine. But banning a drug does not eliminate demand, and where there is a demand, there will usually be a supply.

Judge Pozonsky's Downfall Shows Drug Addiction Can Strike Anyone

Judge Paul Pozonsky, a former Common Pleas Court judge from Washington County in western Pennsylvania, has been charged by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office with restricted activities by a public official, theft, obstruction of justice and possession of a controlled substance, based upon allegations, which appear both bizarre and shocking to anyone familiar with the normal operations of the criminal justice system. The scandal took root when Judge Pozonsky implemented a rather unusual procedural rule in his courtroom. Every county has its own local procedural rules, and sometimes even individual judges within a county have their own unique rules. Keeping track of so many different procedural rules drives lawyers nuts, but in the Judge Pozonsky case, it was the rule itself, which would appear "nuts" to any outside observer. Judge Pozonsky mandated that in all drugs cases, the police were to bring the drugs directly to him prior to trial or a pretrial hearing. The judge would then store the drugs in his chambers until the conclusion of the case. 

Drug-Related Texts and Phone Calls are a Crime


Everyone knows that it is illegal to sell drugs like marijuana, cocaine and heroin, but most people are unaware that under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, using a cell phone or email to set up a drug deal constitutes a separate and distinct criminal offense, aside from the actual drug delivery. This offense is known as "criminal use of a communications facility," and it is a third degree felony punishable by up to seven years in state prison and a $15,000 fine. Criminal use of a communications facility applies to drug sellers using devices like phones or email to set up drug deals, but it does not apply to those using such devices to buy drugs.

In Drug Cases, The First to Squeal Gets the Deal


A lot of people assume that in drug cases, the big fish get the stiffest sentences, while the least culpable receive the most lenient sentences. In a perfectly fair and just world, that would be the case, but that is not the reality of the American justice system. In actuality, the first to squeal usually gets the best deal.

Drug War is a Game of Whac-A-Mole

A recent drug bust in Huntingdon County illustrates the Whack-A-Mole nature of the War on Drugs. On March 28, 2013, the Pennsylvania State Police arrested three people at Huntingdon Motor Inn, recovering 751 stamp bags of heroin, four ounces of cocaine and more than $6,700 in cash from the suspects' rooms, following the execution of a search warrant.

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