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Articles Posted in Drug Possession

cocaine-300x225Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine dates a gynecologist and she complains of his “lack of interest” in her, and the running joke was that her doctor friend had seen plenty of women at work all day, so Elaine couldn’t do much to peak his interest after work.  I get that.

And, I feel the same way about crime TV shows.  I get this stuff all day, so I don’t need to go home and watch more of it.  In real life, the nuts & bolts of a criminal case are far less dramatic and often–very important aspects of the case get ignored on-screen.

For example, one of the most important documents in a criminal case is The Information.  It’s the document that formally charges a citizen with a crime.  Other states call this an “indictment,” but in Florida, we call it an information.

Our real-life case for today involves a citizen convicted of drug trafficking, and his conviction required him to serve a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 15 years in the Department of Corrections.  All trafficking cases carry a minimum mandatory prison sentence, but all the drama, in this case, came from the Information.  Continue Reading

baggies-cu-e1563998786979-225x300I get it.  People do things they shouldn’t do.  But, taking a picture or video while doing it seems like you’re pushing your luck.  Again, I get it.    Today’s real-life case should serve as a gentle reminder that even borderline shady photography may cause trouble, so, I recommend you not document shenanigans with your iPhone.  Just saying.

Todays’s case is Dion Johnson v. State of Florida, 2019 Fla.App.Lexis 18806 (Fla 1st DCA 2019).  Johnson was sent to prison for 15 years for drug trafficking.  A picture on his phone sealed his fate.  Here’s what happened:

The SWAT team executes a search warrant of a house.  Several people in the house during the search.  One of these folks was Dion Johnson.  We know that Johnson did not own or rent the home,  he was just visiting.

At trial, the prosecutor called a witness who testified that drugs were sold from this house, and they testified that even Johnson was selling drugs from this home, but the witness couldn’t say what kind of drugs Johnson was selling (I cannot believe this evidence made it to trial, but that’s a topic for another day, in general, see Austin v. State, 44 So.3d 1260 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010)).  Continue Reading

def-300x225Our entire justice system depends on folks telling the truth, but the truth can be hard to find–especially when there’s no evidence to back up the accusations.

How can we tell when someone is being truthful?

Without getting too Dr. Phil here, I must point out that certain characters breed a bid more suspicion than others.  For some people, walking alone at night with someone a few steps behind you will immediately raise suspicions.  For others, they will never trust a word out of a politician’s mouth.  I get that.  Some don’t trust car salesmen.  Again, I get that.

But, there are folks out there that are professional liars.  They lie for a living.  Their friendships our a lie.  Their relationships are a lie.  And, they get compensated for their deceit.  Our criminal justice system breeds these high-level liars.

The moment of conception looks something like this: someone gets arrested on a serious drug offense and faces decades in prison.

And then, a ray of hope.  There is a way out of this prison time.

Yes, you may never see your kid graduate from middle school.  You may never see your daughter go to the prom.  Or get married, or have your grandchild.  Nope, you’ll be in prison for the rest of your life.  Or, “if you set some people up, we’ll drop your prison time.”

Welcome to the wonderful world of confidential informants (CI).

After 26 years of defending criminal cases, I can tell you that the urge to avoid prison will drive folks to do bad things–worse things than what they’re accused of–all sanctioned by the State.  Oh, the irony.

Continue Reading

0-e1570278972378-300x168Have you ever been told, “Don’t just stand there, do something?”

Often times, “doing something” is a terrible idea, yet folks cannot seem to let go of this impulse to pretend that “doing something” will help the situation.

Here’s an important observation of Seth Godin regarding our impulse to ‘do something’:

doing something makes us feel like we’re making the problem go away.  Sometimes the problem isn’t going to go away.  Everything we do at a funeral isn’t going to bring the person back from the dead.  Everything we do in a courtroom isn’t going to help in the short run, even the long run, the victim of that crime.  The idea that people in government need to ‘do something and do it right now’ because we are in pain is one of the weakest points of democracy. . . .

The alternative is to stand there.  Not to stand there and ignore the situation, but to stand there and accept the situation.  Yes, this happened.  Yes, this situation exists.  Yes, we are uncomfortable.  Yes, the answer is complicated.  Yes, we don’t know exactly what to do.  So, we’re going to stand here.  We’re going to stand here not ignoring it but immersing ourselves in it, thinking as hard as we can to understand–maybe for a second, maybe longer–what that other person, what that other force, what that situation needs.”

Seth Godin, Akimbo podcast,  Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There, August 8, 2019.

Sometimes, good things come to those who wait.

Sometimes, doing nothing is a good thing.  It gives you time to think about the situation.

And that’s the good news for today.  It seems like our legislature has given some things a bit of thought, and as a result, we’re seeing several promising changes to our criminal laws, which took effect a few days ago, on October 1st, 2019. Continue Reading

weed-300x199We have science to thank for much of our progress in the last thousand years.  Any guess as to what is the most important technology ever invented?  The wheel?  The printing press?

Hands down, whoever invented fire technology may have advanced human civilization more than any other tech, and we’ll probably never know which caveman or cavewoman came up with that brilliant idea.  You need not watch Naked and Afraid to know that fire is everything.

But, technology has created its share of problems.  Are we watching too much TV?  Are kids interacting too much with tech, rather than actual human beings?   Do people have fewer human friends now, versus decades ago, all due to technological “advances”?

What we do know is that technology is now creating a problem for prosecutors.  Here’s the evolution of this problem.

The first problem is, July 1st, 2019 marked the day that hemp became legal in Florida.

The second problem is, hemp is the same plant as marijuana.  They are both cannabis plants, but hemp contains less THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the stuff that gets you high).  As such, the police cannot determine whether a citizen is possessing legal hemp or illegal marijuana.  After all, hemp smells the same and burns the same and looks the same as illegal marijuana.

Yes, we may be seeing far fewer possession of cannabis arrests.

Let’s get back to science for a moment, so we can understand the problem with all of this.  Scientists can send people to the moon, but they have a tough time telling the difference between hemp and marijuana.  Notice I said “scientists.”  Not police.  Not prosecutors.  Not judges.

Prosecutors rely on the laboratories at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to convict folks of drug crimes by having a “scientist” testify from FDLE (yes, I’m using air quotes).  The measurement devices currently used by FDLE to test for the presence of THC are gas chromatographs (GC) and mass spectrometers (MS). The problem is, these laboratories do not have the instruments necessary to tell the difference between a legal substance–hemp, and an illegal substance–marijuana.

Continue Reading

Science can explain everything.cropped-message-300x188

As I sit here typing, neurologists can explain how the light from the screen is processed by my retina, which is directly connected to my brain.  Some scanner out there (fMRI?) could probably map out my visual cortex as I’m looking at this screen.    Another branch of science could probably explain how my brain is sending signals to my fingers so that I can hunt & peck this article.  Scientists have no problem mapping out the function of things and figuring out their structure.  Easy stuff.

The tough question is, why should these structures give rise to any sort of feelings?  Sure, science can explain everything–except how I feel.   I’m sure some coffee scientist out there can drill down into how the delicious smell of coffee first hits my nose, which then sends a signal to my brain, which then causes me to rush to the Keurig machine and retrieve that precious liquid that gets me through the rest of day.  But, no scientist can tell me how that coffee is going to taste.

No, we’re not going to dive into “the hard problem of consciousness” today (or ever?), as I’m running out of words (web promoter people tell me to keep it under 1,000 words.  Sorry), and you’re running out of interest.  Suffice to say that, even though there are plenty of limitations on science, certain criminal cases are begging for a bit of attention from the white coats.  You need science to prove certain allegations.  You need science to defend certain allegations.  We’re going to talk about just such a case today.

Demetrius Nugent was convicted of trafficking in oxycodone based upon lots of pills found in a car he was driving.  Nugent v. State2019 Fla. App. LEXIS 89333 (Fla. 2d DCA 2019).

Here’s what happened: the Lee County Sheriff’s office was conducting a drug investigation, and they had their eye on a red Mustang that kept making odd trips in and out of a neighborhood.  They followed the Mustang to a convenience store, where they then observed a Nissan pull up next to it.  Then, someone hopped out of the Nissan and into the Mustang.  The Nissan person exited the Mustang with something in his hand, but the cops didn’t know what it was.  The Nissan leaves the convenience store and naturally, the police follow.

Now, remember what I said upfront: the police are conducting a drug investigation.

And, how do you find drugs?

Well, you’ve got to come up with a reason to stop that Nissan. Continue Reading

home-florida-300x225Have you ever met that perfect couple?  You know, the couple that causes bad thoughts to pop in your brain, like, “can anyone really be that happy?”  They must be hiding something, right?   If you’ve ever tried meditating, then you know how many random thoughts are popping in and out of existence at any given moment.  It’s tough to control sometimes.

And, I also can’t control that wave of joy that washes over me when I discover that the perfect couple is not, in fact, so perfect.  Again, these feelings just happen.  In German, the word for taking joy from someone else’s failure is “Schadenfreude.”

When the perfect couple breaks up, everybody wants to know the reason.  The simpler, the better.  We want a one-word explanation, if possible.  She “cheated”.  He “abused” me.  She’s a “narcissist.”

The problem is, reducing a complex situation to one word isn’t accurate, or helpful.

There’s nothing more annoying than watching some talk show host demand, “Give me one reason why I should vote for your candidate.”  Really, one reason?    When a judge asks “Give me one reason why I should not send your client to prison,” I’m ready with an answer that will keep my client out of prison–a better answer than what the judge expects from such an unreasonable question.

One of the many things I’ve begun to question after 26 years of defending criminal cases are the tiny convenient “facts” the police pepper throughout their arrest reports.  Yes, I’m using air quotes around “facts”.  The case we’re going to discuss today is a prime example. Continue Reading

Some of you are too young to remember late fees.IMG_2927-300x225

Late fees involved renting a $3 movie and paying another $6.42 in late fees.  Late fees created that pit in your stomach when you glanced over at your coffee table, noticed a blue & yellow Blockbuster video box, and wondered to yourself “Wasn’t that supposed to be returned last week?”

Blockbuster made $800,000,000 per year on late fees. I’m pretty sure I contributed about $100/year to that pile of money, and it made me angry every time.  It’s not too far of a stretch to assume that most Blockbuster customers hated their late fees.  But solving problems will make you money, and one man’s problem is another’s opportunity.   So, a tiny company saw my late fees as an opportunity and did the seemingly impossible: video rental with no late fees.

Wow.  What a concept.  And that’s where the Netflix revolution began.

When I heard about this video rental company without late fees, my next question was: where do I sign up?  I gladly paid Netflix a monthly fee to mail me DVD’s long before Netflix was crowned the world’s largest movie production company.

Here’s the crazy thing: Blockbuster saw all of this unfolding.   They could have stopped it.  Yes, you know how this story ends, but as the story goes, someone in Blockbuster management with a “C” title (could have been a CEO, CFO, COO, who knows) proposed to their board that they do away with their late fees, as Netflix had done.

The board erupted in laughter.  “We ain’t giving up $800,000,000 in late fees, are you effing crazy?  We should fire you just for suggesting such…” (this is my fictional account of what happened in the board room, I’m sure they used actual curse words in the real meeting).

Blockbuster could have bought Netflix for pennies on the dollar  (just as Yahoo could have bought Google for pennies on the dollar, and the list goes on and on).   Yes, hindsight is 20/20, and as Yogi  said, “it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Continue Reading

IMG_3780-300x225Sometimes, the toughest thing to do is to not do anything.

A common, thoughtless phrase goes something like this: Don’t just stand there, do something.  Almost always, this is bad advice.

Our brains are hard wired to “do something,” much in the way that a deer runs across a busy road when he hears a random noise behind him.  This impulse to “do something” may have helped us survive in the wild, but it no longer carries the same wisdom.  “Doing something” tricks us into thinking we have control of the situation, and probably makes us feel less regret later, should things turn out bad.  Unfortunately, doing something can get you into trouble.

If you have the courage to “not” do something, to stand still, you’ve just increased your chances of success.

This is Warren Buffett’s 5/25 Rule.

Now, I can already sense the eye-rolling, and eye-rolling rates has been linked to a marriage’s chance of success, so I take your eye-rolls seriously.  Plus, invoking Buffett’s name will make some of you yawn, in the same way that talking about quantum physics at a gathering will bore everyone to tears (guilty as charged).

Here’s how you follow the 5/25 Rule.  First, write down 25 things you need to do, and place them in order of importance.

Next, circle the top 5.

Keep in mind that, even though you’ve circled the Top 5 goals, the other 20 goals are still pretty important to you, right?  Well, even though those other 20 things are super important–the Rule requires you to cross out the remaining 20 things on your list.

Under the 5/25 Rule, the bottom 20 goals are completely out of your life.  Forget about them.  Actually, Buffett goes beyond mere forgetfulness, he says these 20 things just became your “Avoid At All Cost” list.  You may be tempted to work on #6, or #9, or #14, because these are still important things.  But, you can’t touch them.  You can’t do anything on this avoidance list until you succeed on your five most important things.

And that, my friends, is the 5/25 Rule.  And that, my friends, is what we call FOCUS.

Imagine you’re a reporter, and you land an interview with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett sitting at the same table.  their first interview together.  This actually happened.  And, imagine you ask them a simple question “What is the one trait that made you both rich?”

They both answered with the same word, at the same time.  FOCUS.   Continue Reading

IMG_0476-e1456765765191-300x225Its hard to believe that the movie El Mariachi came out 25 years ago.   Its one of my favorite movies, and I love the director, Robert Rodriguez.   Rotten Tomatoes gives El Mariachi a 93%.  For you Rotten Tomatoes fans, this is a good number, but worse movies (more expensive . . . comic book hero movies, for example)  have received higher ratings.

Here’s the thing: Rodriguez wrote, directed, and filmed El Mariachi in 1993 for $7,000.  And he did it in two weeks.  Feeding the crew of a super hero movie cost millions.  Yes, millions for food.  Again, Rodriguez created a great, classic movie for $7,000.

As you might imagine, it was tough for Rodriguez to film such a classic on a low budget.  I think the term “low budget” covers budgets up to $100,000, so $7,000 should qualify for some word we have yet to invent.  Of course, once Hollywood saw what he Rodriguez could do with $7,000, future budgets ran into the millions.

Surely, things would get easier with more money, right?  There’s a song about Mo Money, but you have to get your 90’s on to sing along to such rap wisdom.

Rodriguez was once asked by an aspiring filmmaker about how few problems he must now have–with more money to make his films.  The student filmmaker explained “I tried filming my movie on a low budget–but this went wrong, that went wrong, everything went wrong!”   I loved Rodriguez’s response: if you are a filmmaker, you are hired because everything goes wrong.  That’s the job.

Same goes for criminal defense.  Things go wrong, that’s the job.

Yesterday, a client apologized to me because his witnesses were a tad difficult.  He was right, but an apology was completely unnecessary.  I fix problems for a living.   After 25 years of defending every sort of case imaginable–my job is to fix things (my web people love these sorts of statements, borderline advertising, I know, but you need to know what I do).   I’m not the Wolf, but things get fixed (follow me here, Robert Rodriguez is friends with Tarantino . . . ). Continue Reading

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