Drug Cases

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I have handled thousands of drug cases during my career and factually each is different. I have represented all types of persons accused of illegally distributing drugs; doctors, pharmacists, medical office managers, college students, sophisticated international drug dealers and street corner drug dealers. The law that relates to drug crimes is very fact specific. Many times drug cases are won or lost based upon a constitutional principles – motions to suppress evidence. The law in this regard is also very fact sensitive. Preserving the facts through early investigation is imperative; video surveillance, police dash or body cameras, and police radio calls. It is imperative to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible to collect and preserve all evidence that may reflect the true and correct facts as they unfold and present them later in court to a judge or jury. Such efforts may make the difference in winning or losing. In many federal cases there are wiretaps and electronic surveillance evidence which must be carefully analyzed and reviewed to determine whether it was properly obtained and whether it is properly used and quoted by law enforcement.

Drug cases can carry significant mandatory or guideline terms of imprisonment. Currently, Pennsylvania does not have mandatory minimum prison sentences for those who are arrested and charged with drug crimes. In 2015 the Pennsylvania appellate courts declared Pennsylvania mandatory prison sentences for drug offenses unconstitutional. The legislature has yet to enact new mandatory drug laws. The sentencing guidelines are nevertheless punitive. In federal court the mandatory prison terms are alive and well and were not declared to be unconstitutional. Drug crimes in federal court are punished very severely; especially for doctors who are convicted or prescribing opiate medications without a legitimate medical reason.

In Pennsylvania the Controlled Substance Act regulates the possession, manufacturing, trafficking, and distribution of drugs. The Act breaks down narcotics into 5 different categories, the most serious being schedule I drugs like marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, PCP and LSD. Schedule II drugs include oxycodone, Percocet, cocaine, Demerol, Ritalin and Adderall. Penalties for schedule I and II drug offenses are severe. Mandatory sentences were typically triggered by the weight of the drugs attributed to the alleged offense. The weight must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Depending on the amount of drugs attributed – and proven – a first offense conviction could result in a mandatory prison term of 5 to 10 years plus fines up to $250,000. Other mandatory prison sentences are triggered by circumstances other than weight such as school zones, possession of a firearm, use of minors, etc.

A conviction of possession is often a misdemeanor, which typically does not trigger a mandatory prison sentence. The difference between being charged with misdemeanor possession and felony distribution is often a question of the quantity of drugs possessed, the quantity of money possessed and other factors; whether packaging materials, cut, scales or other things used to package and distribute narcotics.
The crime of drug possession is the act of possessing a controlled substance for the illegal purpose of personal use. This means three things must be proven: that there was a drug, the defendant possessed it, and that he knew he possessed it.

The crime of drug distribution has an additional element; that the possessor of the drugs either actually delivered the drugs or possessed them with the intent to deliver the drugs. The crime and consequences are the same for actually delivery and intended delivery. Actual delivery can be established where a defendant sold the drugs to the police in a controlled buy or the defendant was observed actually selling drugs. Intended delivery can be established by social distribution; where the defendant brought drugs to a party that he shared with others; or when the defendant had a quantity of drugs too large for personal use. In the case of a doctor (or pharmacist or medical office manager) the only element is lack of medical purpose; if outside the medical standard of care as defined by the medical profession and state regulations drug distribution is criminal prescription or not.

Persons arrested or under investigation for drug related offenses face harsh consequences such as jail sentences, costly fines and/or license suspension. Each case has unique facts and circumstances that must be thoroughly reviewed and analyzed before a legal opinion can be rendered. In drug cases were police or DEA conduct a traffic stop, airport search, baggage search, pedestrian stop, and narcotics are recovered, the best defense may be a motion to suppress the evidence recovered. In other drug cases there may be months (or years) of undercover police or DEA investigation there may be extensive wiretap evidence, surveillance and controlled deliveries to undercover officers, agents or confidential informants. The best defense in any case depends upon the facts of the case and varies from case to case.

I have personally litigated thousands of drug cases which include federal and state trials (bench and jury trials), motions to suppress physical evidence based on a multitude of constitutional violations (drug courier profiles, illegal car stops, illegal pedestrian stops, illegal searches of residences, improper execution of search warrants and many other related and similar motions), motions to reveal the identity of confidential informants, speedy trial motions, and negotiated thousands of guilty pleas. I have personally represented individuals in drug cases in Iowa, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New Jersey. No matter what the circumstances of your case, I will provide personal attention and work tirelessly to determine the best defense under the circumstances to achieve the best legal result possible.


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