Category Archives: Drugs

Sombebody Didn’t “Warn a Brother”

warna brotherI’ve seen the shirt that reads “If you see the police WARN A BROTHER” shirt around a few times. It’s a funny play on the similar-sounding Warner Brothers, and the text superimposed on the WB logo. It’s funny, I giggled, check it out in the mug shot.

Well, a guy in Fort Myers apparently takes it more seriously. I’ll call him by his first name, Anthony, since it’s just a misdemeanor. An FMPD officer says he was acting suspicious on the sidewalk, and when he walked over to investigate, he dropped a partially smoked marijuana cigarette.The cop says he saw Anthony try to hand something to a friend, and then hide his arms behind his back, but you gotta think he saw the shirt. You just KNOW he saw the shirt…

Why didn’t anyone Warn a brother?

When people say that people don’t really go to jail for marijuana, they are wrong.

Collier Deputy gets a DUI – in his Patrol Vehicle

Collier County Sheriff’s Deputy Scott Russell has been arrested for a DUI. He was involved in a crash while in his patrol vehicle, and taken to the hospital. Interestingly, while the arresting officer found signs of impairment, apparently there were no indicators of alcohol abuse. That would suggest, by process of elimination, that they may believe he was impaired by a controlled substance. (Note, many prescription drugs qualify as controlled substances.)

FMPD Ought to Release the Video of the Questionable Search

News reports have surfaced this week that people are accusing FMPD officers of an improper, invasive search. Michael McDonald was pulled over by officers, who say they smelled a strong odor of marijuana. They sought to search Mr. McDonald, and gave him a pat down. Officers indicate they felt something that felt like a baggie, and that when they asked McDonald about it, he became “very uncooperative and hostile” toward officers. However, they also indicate that he admitted that it was a bag containing marijuana.

michael mcdonald

Michael McDonald

Mr. McDonald then agreed to retrieve the marijuana, and handed it to officers. They patted him down again, and felt something else concealed in his pants. And that’s where things started to go really wrong.

Officers say McDonald did not respond to their commands, They say he tried to kick an officer in the face (leading to a felony charge for resisting with violence). Officers literally held his legs down. They physically spread his legs and cut his underwear to recover baggies containing heroin and cocaine from inside his undergarments. He alleges that they further probed his rectum with a finger during the search.

When NBC-2 first aired the story, they included a response from Chief Eads, who indicates he has seen both the cell-phone video, and the officer body-cam videos and that no cavity search occurred. I said, hey, that’s a great reason for officers to wear body-cams… so that if they are accused of something they didn’t do, the video evidence can exonerate them. I think body cams will be more of a help to law enforcement than a hindrance.

Then, NBC-2 reported the following day that they have made a public records request for the videos, but the police department has refused to release them. That’s a bad look, FMPD. If the video shows what you say it shows, then RELEASE THE VIDEO!

FMPD told NBC they weren’t releasing the video because there is an ongoing criminal investigation (which is an exception to the Sunshine Laws on public records). That sounds at least a little questionable, as Mr. McDonald was arrested and charged that day: which was 2 weeks ago. It sure sounds like they are claiming that an investigation is ongoing, to avoid releasing the video. Again, bad look FMPD. If the video exonerates your officers, release the video! Don’t make excuses.

Seriously, the news story might be over by now if the video proves that the officers did nothing wrong.

There still may be an issue with the way the search was handled, even if there was no cavity search. While an odor of marijuana gives officers sufficient probable cause to conduct a search, and search that involves removing or arranging clothing to “permit a visual or manual inspection” of private areas is governed by Florida’s strip search statute,Fla. Stat. Sec. 901.201. That statute says that such a search must be conducted “…on premises where the search cannot be observed by persons not physically conducting or observing the search…” The fact that such searches are being performed in public, on the roadside, in full view of people with camera phones, does not sound like it is in compliance with the statutory strictures. Of course, we’ll have a better idea when FMPD releases the video.

NBC has also reported on a similar incident involving an allegedly invasive search, also on video, just a few weeks prior and only a short distance away from Mr. McDonald’s search. As a criminal law practitioner, I have seen cases where officers just grabbed people shorts and pulled them down on the side of the road, so there may be a policy training issue with local law enforcement (it is not limited to FMPD). Or maybe not. Maybe they have done nothing wrong, as the chief said. Many of these questions will be answered when they meet their statutory obligation under the Sunshine law to release the video. If it’s bad, don’t cover it up. If it exonerates the officers, the city should want the video released!

Woman Arrested after Motorized WalMart Cart Ride

Only in Florida:

josselleen lopez

Josseleen Lopez

A Citrus County woman, Josseleen Lopez, was detained by store staff after taking a bite of sushi, and putting it back on the shelf. She had a half-empty bottle of wine and a mostly-eaten rotisserie chicken on her cart as she road around the Walmart. After her arrest, officers found drug paraphernalia and she admitted she had recently smoked meth.

She has been charged with petty theft and possession of paraphernalia. She could have been charged with underage possession of alcohol, and theoretically could have gotten a DUI on the motorized shopping cart: which would qualify as a vehicle under Florida law.

A Look at the real Cost of Prosecuting Marijuana Cases

 

weed reefer

Marijuana concerns

NBC-2 took a look at the actual cost to taxpayers of the prosecution of marijuana offenses. As a sample, they found that on one day there were 29 offenders in the Collier County jail for misdemeanor marijuana offenses. At a cost of more than $100 per day to house them, that totaled over $3,000.00 in incarceration fees- just for one day! Lee county, with a larger population, likely has even more marijuana offenders.

The costs calculated by NBC does not include the other costs: costs for the prosecutor’s office, court administration fees, and legal defense costs (because it’s a criminal offense, all defendants are entitled to have an attorney, and the state pays if they cannot afford it.) Some of these costs are offset by imposing financial assessments to the defendants… but the guys (and gals) in jail won’t be paying them.

Further, and one of the main complaints of those who are challenging are the collateral consequences: people are burdened with the stigma of arrest, they are followed around by their convictions and mug shots, and in Florida, a conviction also leads to a mandatory driver’s license suspension! That makes it even harder for people to put their mistakes behind them and to be productive members of society: if they can’t drive, a lot of people lose their jobs, for instance. That’s why it’s imperative to get an experienced criminal law attorney to represent you if you get arrested- even if it’s ‘just a little weed’.

Pablo Escobar’s Hippos are still Running Wild

hippos

Hippos

Pablo Escobar, notorious kingpin of the Medellin drug cartel in Columbia in the 1980’s, was known for this extravagances in that poor country. In addition to giving money, housing, and soccer fields to the poor, he own vast estates on which he built palaces, and imported wild animals for his personal zoo. Most of the animals were captured and disbursed to zoos after his death, but apparently they couldn’t handle the Hippos, and left a small, but viable breeding population in a pond.

Fast forward three decades, and the four Hippos have bred into a population of more than 60, and with no natural predators in South America, they are beginning to become a problem. Locals are somewhat enamored with them, and protested when one was shot a while back, but now a drought has forced them into closer contact with populated areas. Scientists are working on a program to sterilize them, but are waiting on the special dart guns needed to sedate them.

In the meantime… stay away. While vegetarian, Hippos are extremely defensive and dangerous to humans.

Wait, what’s this got to do with a criminal law blog? Well, Pablo Escobar was probably the biggest criminal of the 20th century– sorry Al Capone. But really, I just wanted to talk about Hippos. Also, check out the amusement park they made out of Escobar’s old ranch, Hacienda Napoles… I guess featuring Hippos.

The NEW Worst Place to Hide Your Drugs

Crime Photo from Mexican Federal Police

Crime Photo from Mexican Federal Police

Mexican authorities were investigating an accident, when they discovered 55 pounds of packets that appear to be cocaine… in the dashboard where the passenger airbag should have been. There was a passenger in the vehicle when it crashed, and he did not survive. An Airbag might have helped.

It’s possible that had there been an airbag, the passenger still might not have survived. The driver’s airbag did deploy, bu the was also killed due to his injuries. However, I stand by my thesis that it’s a bad idea to put drugs in place of your airbag.

Don’t do drugs.