Drug Offenses

The Federal Docket

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.

United States v. Enrique Valencia-Lopez (9th Cir. August 2020)

The Ninth Circuit vacated a defendant’s conviction for transporting marijuana and remanded for a new trial because the district court did not properly assess the reliability of the government’s expert witness, an ICE agent, who testified that the cartel does not employ unwilling couriers. The Court held that this was harmful error because it directly undercut the defendant’s credibility and duress defense.

United States v. Salomon E. Melgen (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a number of challenges in affirming the defendant’s conviction on 67 counts of Medicare fraud, holding that the trial court did not err in declining to give the jury the defendant’s proposed jury instruction on the materiality of his false claims. The defendant had sought to define materiality based on the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Escobar, which described materiality based on “the effect on the likely or actual behavior of the recipient of the alleged misrepresentation.”

United States v. Calvin McReynolds (6th Cir. July 2020)

The Sixth Circuit vacated the defendant’s sentence for drug conspiracy and remanded it to the sentencing court after the court held the defendant accountable for a higher drug quantity than the jury did at trial, which the defendant argued violated his Sixth Amendment claim. The court held that the sentencing court did not adequately explain its reasoning, so it could not review the constitutionality of the defendant’s claim.

United States v. Michael Pedro Andres (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court held that the district court did not err in refusing to consider the defendant’s untimely motion to suppress, since the defendant’s failure was based on a strategic decision. Moreover, the sentencing court did not err in refusing to grant a downward departure for acceptance of responsibility where the defendant challenge his factual guilt throughout the proceedings and at trial.

Fed’s Effort to Combat Opioid Crisis Hits Walmart, other Pharmacies

This month saw new signs that the federal government is escalating its war on the opioid epidemic. First, ProPublica reported on new developments in a lawsuit against Walmart and other companies that revealed that Walmart has been hiding that the company was previously under criminal investigation regarding its opioid dispensing practices. The lawyers representing the […]

United States v. Johnny Benjamin, Jr. (11th Cir. May 2020)

The Court affirmed the conviction of a doctor charged with manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance analogue resulting in a woman’s overdose death. The Court affirmed his conviction on the death count based on expert testimony, co-defendant testimony, and circumstantial evidence, and the Court held that the district court had sufficiently instructed the jury on scienter based on the defendant’s knowledge of the identity of the substance. Nor did the trial court err in declining to investigate juror misconduct based on finding a list of “Do’s and Don’ts of Jury Deliberations” in the deliberation room.

United States v. Bernard Moore, et al. (11th Cir. March 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit rejected a number of challenges in affirming the defendants’ sentences for drug trafficking and unlawful possession of firearms, holding that the district court did not plainly err in shackling the defendants during trial without stating its reasons in the record and that the district court did not abuse its discretion in interviewing jurors in camera regarding their safety concerns and summarizing those interviews for the parties. The Court also concluded that the indictments failure to allege the defendants’ mens rea as required under Rehaif v. United States did not deprive the court of jurisdiction and the plain error of convicting the defendants of unlawful possession of firearm did not warrant reversal where the government would have been able to prove their knowledge.

Fed and Ohio Law Enforcement Arrest 35 Alleged DTO Members

The DOJ announced that it had charged 35 individuals with drug conspiracy charges based on allegations that they were members of an alleged drug trafficking organization (“DTO”) in the Mansfield, Ohio area. Through four separate indictments, the defendants are charged with distributing heroin, meth, cocaine, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, carfentanil, marijuana, oxycodone, and crack. Click […]

Police Departments Try to Trick Drug Offenders Using the Coronavirus

In an attempt to go after some low hanging fruit, or perhaps as a practical joke, several police departments across the country have sent out posts on social media offering to tests methamphetamine and other drugs for the presence of coronavirus. One such post from a Florida police department advises that people who fear that […]

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