A conviction for drug distribution under the federal Controlled Substances Act can carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. "If death or serious bodily injury results from the use of such substance," however, the mandatory minimum sentence doubles to 20 years.
In the federal criminal justice system some 97 percent of all defendants plead guilty -- but are they, really? A recent study by Human Rights Watch certainly casts some doubt in federal drug cases.
In Gonzalez v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2212a (Fla. 4th DCA 2013), Gonzalez pled guilty to cultivation of cannabis for count one and trafficking in cannabis over twenty-five pounds for count two. Gonzalez was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to sixty months in prison on each count, the sentences to run concurrently.
Following up on his recent proposals to reduce the use of mandatory minimum sentences in federal drug crimes involving non-violent, low-level drug offenders, United States Attorney General Eric Holder has now issued a new directive to all Assistant United States Attorneys advising them how to apply the new policies retroactively.
In Smith v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2172b (Fla. 2nd DCA 2013), Smith sought review of his judgment and sentence for possession of a controlled substance (oxycodone) and possession of paraphernalia. Smith argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because the state failed to present sufficient evidence to establish Smith's constructive possession of the controlled substance and paraphernalia.
Two bills currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee and at least one in the House of Representatives -- all bipartisan -- are taking aim at our nation's current sentencing policy. In particular, the three proposals seek to curtail the cost and injustice of mandatory minimum sentencing in federal crimes.
When states across the U.S. began legalizing marijuana for medical or even recreational use, their laws came into direct conflict with federal drug laws. When Attorney General Eric Holder announced recently that the federal government would no longer prosecute individual users or small-time dealers, it was a big step toward reconciling the conflicting policies, but it's clear there is still a long way to go.
The mildly stimulant leaves of an east African plant called khat was the subject of a 2009 federal drug trafficking prosecution in Indianapolis, when a U.S. immigrant from Somalia was found distributing it to customers of his coffee shop. Khat, which produces a stimulant effect when chewed or brewed into tea, is completely legal in Somalia, where people use it at about the same frequency as Americans use coffee or tobacco.
Last year, Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi issued an Emergency Rule that banned 22 substances used to make synthetic drugs like K2, Spice and bath salts. She intended that rule to get those drugs off the shelves in the stores where they were being sold legally.
More than half of the Americans who responded to a recent survey supported the legalization of marijuana, believing it should be regulated like alcohol and tobacco. It is clear that attitudes about marijuana are changing throughout the country. For example, two states just legalized its recreational use in November.