One of the most fundamental problems facing the American criminal justice system is debate over the answer to the following question: Is addiction a disease? Alcohol abuse was defined as an addiction by the American Medical Association in the mid 1960s, and drug abuse followed less than a decade later.
As a criminal lawyer, I’m different than others. I want people to know their rights and protect them. That’s why we put out information – to help people just like you. Now, we’ve provided information about drug crimes before here, here, and here, but there is always more to address.
Unfortunately, addiction is still widely regarded as a moral failing rather than a disease, which is perhaps why our nation’s drug laws focus on incarceration and punishment rather than treatment. The recent drug crimes case involving a Salt Lake City former judge suggests that addiction can quickly derail the lives of even the most moral and upright individuals.
In August, the 46-year-old judge pleaded guilty to one count of drug possession with intent to distribute. Investigators allegedly tracked the woman as she picked up packages containing drugs from a post office box in Salt Lake City.
The former judge has explained that she is addicted to the prescription painkiller Oxycodone; which she first began taking after a 1998 car accident. Some of the packages apparently contained Oxycodone pills while others contained different drugs that she allegedly traded for Oxycodone.
This month, she was sentenced to 90 days in jail followed by three years of probation. Under the terms of her probation, the woman has agreed to continue drug treatment and testing, among other things.
Many outside observers have been critical of the sentence given to the former judge; believing it to be too light. But let’s examine the facts. The woman has been a faithful public servant for years. And prior to her recent conviction, she had an absolutely spotless criminal record. She is also raising two young children as a single mother; including a child with special needs.
According to her attorney, the woman admitted to herself that she had an addiction problem before being arrested. She had even been trying to ween herself off of Oxycodone.
It is fairly plain to see that this former judge’s drug abuse was not the result of growing up in a bad neighborhood, falling in with the wrong crowd or simply lacking moral character. Even her decision to take drugs in the first place was motivated by a legitimate need to manage pain after an accident.
Addiction is a disease, but it often causes symptoms that include criminal and immoral behaviors. How much more successful would we be as a society if we treated the underlying disease rather than simply punishing the symptoms?
U.S. Supreme Court To Take On Important Drug Crimes Case
It’s a classic scenario that has landed countless drivers in hot water. A police officer pulls someone over for erratic driving or some other infraction, and the stop yields something much more substantial, such as a large quantity of drugs. Many drunk driving arrests and drug crimes charges start with a traffic infraction that may be minor, but is enough to establish probable cause and initiate a traffic stop.
But here’s an interesting and tricky question: what if the erratic driving was witnessed by an anonymous tipster, and a police officer makes the stop without having seen the bad driving for himself? That’s a question central to a case that will likely go before the U.S. Supreme Court in January of next year.
The incident occurred in California after someone made an anonymous 911 call to report that a Ford 150 pickup was driving recklessly and had run the caller off the road. Dispatchers were provided with important information including the truck’s license plate number, which was then passed along to the California Highway Patrol.
Officers spotted the vehicle and made the traffic stop, despite the fact that they did not observe the reckless driving themselves. During the stop, an officer smelled marijuana and searched the truck. Four large bags of it were found and the two men in the truck pleaded guilty to transporting marijuana.
They later appealed their conviction based on the traffic stop itself. A previous ruling by a high court set the precedent that it is not generally allowable for police to conduct a search or detain someone when acting solely on an anonymous tip. The question that the U.S. Supreme Court will address is whether anonymous tips should be treated differently when they concern drunk driving or reckless driving.
In recent years, several important criminal cases have gone before the nation’s highest court, and the rulings have proven to be influential around the country, including here in Utah. Based on the details and the questions posed, there is reason to believe that this case may prove to be important to the future of criminal defense as well.
Free Consultation with a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer
When you need help on a criminal case, please give our office a call for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
In Utah possession, distribution, and drug use are all serious offenses. Imprisonment, hefty fines, and required rehabilitation programs are just some of the penalties which can result from a drug conviction. Penalties for drug crimes depend on the circumstances surrounding the act including the amount of drugs in possession, whether the actor had the intent to distribute, and the type of controlled substance.
Being accused of a drug crime can be stressful for any person. An arrest can lead to complicated litigation which requires an experienced defense attorney. Seeking the advice of a skilled lawyer is in your best interest.
Drug Crimes Information Center
- Utah Controlled Substances Act
- Drug Classifications
- Penalties and Consequences for Drug Convictions
- Possible Defenses
Utah Controlled Substances Act
Drug crimes in the state of Utah are governed by the Utah Controlled Substance Act §58-37. Under this Act, Utah details the specific types of offenses punishable as a drug crime. Listed below is one of the most common prosecuted subsections of the Utah Controlled Substance Act.
Utah Code §58-37-8 Prohibited acts A prohibits an individual from knowingly and intentionally committing any of the following acts:
- Producing, manufacturing, or dispensing, or possessing with intent to produce, manufacture, or dispense, a controlled or counterfeit substance;
- Distributing a controlled or counterfeit substance, or to agree, consent, offer, or arrange distribution of a controlled or counterfeit substance;
- Possessing a controlled or counterfeit substance with intent to distribute; or
- To engage in a continuing criminal enterprise where:
- The individual participates, directs, or engages in conduct resulting in a violation of any provision of Title 58 Chapters 37, 37a, 37b, 37c, or 37d; and
- Where the violation is a part of a continuing series of two or more violations of Title 58 Chapters 37, 37a-37d, on separate occasions which are undertaken in concert with five or more people with respect to whom the person occupies a position of organizer, supervisor, or any other management position.
Utah’s Controlled Substance Act categorizes controlled substances into different groups based on potential abuse and medical usage. Drug offense penalties will vary based on the category of the controlled substances. Substance categories are as follows:
- Schedule I: Some substances in this category include marijuana, acetylmethadol, acetorphine, heroin, and niccodeine.
- Schedule II: Substances include codeine, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, and amphetamine.
- Schedule III: Includes benzphetamine, chlorhexadol, and buprenorphine.
- Schedule IV: This category includes barbital, petrichloral, and modafinil.
- Schedule V: This group covers mixtures and compounds of limited quantities of narcotic drugs including codeine, dihydrocodeine, ethylmorphine, diphenoxylate, opium, difenoxin, and tramadol.
Penalties and Consequences for Drug Convictions
Consequences of drug convictions will vary by substance category. Other factors for consideration include the actor’s intent, whether the actor was part of a larger drug manufacturing or distribution group, whether the offense took place in the presence of a minor, prior convictions, and similar relevant information. Individuals convicted of a first or second conviction of possession of a controlled substance may be convicted of a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and/or up to $2,500 in fees.
For those individuals guilty of a third or subsequent conviction, the punishment is a third-degree felony punishable by zero to five years imprisonment and/or up to $5,000 in fees.
Individuals found guilty of a second-degree felony face anywhere from one to fifteen years imprisonment and/or $10,000 in fees.
A major part of the prosecution’s case in a drug crimes case is the evidence recovered from the individual. One way to fight the prosecution is to attack the method in which the evidence was acquired.
If a search, raid, or stop was performed without the proper protocol, filing a motion to dismiss the evidence may work in your favor. In addition, the prosecution’s credibility may be called into question with regards to the sufficiency of the evidence. Reasonable doubt may be established where the prosecution lacks sufficient evidence against the defendant.
Free Consultation with Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you need to defend against drug crimes, call the lawyer at Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We will help you.
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506