Articles Posted in Drug Offenses

No criminal charges will be filed in Prince’s fentanyl overdose, which resulted in the star’s 2016 death. On Thursday, authorities announced that there was no evidence linking a specific person or persons to his fatal dose of the powerful drug. Even so, Michael Schulenberg, the Minnesota doctor who treated Prince in the weeks leading up to his death, has settled a $30,000 civil suit for an illegal prescription.

According to reports, Schulenberg had written Prince a prescription for Percocet under the name of his bodyguard, Kirk Johnson, in an effort to protect the musician’s privacy. It is, of course, illegal to write a prescription for one person knowing it is intended for another. A Boston injury lawyer can help you recover damages if a physician’s negligence caused you harm.

However, Schulenberg maintains his innocence, saying that he never prescribed drugs for someone else with the knowledge that they would be used by Prince. In a recent statement, the physician’s attorney said that he ”is not a target in any criminal inquiry and there have been no allegations made by the government that Dr. Schulenberg had any role in Prince’s death.”

Prince’s Famously Private Life Hindered the Investigation

Although Prince had purportedly been living a sober life for some time, he became addicted to painkillers following a hip injury. At the time of his death, dozens of painkillers were found at his home, most of them Vicodin counterfeits. As fentanyl is commonly used in counterfeit pills on the black market, it is very possible that Prince unknowingly consumed the dangerous drug. Even so, the prosecution believes that, due to Prince’s extremely private life, it is more likely than not that others assisted him in his efforts to obtain illegal pills.

The famously discreet musician didn’t own a cellphone, which further complicated the investigation into his death.  According to investigators, the people present at his home on the morning of his death “provided inconsistent and, at times, contradictory statements.” A MA injury lawyer can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been injured by another’s negligence.

Less than a week before his death, on the return trip from his last concert, Prince’s plane made an emergency stop in Moline, Illinois where he was taken to the hospital for an opioid overdose. However, no further drug tests were performed, and he was released that same day. Following the incident on the plane, Dr. Schulenberg prescribed the singer with a drug used in the treatment of withdrawal from opiates.

Where is Prince’s Doctor Now?

In addition to paying $30,000 to settle the civil lawsuit, Dr. Schulenberg must undergo two years of “heightened compliance requirements for logging and reporting his prescriptions of controlled substances to the D.E.A.” Following Prince’s death, the doctor changed jobs. He is still working as a doctor in good standing in a different Minneapolis suburb.

Between 2015 and 2016, fentanyl-related deaths more than doubled. In fact, Minnesota saw a surge of black market fentanyl around the same time as Prince’s death. Shortly after, two more musicians, Tom Petty and Lil Peep both died from accidental overdoses involving the drug. Most of these overdoses occur due to illegal fentanyl pressed into pill form in dealers’ basements. Users often think they are buying oxycodone, but these fentanyl-laced pills can be up to 100 times stronger. Continue reading

After a week of various news stories about police officers behaving badly, not so long after my 3-parter about that not necessarily being an unusual exception to the rule…it seemed like this update might be rather timely.

According to Boston.com, what’s been forecasted for quite awhile is now apparently happening. The Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) has now ordered the dismissal of thousands of drug cases tainted by a former chemist who authorities say was high almost every day she worked at a state drug lab for eight years.

Yes, the old Sonja Farak (hereinafter, the “Chemist”) story again.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Committee for Public Counsel Services (“CPCS”), the state’s public defender agency, more than 11,000 convictions in nearly 7,700 cases are being tossed. Both agencies are also asking the court to throw out thousands of other cases potentially impacted by the Chemist.

Prosecutors have also agreed to dismiss the cases tainted by the Chemist, who pleaded guilty in 2014 to stealing drugs from the lab.

The Chemist’s case is separate from another Massachusetts drug lab scandal that resulted in the dismissal of some 21,000 convictions last year. Of course, both are separate and apart from a rather infamous rogue chemist and the thousands of cases that were dismissed because of her fraudulent actions a few years ago.

Attorney Sam’s Take On An Old History Adage

There is an old saying, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” In more modern terms, I used to watch the television show Twin Peaks, which featured the quote, “It is happening again.”

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In finishing this 3-part-blog, we turn away from police officers and video tapes. Those specifics were not the point that I think is vital to be made.

I read on masslive.com, as well as several other venues, the story of Sonja Farak (the “Chemist”) and her tale of woe.

She is the latest Commonwealth chemist who has admitted to tainting and falsifying drug evidence to the point that thousands of criminal convictions have to be thrown out…after many folks have already spent significant time behind bars and had their lives ruined because of her.

The Chemist has admitted that she indulged a voracious drug habit for years, siphoning police evidence she was tasked with preserving and testing.

She was arrested in 2013 and pleaded guilty in 2014.

Of course, she is not the only such chemist who has gone rogue. Over the past years, you and I have discussed a number of cases where evidence had been significantly tampered with by chemists, police officers and other prosecutorial officials.

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As some advocate for more lenient drug laws and rehabilitation instead of punishment, the Trump administration is suggesting that the best way to fight the opioid epidemic in this country is to execute drug dealers. According to White House officials, Trump has shown particular interest in Singapore’s policy of capital punishment for drug dealers.

“Some countries have a very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty, and they have much less of a drug problem than we do,” said Trump at a White House summit on opioids earlier this month.

And last year, Trump praised Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for doing an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.” Thousands of people have been killed by the police as a result of Duterte’s “drug war.” A Boston drug crimes defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with any type of drug crime.

Opioid addiction has reached crisis levels in the United States, with nearly 64,000 people dying from the drug in 2016. Most Americans would agree that something has to be done to stop this growing problem. But the death penalty?

Are Drug Dealers Ever Executed?

Under current federal laws, the death penalty may be used in drug cases, but only in these four extreme situations:

  • When a drug-related drive-by shooting results in a murder;
  • When a drug-related murder is committed with a firearm;
  • When a murder is is committed in relation to drug trafficking;
  • When a law enforcement officer is killed in a drug-related situation.

Unintended Consequences

Fentanyl, a powerful opioid can be fatal, even in small amounts. As such, the Trump administration has suggested implementing the death penalty for individuals convicted of trafficking large amounts of fentanyl. But critics of making fentanyl-trafficking a capital crime argue that doing so could bring an onslaught of unintended consequences. Daniel Ciccarone, a professor at University of California at San Francisco, believes fear of the death penalty could drive addicts underground as well.

“It will keep people from any positive interface with police, any positive interface with public health, any interface with doctors,” said Ciccarone, adding that fewer addicts might seek treatment. “People will become afraid and hide. They won’t trust the police, and they won’t trust the doctor either.” A MA drug crimes defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of drug crime.

Further, Regina LaBelle, Obama’s deputy chief of staff at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said that laws that currently allow for the death penalty to be applied to drug-related cases haven’t had a measurable deterrent effect.

What are the Penalties for Trafficking Opioids in Massachusetts?

In MA, the current punishment for trafficking large quantities of opioids is up to 20 years in prison. Although harsh, 20 years with the possibility of parole pales in comparison to the death penalty. Continue reading

Cocaine is one of the most heavily-trafficked illegal drugs in Massachusetts today. Unfortunately, cocaine possession, trafficking and distribution are often associated with gang activity and other forms of violences. As such, even possession of a small amount of cocaine can land you in prison.

Cocaine is regulated at the state and federal level. In MA, penalties for cocaine-related crimes are severe. In some cases, you may be able to get a plea bargain in exchange for information that helps prosecute high-level traffickers. MA also has specialized drug courts for low-level offenders. If you qualify for such a program, you may be able to avoid jail time in exchange for treatment and rehabilitation. No matter what your situation, it is absolutely essential to hire skilled legal representation. A Boston drug crimes defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with cocaine possession or distribution.

Penalties for Cocaine Possession and Distribution

As with any criminal charge, the penalties for cocaine possession, distribution and trafficking can vary based on prior criminal history and the particulars of your case. If you have been charged with a cocaine-related crime, you may be facing the following penalties

  • Possession – first offense: Up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. It is considered trafficking if you have 14 grams or more in your possession.
  • Possession – second offense: Up to two years in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.
  • Sale – first offense: Up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. It is considered trafficking if you have 14 grams or more in your possession.
  • Sale – second offense: Up to two years in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking – between 12 and 28 grams: Three to 15 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking – between 28 and 100 grams: Five to 20 years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking – between 100 and 200 grams: 10 to 20 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
  • Trafficking – over 200 grams: 15 to 20 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines.

In MA, cocaine in powder or rock form (crack) is a Class B Controlled Substance. In addition to severe penalties and fines, you will end up with a criminal record if you are convicted. Having a record for cocaine possession or distribution can negatively impact your ability to get a job or housing for years into the future.

Alternative Sentencing

In many cases, prison is the absolute worst place for an individual charged with a drug crime. If you were found in possession of a small amount of cocaine, a treatment program may be a better option than time behind bars. If you qualify for such a program, you might walk away with a clean record once you’ve satisfied all of the program’s requirements, including obeying all laws, submitting to regular drug and alcohol testing, avoiding certain people, and completing a drug treatment program. A MA drug crimes defense attorney can help you protect your rights if you’ve been charged with any type of drug crime. Continue reading

Here is a piece of the basic advice that perhaps I don’t stress enough. Maybe it is my fault that a certain Gentleman from Springfield is in so much trouble.

Arquelio Cajigas, 45 years of age and hereinafter the “Defendant”, is currently being held on $250,000 bail after pleading not guilty to various charges including heroin possession and illegal possession of a gun.

Well, that’s not too and given the fact that the prosecutors asked for $500,000 bail saying that he is a “career drug dealer.”

The Defendant’s bail request was apparently for $25,000 bail, saying his client is of limited means and cooperated fully in the police investigation.

In fact, said “cooperation” did not support the argument of limited means. In fact, the Defendant apparently told law enforcement that he lives in a shelter.

According to the Boston Herald, the police say that they found approximately $35,000 and a 9 mm handgun Tuesday in one of the apartments. At another apartment, detectives say they found 816 grams of uncut heroin, enough for 80,000 bags with a street value of $400,000 to $800,000.

These values tend to be unsupportive of a poverty argument.

It is not clear at this point what links the Defendant to these two apartments. However, the allegations as they are give us fodder to discuss the point to which I allude as well as a couple other tidbits of information.

Attorney Sam’s Take On Drugs, Guns And Statements To Law Enforcement

I have explained many times that it is usually unwise for a suspect to make statements to the police as he or she is facing arrest. I have explained the reasons for this several times and, I am sure, will do so again.

Not today, though.

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…And another gent is learning about what I have begun to think of as the “Commonwealth Double Whammy”.

According to the Boston Herald,  Florian Roshi, 34 from Weymouth and hereinafter the “Defendant”, is now facing criminal charges and his three children are in the custody of the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”).

The Defendant is facing charges of Operating Under The Influence of Drugs and Child Endangerment. As reported, it sounds like he is in a lot of trouble.

The Commonwealth alleges that the Defendant was driving a truck while under the influence. They say the truck careened off the road and scraped along a guardrail.  Showing questionable judgment, the Defendant made statements. He allegedly told police that he “swerved and heard glass break. When officers asked what took so long to stop, he did not have an answer.”

The prosecutor told the judge at the Defendant’s Arraignment that a 4-year-old “went through the front passenger window of the truck”.

The child restraint seat in the back “was not anchored or secured to the vehicle in any manner. It was merely placed in the rear of the vehicle,” the prosecutor said. Apparently, the 4-year-old suffered “significant road rash” on his face and was expected to undergo an MRI at Children’s Hospital.

Authorities say that the Defendant abandoned the vehicle and child in the breakdown lane of Route 3. He is then said to have walked a quarter-mile back with his uninjured 8-year-old child to where his 4-year-old lay injured.  According to law enforcement, the child was being comforted in the arms of a good Samaritan while his father “had an emotion neutral look on his face” and “a glazed over look in his eyes.”

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In 2015, Oregon legalized recreational marijuana. To date, seven states and the District of Colombia have adopted full legalization, and 26 states have legalized marijuana in some form. But what about more serious drugs like crystal meth and cocaine? There are no plans to legalize narcotics in the near future, but reduced penalties are on the horizon.

Drugs, Amounts, and Penalties

A new law in Oregon will reduce first-time possession of certain drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. As with most criminal offenses, penalties will be largely dependent on prior history and the particulars of the case. For example, individuals with prior felony convictions and those who are found in possession of commercial quantities of a drug are not likely to receive the benefits of this new legislation. Specific drugs and amounts covered by this statute are as follows:

Addiction to opioid pain killers has reached epidemic proportions. In fact, some studies estimate that more deaths are caused by opioids, such as oxycodone and OxyContin, than motor vehicle accidents in the United States. The government and law enforcement agencies nationwide are struggling with how to respond to this ever-growing problem. Police are cracking down on illegal possession and distribution, but the process has not been easy. For starters, opioids are legal with a valid prescription. Further, the problem is more likely to be resolved with education and rehabilitation; jail time and criminal penalties often do more harm than good.

Most people who become addicted to opioid pain killers start with a legal prescription. Opioids are often given after painful surgical procedures that require long-term recovery, such as hip replacements and back surgeries. But even lesser injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, may be treated with opioid pain killers. The ease with which some doctors prescribe these highly-addictive drugs, and the drug manufacturers’ eagerness to fill those prescriptions, is at the center of a national debate. In response, the Justice Department has recently formed the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. The unit will focus on “investigating and prosecuting health care fraud related to prescription opioids, including pill mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.”

Some Doctors Write More Monthly Opioid Prescriptions Than Entire Hospitals

Many states, including Massachusetts, have specialized drug courts, which aim to provide addiction treatment rather than criminal penalties for drug offenders. However, last month, New York took its drug court system one step further by instituting a highly-specialized opiate court to address the nation’s growing problem with opioid addiction.

Opioid addiction has reached epidemic proportions, nationwide. As such, law makers have come to the realization that the problem must be dealt with differently from other crimes, even from other drug crimes. In most cases, opioid addicts need treatment and rehabilitation, not hefty fines and prison time.

On May 1, New York’s Buffalo City Court initiated the opiate intervention program, which will screen anyone arrested in Buffalo for opiate use and put their criminal cases on hold while they are enrolled in an addiction treatment program. In a recent interview, District Attorney John J. Flynn told the Buffalo News, “Jail is not the answer. Will people be held accountable for their crimes? Yes. But they also deserve to be cared for and loved.” A MA defense attorney can help you determine how to proceed if you’ve been charged with a drug crime.

Delays Can be Deadly

New York’s new opiate court is different from traditional drug courts in multiple ways. In its standard program, drug users typically don’t begin treatment for 30, 60 or 90 days. In opiate court, treatment begins immediately. When it comes to opiate addicts, a three-month delay can be deadly. So far, the program seems to be a success; 40 of the first 43 people admitted are currently undergoing addiction treatment. New York’s bold move may create sweeping changes in how drug offenses are treated across the country.

The Massachusetts Probation Service, which administers MA’s drug courts, estimates that over 80 percent of the probation population is battling some type of addiction. According to Specialty Courts Administrator Sheila Casey, MA drug court programs generally last between 16 and 24 months. “Drug courts provide highly intensive probation supervision and access to appropriate treatment for substance use disorders to participants who are ’high risk/high need,’” said Casey. “Probationers report on a weekly basis at first with court appearances becoming less frequent as the person progresses through the drug court.“ A Boston defense attorney can help you determine if drug court is an option for you.

Drug Courts Work

Across the country, about 75 percent of individuals who successfully complete drug court remain arrest-free for at least two years following the program.

  • Studies of drug courts reveal that, on average, crime reduction lasts at least three years and can endure for more than 14 years.
  • Reports show that drug courts reduce crime by up to 45 percent more than criminal prosecution.
  • Across the country, taxpayers save up to $3.36 for every $1.00 invested in the drug court system.
  • When other cost offsets such as healthcare are considered, that savings increases to up to $27 per every $1 invested.
  • Per client, drug courts save up to $13,000 in reduced arrest and trial costs, reduced prison costs, and reduced costs related to victimization.

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