Articles Posted in Drug Possession

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, I realize that 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).

That being said, the 5/25 Rule requires you to write down 25 things you need to do, and place them in order of importance.   Go ahead and write down your top 25 goals.  Then, circle the top 5.

Next, cross out the remaining 20 things.

These 20 things that you’ve crossed out are still pretty important, right?  Well, under the 5/25 Rule, they’re gone.  They’re out of your life.  Buffett says these 20 things just became your “Avoid At All Cost” list.  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.

Yes, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were asked what they thought the ONE TRAIT that made them both rich.  Everybody wants to be rich, or skinny, or both, right?  They both answered with the same word: 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

cocaine-lines-300x225People love being righteous, don’t they?

How many of these righteous people are actually correct?

If we set up a cage match between righteousness and truth, people much prefer being righteous over truth.  This factoid comes to us via studies done by Jonathan Haidt.  I don’t think the results of Haidt’s study surprised anyone, because we all know people who are so possessed by their righteousness that they are blinded to the truth.  You see righteousness prevailing over truth in politics all the time–folks would much rather support their team than take the time to sort out the truth.

So, if you want righteousness,  just chat with anyone who is convinced that their political party is correct.  Or, you could talk to cops.  Same righteousness, different topic.

We defense attorneys read tons of arrest reports where police officers are 100% convinced that a defendant is driving drunk, or dealing drugs, or you-name-it.  If you’re accused of driving drunk and refused to blow into the machine, the entire crime is just the officer’s opinion.  And yes, I’m righteous about my insistence that the police are super righteous.

Our real life case for today involves several officers convinced that someone is a drug dealer–without having any evidence to back it up.    McFarlane v. State, 239 So. 3d 1272 (Fla. 2d DCA 2018).  Here’s what happened: Continue Reading

earth-moonWe live in an absolutely huge universe.  I don’t want to get too Carl Sagan on you, but let’s face it, the more we know about the universe—the bigger it gets.

We’ve known for a while that our universe is full of stars.  And these stars form galaxies.  There are billions and billions of galaxies that each contain billions and billions of stars.

Add to that a boat load of planets orbiting all those stars.  That’s right, we’ve now discovered planets everywhere.

The funny thing about all of this is that Earth is the only place we know of where atoms are observing atoms.  Amazing, right?  All this stuff in the universe, but only one place where the “stuff” is observing the other “stuff.” (If we had all the time in the world, I would launch into a short quantum physics discussion, in particular, how “conscious observation” effects physics.  Or, we could discuss Fermi’s Paradox.  Now, my web people tell me I’ve got to get to a legal discussion eventually–but they don’t really read what I write–so let’s dig deeper with the knowledge that my web people aren’t reading this.  Anyway, the physicist Ernico Fermi was at a science conference where the white coats were giddy over their predictions as to just how much extraterrestrial life must be out there besides us—given how big the universe is.  He was the Debbie Downer of that physics conference, posing the simple question: “Where is everybody?”)

Observation is a funny thing.  Even when it comes to criminal law, observation is just as important as it is in science.  The police cannot just go off to search a home based upon a hunch, they have to observe some bad stuff and report it to a judge who may then issue a warrant.  If you’ve seen as many criminal cases as I have in my 25 years of defending, one thing is for certain:

The police are watching. Continue Reading

conference-pic-e1526767430499-300x208Awww, come on guys, it’s so simple maybe you need a refresher course.  It’s all ball bearings nowadays.  Now you prepare that Fetzer valve with some 3-in-1 oil and some gauze pads, and I’m gonna need ’bout ten quarts of anti-freeze, preferably Prestone“.  — Fletch (film, Chevy Chase)

Have you ever met someone who thinks they know what they’re talking about, yet something in your gut (your BS detector) tells you they don’t really have it all figured out?

Scientists are notorious for this sort of thing.  They throw around a few equations, add a few big words, and we all assume they’ve figured something out.  Cops are as bad as scientists when it comes to acting like they’ve got it all figured out—but more on that later.

There are several scientific fields that can trigger a reasonable person’s BS detectors.  For example, evolutionary psychologists claim that people love golf because the open spaces make humans feel safe.  Hum.  People get paid to come up with this stuff?  How do I get in on this?

Neuroscience has jumped into the pure speculation game, as they now claim that everything is reducable to brain activity.  Hey, you fell in love and finally engaged in that special first kiss?  Well, it really isn’t that special, neurologists will tell you that they’ve found the “first kiss” neurons located in the bottom right corner of the frontal cortex.    Oh, you had a religious experience?  No you didn’t.  In the most condecending tone imaginable, some neurologist will pat you on the head like you’re their pet doggy, and explain that this life changing experience was just temporal lobe epilepsy.

But when you dig deeper into these so-called scientific explanations, they’re really not explanations at all.  They label things, sure enough, much like an engineer can label the data transmissions of your home modem.  But they’re not really telling you anything about what’s really happening.

Recently, I saw a neuroscientist “explain” how they’ve figured out what is going on during a psychedelic experience.  Psychedelic drug research is super interesting, and it utilizes drugs like psilocybin (mushrooms), MDMA (extasy), and DMT/Ayahuasca.

Anyway,  the “breakthrough” discovery is this: all of these drugs react on our brain’s 5-HT2B receptor.  Amazing, right?  That’s an impressive word, 5-HT2B receptor.

But there’s only one problem with this discovery.

Once a psychedelic drug hits the brain’s 5-HT2B receptor—we know absolutely nothing about what happens next.  It’s like some doctor “discovering” that once I drink some water that same water will eventually come out another orface.  Ok.  But what happens in between?  Does the water go to a kidney or two?  Is there any sort of processing?  The only thing we know about the brain’s reaction to psychedelics is that they hit the 5-HT2B receptor.  All knowledge ceases right there.

Still, its impressive to listen to neurologists toss around the term “5-HT2B receptor”.  Just saying this word increases your perceived IQ by several points, but fundamentally, this “discovery” sounds only slightly more credible than Fletch’s explanation of the Fetzer valve.  Continue Reading

IMG_0476-e1456765765191-300x225True confession.   I “secretly” hope is that you read these articles and say “Hey, John knows all about my situation, I’m going to hire him.”   The opposite is also true: why write an article that would hurt business?  Well, I’m in a generous mood.

Here’s the situation:  Every criminal defense attorney has received the panicked mom call.  My heart goes out to mom’s, they bare the brunt of their children’s shenanigans.  Anyway, the call goes something like this: “My son’s on probation, he’s at school.  His probation officer just called to say he is coming by the house to search our home.  I’ve searched first, and found drugs.  What should I do with these drugs?

Moms being moms, they want to be the good Samaritan and hand over the drugs to the police when they arrive.   Hum.

Bad idea.

That’s what happened in the real life case of Stanton v. State746 So. 2d 1229 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999).  Stanton was a recovering addict, and his former drug dealer gave Stanton some cocaine to get him hooked again.  Nice guy, this dealer, right?  It would be like Marlboro offering free cigarettes for those who have quit.  Chantix users get two free packs while supplies last.

Anyway, Stanton’s old drug dealer was offering free cocaine samples to his recovering ex-junkies.  Pure evil.  And, what is the world coming to that coke dealers are begging recovering addicts to come back like my old cell phone company?  Continue Reading

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When I was in middle school, my friends and I had some important debates.  Middle school is that age when you’re not quite ready (nor qualified) to talk about girls and cars, so our discussions centered around BMX bikes, video games, and Bruce Lee.  We loved Bruce Lee almost as much as we loved Star Wars.  The debates were simple, and  started something like this: “I wonder if Bruce Lee could kill someone with a piece of paper.  I bet he could take you out with a paper clip.”  We were in such awe of Lee, that we assumed just about any household item would qualify as a deadly weapon in the hands of this master of martial artist.

By the same reasoning, there are drug addicts out there that could take these same household items and transform them into smoking devices.  You haven’t seen creativity until you’ve witnessed an addict scramble to find something to smoke with.  The genius buried deep inside of most folks comes out to play as the drug cravings intensify.   Some studies have shown that drugs can aid in the creative process.  How many Pink Floyd albums would we have without psychedelics?  All sorts of books, albums and movies have been conceived and written under the influence of something.

That being said, I’m talking about just the opposite–folks who are creative before they consume drugs.  This kind of creativity only comes when there’s a deep perceived problem (not having a smoking device, for example) that has no immediate solution.  Either way, it seems as though drugs are fostering creativity both before consumption, and after.

Anyway, when someone creates something to smoke a drug, we call this item “drug paraphernalia.”  Anything that is used to smoke or ingest an illegal drug constitutes drug paraphernalia.   This is a crime in Florida, and carries a maximum of one year in jail (harsh, I know).  Back when crack cocaine was popular, we’d see tons of cases involving coke cans, pinched in the middle with a hole in them–used as a makeshift crack smoking device.  Yes, it was a crime to possess that modified soda can.  Back then, you had to be careful what you picked up to recycle. Continue Reading

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When I was growing up, all kinds of kids got picked on.  Middle school was a hotbed of harassment.  Fat kids.  Skinny kids.  Freckles.  Any last names that rhymed with a dirty word.  Anything, really.  Back in the day there were no fancy terms for it, bullying just existed without a label.

Cops can be bullies as well, and no where is this more evident than their treatment of the drug addicted masses.

Public Service Announcement: if you have a disease that causes your brain to crave a particular chemical–law enforcement will transform this addiction into a prison sentence.   Just close your eyes, and imagine the addicted kids in the movie “Trainspotting.”  There wasn’t much these kids wouldn’t do to get their next fix, and the cops know it.

One of my favorite anti-drug commercials goes something like this.  Picture a public toilet seat.  Now, it won’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that toilet seat has not been cleaned in months.  It hasn’t been flushed in months.  The tag line reads “No One Thinks They Will Lose Their Virginity Here.  Meth Will Change That.” (the Montana Meth Project has some pretty compelling ads, FYI)

Yes, addiction will cause you to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.   So, leave it to our government to take full advantage of these folks who are down on their luck.  Our case for today examines just how far the police can go.  In State v. Johnson, the defendant was convicted of six felony drug deals which scored him several years in  prison. 2017 Fla.App.LEXIS 11687 (Fla. 2d DCA 2017).   We’re going to explore whether or not Johnson can be sentenced on the full weight of these six transactions, under suspicious police circumstances. Continue Reading

IMG_0476-e1456765765191-300x225What I’m about to say may come as a shock to folks unfamiliar with the workings of our government.

Our government officials exaggerate.

Yes, I’m as tired of such cliches as you are.   That being said, please don’t stop reading just because we’re starting out with a cliche.  Behind every cliche there may be a nugget of truth lurking.

Today, our Circle of Distrust involves law enforcement, and their habit of exaggerating arrest reports.  Why should we care if cops lie a little?  Well, an exaggerated arrest report leads to exaggerated charges, and in the end, harsher sentences for no good reason.   Imagine a horror movie with the Butterfly Effect, where small acts snowball as the movie progresses and there’s blood everywhere by the ending credits.  Trust me, these exaggerations are a major source of injustice (if injustice doesn’t bother you, please note that these exaggerations lead to wasted tax payer dollars, maybe your pocketbook should be concerned over this). Continue Reading

Some things are simply hard to explain.cross-300x224

Why is there something rather than nothing?

How did self-conscious beings arise out of lifeless star dust?

And, how can prosecutors be so cold-hearted?

To help answer question number three, above, we’re going to review a recent case.  To mentally prep you, let’s start with some stretching exercises.  For sentencing purposes, assume that drugs are bad, and selling them is even worse.  Contrary to what you’ve seen on TV, most of the drug sales force out there consist of poor people trying to support their habit.   They don’t own fast cars or 22″ rims.  And, it’s probably a myth that they’re “selling” anything.  Philosopher Chris Rock argues that no one really “sells” drugs–drugs sell themselves.  If you can get someone to buy life insurance, you’re a sales person with real sales skills.

Anyway, our true story of the day involves a single mother of three young children, and she was caught selling drugs in order to support her addiction.  State v. Sawyer, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 17723 (Fla. 1st DCA 2016).  The penalties facing Ms. Sawyer were steep.  She scored a minimum prison term of 39 months, a maximum sentence of 15 years prison.  But, does minimum really mean minimum?  Well, not really, ’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings’, as Robert Plant would sing.

Obviously, Ms. Sawyer’s defense attorney wanted the judge to give her something less than the minimum sentence, but to do that she would have to qualify for a downward departure.  I know, boring legal terminology just a few sentences into this.  Sorry.  And, this mandatory prison term clouds other important issues, like, does Ms. Sawyer deserve over three years in prison?  What will that cost taxpayers?  Why wouldn’t we address Ms. Sawyer’s addiction, and have her ready to raise her three kids?  Isn’t it cheaper for the taxpayers, and better for society?

These questions were irrelevant to the prosecutor.  The knee-jerk reaction to someone scoring prison is, “give them the prison time” (you know that when your knee jerks your brain isn’t even processing information).  Some folks would say that your success in life is directly related to the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have.  I’ve had plenty of these uncomfortable conversations with prosecutors unwilling to think these matters through.   Why think?  The legislature has mandated a prison term, so we don’t have to give any thought to this, right?    Well, we’re going to do some thinking here.   Was Ms. Sawyer’s attorney able to get her to qualify for less than 39 months via a downward departure?   Continue Reading