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Judge Rejects San Diego Challenge to Medical Marijuana Law

Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/16/america/NA_GEN_US_Medical_Marijuana.php

Divided [Oregon] Supreme Court Upholds Restrictions on Police Seizures

Location: 
OR
United States
Publication/Source: 
Salem Statesman Journal
URL: 
http://www.statesmanjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061020/STATE/610200326/1042

Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Legality of Property Protection Act of 2000

For Immediate Release: Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 October 19, 2006 Daniel Abrahamson (510) 295-5635 Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Legality of Property Protection Act of 2000 Asset Forfeiture Reform Requires Conviction before Law Enforcement Can Seize Property; Seized Property Goes to Fund Treatment, Not to Enrich Police Forces Ruling Ends Six-year Legal Challenge to Popular Voter-approved Initiative The Oregon State Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling today upholding Measure 3, the ballot initiative overwhelmingly approved in 2000 by voters that dramatically reformed Oregon's asset forfeiture laws. Today's decision comes in the case Lincoln Interagency Narcotics Team v. Kitzhaber, Case No. S50904 Measure 3 - The Oregon Property Protection Act of 2000 - was passed with 67.2 percent of the statewide vote - and a 60 percent majority in each of the state's 36 counties. The measure rewrote the state's forfeiture practices by preventing private property from being forfeited unless the individual was convicted of a crime, limiting the amount of assets forfeited in accordance with the severity of the crime, and directing the proceeds from forfeited property toward the funding of drug treatment programs instead of law enforcement budgets. “Today, the Supreme Court upheld the clear will of the voters,” said Daniel Abrahamson, director of Legal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization devoted to drug policy reform, which worked with local organizations and individuals to craft and pass Measure 3 and funded the litigation to protect the law. “Not only do the people wish to be assured that forfeitures are reined in, they shall encourage it by removing the carrot which otherwise would tempt the two political branches of government to treat the criminal law as a revenue-raising source,” noted Abrahamson, quoting from the opinion. According to Abrahamson, “today's decision not only makes sure that people have basic protections from having their assets forfeited, but directs the forfeiture proceeds to where the money can make the most difference in creating safer communities and saving lives: by funding drug treatment programs.” Following its passage, the Lincoln County Interagency Narcotics Team, one of many drug teams whose operating budget was almost entirely financed from forfeiture dollars, filed suit in state court challenging the constitutionality of Measure 3, claiming it violated the state’s “separate-vote” requirement for ballot initiatives by making more than one substantive change to the state constitution. Backers of Measure 3 won an early court victory and the initiative has remained on the books through today's ruling. Portland attorney Eli Stutsman, who defended Measure 3 before the court, said “today’s decision brings a welcome conclusion to the long and complex battle over Measure 3. We appreciate the careful consideration that the Supreme Court gave this case and the high level of professionalism and advocacy by all the parties involved. Naturally, we are also pleased with the decision handed us by the court.”
Location: 
OR
United States

Drug Raids: Michigan Judge Rules Flint Rave Raid Arrests Unconstitutional

In March 2005, police in Flint, Michigan, burst into Club What's Next late one Friday night after witnessing a few instances of drug sales in or near the club and marijuana smoking inside the club, which was holding a rave party. Although police found drugs or paraphernalia on only 23 people (despite strip searches and body cavity searches), they arrested all 117 persons present at the scene. The remaining 94 people were charged with "frequenting a drug house," a misdemeanor offense.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/utahraveraid.jpg
2005 rave raid in Utah (courtesy Portland IndyMedia)
Last Friday, a Genesee Circuit Court judge threw out those arrests, holding that Flint police had violated the constitutional rights of the club-goers. In his decision, Judge Joseph Farah held that police lacked probable cause to arrest people merely for being in the club.

"The District Court erred in finding probable cause to arrest these defendants," Farah wrote in his decision. "To allow to stand the arrests of these 94 defendants would be to allow lumping together people who had been at the club for five minutes or five hours, people who never stopped dancing with those who sat next to a drug deal, people who sat at a table facing the wall with those in the middle of the mischief, and charge those dissimilarly present individuals with equal awareness and knowledge of wrongdoing."

The ACLU of Michigan, which represented the 94 people arrested for being present, greeted the decision with pleasure. "The ordinance under which the arrests were made is in place to protect Flint citizens from actual drug houses. It was never intended to be randomly deployed by the police against law-abiding citizens who go out to clubs to hear music and socialize," said Michigan ACLU executive director Kary Moss in a statement issued the same day. "Judge Joseph Farah's decision vindicates the constitutional rights of our clients and sends a strong message to police departments across the country."

"Judge Farah's opinion correctly concludes that the police had no business arresting any of them," said Ken Mogill, cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Michigan who argued the case with Elizabeth Jacobs. "This is a gratifying victory for each of those law-abiding, wrongly arrested individuals and for the rule of law in our community."

Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

Busy, busy, busy. Judges on cocaine, cops dealing cocaine, cops selling ecstasy, Air Force pilots smuggling ecstasy, police chemists pilfering from the evidence pile, and, of course, jail guards smuggling dope into prisons. Let's get to it:

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, the state Judicial Standards Commission filed a petition last Friday seeking the removal of a Dona Ana County magistrate on the grounds he tested positive for cocaine, according to the Associated Press. Magistrate Carlos Garza, 42, has denied using drugs and vowed to fight the move. Garza has been suspended by the commission since September 20, when he failed to comply with a commission order he submit to a drug test. According to the commission, he has since failed another drug test. The commission also accused Garza of trying to pressure a Mesilla deputy marshal during a traffic stop where the judge was in a car with a woman "with whom he had a personal relationship" and asking a court clerk to clear the woman's license early in a drunk driving case. He was put on probation by the Judicial Standards Commission earlier this year in that case, and he said the charge he used cocaine was a continuation of a commission vendetta against him. He said the cocaine metabolites found in his system could have been received through "passive exposure." Garza is running unopposed for reelection in next month's elections.

[Ed: Whether to include mere drug use/possession by criminal justice personnel among the examples of corruption is a dilemma Drug War Chronicle routinely faces. We've opted so far to include them, because a judge who uses illegal drugs may also be a judge who presides over trials of, and pronounces sentences on, other drug users who have only done the same thing (hypocrisy); and because the judge is violating a law he has sworn to uphold (it being a law with which we disagree notwithstanding). Still, it bears reminder that there is a difference between drug use even by police or judges vs. profiting from the drug trade or other examples of official misconduct.]

In Durham, North Carolina, a Durham County sheriff's deputy has been arrested in a drug raid at a local bar and two more deputies have been fired for working security there. Deputy Michael Owens, the owner of the raided bar, was charged along with four others with trafficking cocaine and conspiracy to traffic cocaine, and he faces the additional charge of maintaining a building for the purposes of distributing cocaine. Deputies Brad King and Keith Dotson, who worked off-duty as security for the club, were suspended that same night, the Durham Herald Sun reported, and fired early this week. Authorities reported seizing 1.4 ounces of cocaine during the raid.

In Biloxi, Mississippi, a former Biloxi police officer pleaded guilty last Friday to selling ecstasy, the Biloxi Sun Herald reported. Darrell Cvitanovich, who resigned from the force after his arrest, faces up to 30 years in prison after he admitted selling four ecstasy tablets to a friend. Cvitanovich, who is the son of a former Biloxi police chief, was arrested in June 2005 after an investigation into allegations he was involved in drug activities. During a search of his home, police found 11 ecstasy tablets and a small amount of methamphetamine. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell and transfer of a controlled substance, but pleaded last week to the single sales charge. Cvitanovich is free on $50,000 bond pending sentencing.

In New York City, a US Air National Guard pilot who took an Air Force jet to Germany and carried back 200,000 ecstasy tablets was sentenced last Friday to 17 ½ years in prison. Capt. Franklin Rodriguez, 36, and his coconspirator, Master Sgt. John Fong, 37, had pleaded guilty in federal court after being busted for the April 2005 flight. Fong awaits sentencing. The pair went down after federal law enforcement agents watched Fong load 28 bags into a BMW sedan and found them filled with ecstasy tablets, according to the Associated Press. Prosecutors said Rodriguez had repeatedly flown drugs on military flights, bringing hundreds of thousands of ecstasy tablets to the US. The feds found more than $700,000 cash in his apartment. They have it now.

In Philadelphia, a former civilian chemist for the Philadelphia Police Department was arrested October 11 on charges she stole drugs for her own use, the Associated Press reported. Colleen Brubaker, 30, came under suspicion in April and resigned in May. Authorities now accuse her of grabbing pain-relieving opiates like Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin to feed her own habit. She is charged with drug possession, theft, receiving stolen property, tampering with evidence, obstruction, tampering with public records or information, and tampering with or fabricating physical evidence. Since Brubaker was the chemist responsible for hundreds of drug cases, public defenders are now looking into the possibility that some of them may have to be dismissed.

In Stillwater, Oklahoma, a Payne County sheriff's deputy has been suspended without pay pending an investigation by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, the Associated Press reported. Local officials are mum about exactly what Deputy Brooke Buchanan, a 13-year veteran of the department, is accused of doing, but they did confirm that a special prosecutor has been named in the investigation. The investigation could take several more weeks before any charges are filed.

In Lubbock, Texas, a Lubbock County jail guard was arrested Sunday night as she arrived at work carrying marijuana, KLBK-CBS 13 TV in Lubbock reported. Renata Hernandez, 26, is charged with introducing a prohibited substance into a correctional facility. She faces between two and ten years in prison. While sheriff's office spokesmen said they believed she was bringing the weed into the jail to sell it, they have not been able to prove that yet.

Sentencing: Louisiana Supreme Court Hears Case of Heroin Lifers

In the midst of 1970s-style drug war hysteria, Louisiana legislators passed a law mandating life without parole for people convicted of selling heroin. In 2001, the legislature moved to amend that draconian law, amending it so that heroin distribution sentences ran from five to 50 years in prison. That 2001 law also established a "risk review" process for early release of prisoners sentenced under harsh old laws. In 2003, the legislature specifically included the heroin lifers in the group of convicts who could seek redress via the review process, and in 2005, it amended the law to allow inmates to seek a review after serving seven years of their sentences.

More than 90 heroin lifers remain behind bars, many of them now elderly after having spent the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and half of the 2000s behind bars.

Last year, trial court judges in Orleans and St. Tammany parishes, frustrated with the glacial pace at which the reviews were moving, revised downward the sentences of a pair of heroin lifers and ordered their immediate release. The state of Louisiana appealed the decision, and this week the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case.

Prosecutors argued Tuesday that the heroin lifers must go through an arduous and extensive review process controlled by the Department of Corrections to seek a sentence reduction and the freedom it would deliver. The trial judges who ordered prisoners released exceeded their jurisdiction, said Graham Bosworth of the New Orleans district attorney's office.

But attorneys representing the heroin lifers argued that recent legislative changes made the old sentences patently illegal and that judges have the authority to resentence those prisoners. "We have to trust people we have on the district court benches to exercise their jurisdiction wisely," said attorney Dwight Doskey.

The two men whose cases are being appealed are Melvin Smith, who was convicted in 1977 and recently ordered released by Orleans Criminal District Court Judge Calvin Johnson, who had resentenced him to 28 years -- essentially time served; and Wesley Dick, who was sentenced to life in 2001 just before the law changed. District Judge Patricia Hedges freed him in July after cutting his sentence to 10 years.

In a sign of prosecutorial vindictiveness, Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan blocked Smith's release. The elderly Smith remains wheelchair-bound at the Orleans Parish House of Detention pending the Supreme Court decision regarding his fate.

Marijuana: Idaho High Court Rules Officials Can't Block Legalization Initiative Just Because They Don't Like It

Two years ago in Sun Valley, Idaho, Ryan Davidson wanted to begin petitioning for a municipal initiative that would have allowed Sun Valley residents to possess, grow, and sell marijuana within the city limits of the mountain resort community. But city officials, instead of merely confirming that Davidson's initial petition with 22 signatures was formatted correctly, as specified in the municipal code, rejected his proposed petition altogether, saying it contravened state and federal law and was thus outside the scope of the city's initiative process.

Davidson filed suit and lost in district court, then appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. In a decision rendered September 27, the high court unanimously agreed with Davidson. "The City protests that if the Clerk cannot halt unconstitutional initiatives any group could submit petitions for any number of outlandish causes," wrote Justice Roger Burdick for the court. "While it is true that many such initiatives could be proposed, sorting through the substance of proposed initiatives to separate the wheat from the chaff is not the role of the City Clerk. The proper checks on the power of initiative are the voting public and the courts, and a city council retains the power to repeal or amend ill advised ordinances passed by direct legislation."

In addition to allowing for regulated marijuana use and commerce, Davidson's initiative would have directed local law enforcement to make the pot laws their lowest priority. It would also have directed the city to lobby state officials to change the state's marijuana laws.

The court did not rule on whether such an initiative would be constitutional under Idaho law, saying that decision could await the passage of such an initiative. In a concurring opinion, Chief Justice Gerald Shroeder argued that parts of it would violate state law and thus be invalid. "Time, effort and money will have been wasted, except to the extent that lawmakers will have the opinion of a small segment of the state's qualified electors," Schroeder wrote. "Nonetheless, the decision to allow the process to play itself out without judicial intervention is appropriate."

No word yet on whether Davidson will begin a new petition drive now, although it is reasonable to think that someone who has gone to the highest court in the state to win that right is likely to exercise it soon.

Sentencing: No Retroactive Relief for Rockefeller Drug Law Prisoners, New York Appeals Court Rules

People serving tough mid-level sentences under New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws will not be able to get those sentences reduced if they were convicted before drug sentencing reforms took effect in January 2005, the state's highest court ruled September 21. In its opinion in the consolidated cases of three men sentenced under the old laws, the court held that the legislature intended only to cut the sentences of those newly convicted.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/rockpataki.jpg
not enough: Gov. Pataki signs Rockefeller reform bill, 12/04
Under the Drug Law Reform Act that came into effect last year, some 400 prisoners facing the most severe sentences -- up to life -- were allowed to seek retroactive sentence cuts. But thousands of prisoners doing lesser, but still severe, sentences were not explicitly granted that right. Three of them -- Thomas Thomas Utsey, Michael Nelson and Corey Smith -- appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing they should have had the same opportunity to seek retroactive redress.

But in a unanimous decision, the court said no way. The bill clearly stated that the law would "apply to crimes committed on or after the effective date," the court noted. "Under the plain language of the statute, the relevant provisions of the DLRA are intended to apply only to crimes committed after its effective date," Chief Judge Judith Kaye said in her decision. "That being so, defendants are not eligible for the reduced penalties contained in the new law."

It took years of dogged effort by a broad coalition of civil rights, prison reform, and drug reform groups to win even the partial reform that was approved in 2004. Now, the New York courts have strongly signaled that any further relief must come through that same cumbersome legislative process.

Possible 40-year term debated for teen accused of drug smuggling

Location: 
El Paso, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/4211621.html

County Judge Delays Drug Treatment Law Change

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Oakland Tribune
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_4342271

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