Drug Offenses

The Federal Docket

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 …

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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 …

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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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DEA Operation Project Python Results in 750 Arrests

The Justice Department announced the arrest of more than 750 individuals in the DEA-led Operation Project Python, which was charged with investigating a Mexican cartel called Jalisco New Generation Cartel. In addition to the 750 arrests, law enforcement seized over 20 kilograms of drugs and $20 million in cash. The arrests took place across Los …

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United States v. Wesley Scott Hamm (6th Cir. March 2020)

Drug Offenses/Elements – Sufficient evidence existed of a drug conspiracy, as opposed to a mere buyer-seller relationship, where the relationship was ongoing, the quantities involved were large, the transaction involved extensive planning, and the alleged seller taught the buyer how to mix the drugs for resale. Drug Offenses/Death Counts – Sufficient evidence existed that the …

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Shular v. United States (U.S. Supreme Court, February 2020)

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court held a defendant’s prior conviction under state law qualifies as a “serious drug offense” under the ACCA if the defendant’s conduct involves “manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture or distribute, a controlled substance” as spelled out under the statute. In doing so, the Court rejected a categorical approach that would require courts to match the defendant’s state offenses to a “generic offense.”

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