When you make your living by selling drugs, should you accept some level of responsibility for the safety of your customers? It sounds crazy to apply that level of accountability to an illegal profession, but it’s true. If you sell drugs to someone who then dies from those drugs, you can be held responsible for their death. Such was the case recently when a Leesburg man faced life in prison for selling a 20-year old the oxycodone that led to his death. [Read more…]
Violent Crime Down; Drug Offenses Up in VA
Crime statistics from 2011 were released in the annual crime report Crime in Virginia this past week. According to the report, violent crime was down last year, though drug offenses were on the rise.
The report, released in conjunction with the Virginia State Police, says homicides fell to 3.77 per 100,000 population, after being at 4.61 per 100,000 in 2010. Robberies fell 4%.
Violent crime overall was down 6.2% since 2010.
Property offenses also dropped 2.2%. This includes burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts.
Many states and major metropolitan areas have experienced unexplainable drops in crime over the past several years, shattering the long-held belief that crime rates went up in times of economic hardship. Experts can’t explain why this is.
The only crime segment that seemed to rise, according to the report, was drug offenses. In 2008 and 20009, such offenses fell. But in both 2010 and 2011, they rose again. This past year, they climbed 7.1% since the prior year.
Drug offenses, including everything from marijuana possession to heroin distribution, cover a lot of areas. And because drug problems affect nearly all segments of the population, no one is exempt from possible arrest.
Interestingly, the boom in prescription drug use has led to an increase in heroin usage, even among suburban and rural youth. In the past, when heroin was popular, it was mainly seen in urban settings. But the use of prescription opiates has driven people from the suburbs to seek out the far cheaper and more potential alternative.
The Crime in Virginia report is issued annually by the Virginia State Police. It is designed to provide a snapshot of crime across the state, including the hours at which crimes are committed, who the victims are, and offender characteristics. Much of this information will be shared with the federal government in their annual reports as well.
So what does all of this mean for the person accused of a crime? Not a whole lot. Prosecutors will still go after the “bad guy” with zeal, and judges will still continue to penalize those adjudicated guilty with a heavy hand.
If you are accused of a criminal offense, you need someone working on your behalf in this system where it can seem like everyone is against you. Contact us today for a free consultation and to see how we might be able to help.
Charlottesville man in Police Chase
While few police stops are quite that exciting or dramatic, a recent attempted police stop resulted in a police chase in Augusta County, by vehicle and on foot, resulting in an overturned vehicle and minor injuries for the defendant, and a trip to the Middle River jail.
The news report at NewsLeader.com doesn’t say why the police were originally attempting to pull over Trevis H. Johnson, 28, of Charlottesville, but he was later charged with reckless driving, drug possession, and eluding police.
Typical police stops for reckless driving, the likely cause for the original police attention to the defendant, result in a criminal citation for a Class 1 misdemeanor. This charge is a serious offense, but there are often opportunities to challenge a criminal reckless charge in VA courts.
Drug Charges for Mom When Son Mailed Marijuana to House
Will “Spice” Be Banned In Virginia?
In Virginia, Authorities Crackdown on Prescription Drug Abuse
This week, the Washington Post revealed a massive effort taking place in Northern Virginia to prevent the sale and illegal use of prescription drugs. What is being called “Operation Cotton Candy” began in 2002 and involves law enforcement at local, state, and federal levels. Some are calling it a waste of time and money but the U.S Attorney’s office points to 170 convictions as proof that they are doing something right.
Illicit prescription use is at an all-time high in every state in the nation. Legal with a prescription but highly dangerous without, drugs like Oxycontin are highly addictive and creating a black market that includes people from all walks of life.
According to the Washington Post report, doctors, nurses, and grandmothers have been caught up in Operation Cotton Candy, including one physician who was accused of prescribing an unheard of 1,200 Oxycodone pills per day to a single patient.
People have a tendency to view prescription drugs as somehow safer than drugs like crack or heroin. They think that because they come from a pharmacy and are commonly recommended by doctors, they can’t be as dangerous as these more well-known street drugs. This, unfortunately, couldn’t be further from the truth.
Prescription drugs are highly addictive. Often, addiction begins when the drugs are prescribed for a legitimate reason, an injury for instance. As tolerance builds, you begin taking more and more; and if your supply is cut off, you may take drastic measures to ensure your need for the drugs is satisfied.
Once caught in possession of illegal drugs, prescription or not, a harsh reality check often results. Drug charges like these can end up with years in prison. Handling an addiction becomes especially difficult in a place like that.
If you are facing drug charges like this, or if you are accused of selling prescription drugs, we may be able to help. If this is your first offense, we may be able to get you a second chance.
Contact us today to discuss the details of your case. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you overcome this difficult point in life.
Virginia Dentist Guilty In Drug Distribution
A Tazewell County dentist pled guilty this past week to distribution of hydrocodone (commonly known by the brand name Vicodin). He was writing prescriptions for the pain killer for the last nine years and it finally caught up with him.
Dr. Peter M. Francisco won’t be writing any prescriptions anymore however, as he has lost his privilege to prescribe medication. He also faces up to 15 years in prison according to this report from WVEC. Francisco’s sentencing is scheduled for February 23rd.
The U.S. Attorney on the case states that over a period of 9 years from 2000 to 2009, Francisco wrote prescriptions for over 10,000 of the painkillers to 3 people. These people would fill the orders and return the drugs to Francisco.
In Virginia, possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, whether it is prescriptions drugs, marijuana, or cocaine, is a serious offense. You’re looking at felony charges and years behind bars.
The prosecution will use all sorts of methods to get a conviction in your case and it is your defense attorney’s job to ensure you have the best possible chance at overcoming their charges.
If you are facing serious drug charges like these, an experienced defense team is necessary.
The evidence in your case is crucial. How it was obtained and handled throughout the arrest process can impact your case in a major way. If the evidence was mishandled in any way, we can motion the court to suppress it, keeping it out of your trial altogether.
Often, if this is your first run in with the law, we can work with the prosecutor to set up some sort of plea agreement. Perhaps you are facing years behind bars but we can get the sentences suspended for probation instead.
Knowing the details of your case is crucial in determining the next move to take. Call me today for a free consultation and legal advice on your Virginia drug case.
Special Legislative Session to Address Melendez-Diaz
The Virginia General Assembly passed H5007 in response to the requirements changes for admission of forensic evidence in the Melendez-Diaz case.
The law formalizes a Notice and Demand process for admission of forensic and chemical evidence in drug and DUI cases where a technician would be required to testify in support of documentary evidence.
The prosecuting Commonwealth’s Attorney notifies the defense of it’s intent to use forensice evidence without supporting expert testimony. If the defendant objects, it must do so formally in court. As a result, extra time will be allowed for scheduling the court appearance of the expert needed in the case.
Melendez-Diaz to Increase Use of Virginia Drug Courts and DUI Courts?
An Update on the Previous Melendez-Diaz post:
Forensics blogger Harold Levy notes an interesting comment buried in the News Record article. One delegate suggested that this decision will create some better deals for defendants, and may result in increased use of alternate court dispositions that stress treatment.
Drug courts and DUI courts are alternative sentencing arrangements that can give a first time offender a chance to have a case dismissed after a year. If he or she completes a strict drug or alcohol treatment program, and passes mandatory drug tests or abstains from alcohol, the charged are dropped.
Currently Drug Courts in Virginia are still being used on a largely limited basis. A list of drug courts is here. Currently there is only one DUI court in Virginia, in Fredericksburg. Not all courts have drug court alternatives as an option, and not all prosecutors and judges will go along with it in every eligible case, even if it is available.
And there are downsides to accepting a drug or DUI court disposition. If you fail to complete the program, you are subject to retrial in court, and will likely face much stricter penalties than if you simply plead guilty the first time through.
But for those who complete the program, it is often a very good deal from a criminal defense perspective. And it is a good opportunity to get help with an addition problem. The research on drug courts has shown a lot of success.
It would be a shame if it took prosecutors backed into a corner to increase the use of these well-documented successful programs, that reduce recidivism, decrease the need for costly imprisonment, and truly help Virginia citizens fix their addiction problems and their lives.
If you are accused of a DUI or drug possession in Virginia, give us a call to find out your court options, and what we can do to defend you.
Court Decision a Boon For Drug Possession & DUI Defense in VA
A recent US Supreme Court decision on rules of evidence is a win for defense attorneys, and is causing administrative hassles for prosecutors across the Commonwealth.
In Melendez-Dias v. Massachusetts, the court ruled that forensic evidence reports, such as those identifying controlled substances in drug possession cases, or certifying Breathalyzer machines in DUI cases, are insufficient evidence on their own. The court determined that this evidence violated what is known as the “confrontation clause“, also known as the right to confront one’s accuser in court.
The net result of this decision is that prosecutors must have forensic analysts on hand to support this evidence, and the defense attorney will have an opportunity to cross examine the witnesses. The practical implication of this is that the Commonwealth only has a small number of experts available to testify in court, and there are thousands of potential cases per year where this documentation evidence has been used previously.
Virginia State Legislators Scramble to Adjust to the Reality of Melendez-Diaz
As noted in the Daily News Record and many other Virginia newspapers, the Melendez-Diaz decision is driving a special session of the Virginia General Assembly on Aug 19 to address the issue. Legislators are concerned that if they don’t have an answer quickly, judges many have to dismiss many drunk driving and drug possession, if the prosecutors aren’t able to provide the necessary witnesses.
Governor Kaine has stated that the situation may be able to be addressed administratively, without new legislation necessary. Commonwealth’s Attorneys will have to first file notice of intent to use the documentation without the required witnesses. Presumably many defense attorneys will object, but that legal process will probably buy them time to arrange and schedule the expert witnesses.
The Commonwealth will likely need to provide emergency funding for additional forensics experts to testify in courts across the state. This will probably be the product of the special legislative session.
The bottom line is, this chaos will create some defense opportunities for lawyers in Virginia DUI and drug possession cases.
And if you are an unemployed forensics expert, stay by your phone.