Drug Offenses

The Federal Docket

United States v. Matthew Beaudion (5th Cir. November 2020)

The Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court’s holding that defendant lacked Fourth Amendment standing to challenge law enforcement’s search for the GPS location of girlfriend’s cell phone while he was with her. While the boyfriend had purchased the phone before giving it to his girlfriend, knew the password, used the phone frequently, and accessed his Facebook account on the phone, the Court held that he did not have a reasonable expectation in the phone because the girlfriend carried it throughout the day, the defendant never used it outside her presence, and her parents paid the bill. The Court further held that Carpenter did not apply here because law enforcement was trying to determine the girlfriend’s location, not the defendant’s.

United States v. John Gayden (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed a defendant doctor’s conviction and sentence for operating a “pill mill.” Among other things, the Court held that a physician does not have standing to challenge the search of a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program because they do not have a privacy interest in their prescriptions. The Court also held that dismissal of the indictment, obtained five years after the defendant’s clinic shut down, was not warranted because the defendant could prove prejudice but not that the government engaged in any deliberative conduct to gain a tactical advantage over him.

United States v. Lindon Amede (11th Cir. October 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the conviction of a defendant in a drug conspiracy case. The Court held that recorded hearsay statements between an unindicted co-conspirator and an undercover agent were admissible against the defendant where the exsitence of a conspiracy was proved by the co-conspirator discussing drug transactions with the undercover, saying he would send “my guy” to the undercover to conduct business,” and the defendant showing up to conduct transactions as discussed. The Court also held that drug offenses under 841(a)(1) do not require willfullness, that the district court did not err in precluding the defendant from presenting a duress defense, and the district court did not err in allowing the defendant to represent himself at sentencing.

Election Results: States Continuing to Roll Back the War on Drugs

Voters in Oregon voted to decriminalize hard drugs like cocaine and heroin while providing significant funding for treatment. Voters in Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota passed measures reforming marijuana laws, including recreational and medical marijuana.

Criminal Justice Reform on the 2020 Ballot

The Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University has compiled a list of criminal justice ballot measures in the 2020 election, by state and by type of reform, to inform voters of what drug reform initiatives or criminal justice reforms are on the ballot in their states. The article lists, for example, Arizona as the only state where possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony and where voters can vote to legalize recreational weed after the initiative barely failed in 2016. The article also lists measures in California to allow certain felons to vote and reform cash bail. Oregon, on the other hand, will have a ballot measure giving residents the power to decriminalize possession of any kind of drug.

United States v. Jamel E. Easter (3rd Cir. September 2020)

In a matter of first impression, the Third Circuit vacated defendant’s denied motion for resentencing under Section 404 of the First Step Act and remanded for resentencing, holding the § 3553 factors must be considered anew when a sentence is modified. The Court relied on the plain text of 18 U.S.C. § 3582, § 404 of the First Step Act, and § 3553, which all refer to “imposing” a sentence and thus require consideration of factors relevant to imposing a sentence, such as a defendant’s post-sentence rehabilitation.

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Violating Anti-Kickback Laws & Defrauding the U.S.

The DOJ has announced that Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical corporation best known for making the opioid pain killer Oxycotin, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges relating to its role in creating to the opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma will be pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute based on payments to healthcare providers and a cloud-based electronic health records company that Purdue worked with in relation to its distribution of opioid pain medication. The plea agreement calls for over $8 billion in fines and fees and will require the company, which previously filed for bankruptcy, to dissolve.

United States v. Javier Garcia (9th Cir. August 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated the defendant’s conviction and held that the attenuation doctrine should not have been applied to deny his motion to suppress. The officers’ second, discretionary search of the defendant’s home was a direct result of a prior unlawful sweep of the home during which officers discovered that the defendant had a condition of supervised release allowing searches. The temporal proximity between the searches and the investigatory motives of the officers outweighed the intervening nature of discovering the condition of supervised release, and evidence discovered during the second search should have been suppressed.

Feds Announce 170+ Arrests in Dark Net Opioid Investigation

The DOJ and DEA have announced the arrests of 179 people and the seizure of $6.5 million stemming from an international investigation targeting suspected opioid trafficking through the Darknet. Individuals have been arrested in 7 different countries on charges relating to selling opioids through the internet and will likely see additional charges such as money laundering.

United States v. Samuel Tanel Crittenden (5th Cir. August 2020)

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting defendant a new trial where the defendant’s mistaken belief that a bag contained marijuana was not sufficient to establish knowledge for the meth counts in the indictment because the knowledge element requires evidence that the defendant actually knew the controlled substance identity or that the contents were a listed controlled substance.

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