Florida readers may have heard the buzz in the news lately about FedEx Corp., which was recently charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and drug trafficking in connection with deliveries to online pharmacies for their customers. FedEx, it is alleged, was part of a conspiracy to supply customers with prescription drugs illegally.
When it comes to criminal defense work, it is important to be aware not only of the law and the criminal process itself, but also which judge is handling the case. While this is particularly important on appeal, it is also important at the trial level and even at sentencing. One example of this is in drug cases. As of right now, the state of the law regarding federal sentencing for drug crimes is in flux. At the federal level, there has been a shift to reducing prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
Federal Crimes are expanding to include spice and other synthetic drugs. The feds are making synthetic drug conspiracies federal crimes. Spice refers to a wide variety of herbal mixtures that produce experiences similar to marijuana (cannabis) and that are marketed as "safe," legal alternatives to that drug. Sold under many names, including K2, fake weed, Yucatan Fire, Skunk, Moon Rocks, and others — and commonly labeled "not for human consumption" — these products contain dried, shredded plant material and chemical additives that are responsible for their psychoactive (mind-altering) effects.
Drug Charges for synthetic drug distribution and conspiracy to distribute synthetic drugs are on the rise. Known by street names such as "Molly", "Spice" and "Bath Salts". The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is cracking down on synthetic drug distribution and is arresting many federal defendants on federal drug charges. The United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida and the Southern District of Florida are focusing federal indictments on conspiracy to distribute, and distributing, controlled substance analogue AM2201 and other synthetic drugs. The government not only uses federal grand juries to indict federal defendants for federal synthetic drug conspiracies but also to forfeit money, representing the proceeds of the synthetic drug conspiracies and also the content of bank accounts and residences.
A ring of co-conspirators were busted last week after running a drug ring that was worth $550 million. One of the doctors involved, Dr. Robert Terdiman, was responsible for writing 18,700 prescriptions worth $90 million alone. The main conspirator, Dr. Kevin Lowe, pocketed approximately $12 million over the past three years, while barely getting his hands dirty.
While our overall crime rate has been declining for decades, it appears the opposite is true for one type of federal crime. Unfortunately, this criminal activity is officially sanctioned during FBI investigations, and it's on the rise. It's called "otherwise illegal activity" -- activity that would be illegal if it weren't committed by an FBI informant.
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.
Defendant was convicted in the Circuit Court of trafficking in cocaine in amount more than 200 grams, but less than 400 grams. The District Court of Appeal, affirmed. The Florida Supreme Court in Greenwade v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly S717a (Fla. 2013) held that evidence did not establish quantity element of trafficking charge.
In a federal drug case, United States v. Cortes, No. 12-50137 (9th Cir. Oct. 9, 2013), the Ninth Circuit reversed a conviction for conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine, finding an error with the judge's instruction to the jury on the defense of entrapment and holding that a sentencing entrapment claim must be tried to the jury when that claim will affect the minimum or maximum sentence.
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.