Appelman

Trooper Unlawfully Stops Colorado Driver Assuming He Has Marijuana

Wednesday, 2. April 2014

Colorado License Plate WeedA 70-year-old was recently arrested and had his vehicle searched by an Idaho State Trooper all because he had a Colorado license plate on his car, a state where recreational marijuana use is legal. 

According to a lawsuit against the police department, Darien Roseen was traveling between Colorado and Washington in January when Idaho State Trooper Justin Klitch pulled out of the median and “rapidly accelerated” to catch up to Roseen’s vehicle. Like any reasonable person when a cop pulls up behind them without putting their flashers on, Roseen began to feel uncomfortable and exited the highway at a rest station. The trooper followed Roseen off the exit and turned on his flashers.

Roseen parked at the rest station and Klitch approached the vehicle. During their interaction, Klitch said he stopped Roseen for failing to use his turn signal when pulling off the highway, but the conversation quickly turned accusatory. Klitch asked him why he stopped at the rest station, but wasn’t satisfied with the 70-year-old’s response that had to use the bathroom, telling him, “You didn’t have to go to the bathroom before you saw me…. I’m telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me.”

Carrying Cannabis?

Instead of going through the routine procedure of asking for a license, registration or proof of insurance, Klitch asked Roseen why his eyes “appeared glossy” and if he had “something in his vehicle that he should not have.” Roseen told Klitch he was legally carrying some medications, but that didn’t suit the trooper.

“After Mr. Roseen identified his possession of valid prescription medications, Trooper Klitch asked him, ‘When is the last time you used any marijuana?’ thereby assuming that Mr. Roseen had, in fact, used marijuana and inferring that he had used it recently,” the complaint read.

Klitch then threatened to bring in a drug-sniffing dog, and told Roseen his behavior was  “consistent with a person who was hiding something illegal.” It only went downhill from there. According to Klitch, his fatal flaw was allowing the officer to search parts of his vehicle in an effort to get “back on the road faster.” The complaint alleges: 

  • Klitch searched Roseen’s truck, and despite gusty winds, claimed to smell marijuana.
  • The trooper detained Roseen, put him in the back of his squad car, called for backup, and searched the entire vehicle.
  • The second officer drove Roseen’s vehicle to the Payette County Sheriff’s Office without permission or taking inventory the vehicle’s contents.
  • A subsequent search found no marijuana, but Roseen was cited for “inattentive/careless” driving.

Roseen retained council and is seeking federal punitive damages for what he calls an abuse of power and “license plate profiling.”

Mel Welch, a criminal defense attorney with Appelman Law Firm, said the trooper clearly abused his power.

“What struck me was the abuse of authority and the system this officer did by hiding behind accusations verifiable only through his testimony (“I smelled marijuana”), and covering up his abuse by issuing a ticket for inattentive/careless driving,” said Welch. “That kind of ticket is cover for the police to issue bologna citations, thereby calling the abused person’s credibility into question because they have something at stake.”

Related source: CBS Seattle

Could Criminals Soon Face 1,000-Year Prison Sentences?

Wednesday, 19. March 2014

Elderly CriminalYou may have heard about some extreme cases where judges have sentenced criminals to 100 or more years in prison, but many of these criminals will die before serving the duration of their sentence. That all could change in the near future as some biotech scientists say we may soon have the ability to keep people alive for 1,000 years, meaning sentences could extend into the hundreds or thousands of years. 

“Some crimes are so bad they require a really long period of punishment, and a lot of people seem to get out of that punishment by dying,” said Oxford University scientist Dr. Rebecca Roache. She added that in some particularly heinous crimes, the prison sentences are “laughably inadequate.”

One specific child abuse case struck a nerve with Dr. Roache. She detailed the story of Magdelena Luczak and Mariusk Krezolek, who beat, starved, tortured and murdered Luczak’s four-year-old son. Dr. Roache said the pair, who received a 30-year sentence for their crimes, will receive far better treatment than Luczak’s child.

“They will, for example, be fed and watered, housed in clean cells, allowed access to a toilet and washing facilities, allowed out of their cells for exercise and recreation,” said Dr. Roache.

Extending Sentences

The technology to extend criminal sentences is a two-pronged approach. The first avenue scientists are pursuing involves anti-aging research. Scientists have long been looking at extending lifespans through injections or supplements, and they feel that they are on the edge of a breakthrough. If the technology soon becomes available, even if it only adds a few years onto the median lifespan, it would ensure some criminal spend more time behind bars.

The second approach scientists are researching is a little more controversial. Some believe that influencing the perception of time is a way to artificially lengthen prison sentences. Dr. Roache noted that there are already several drugs available that distort a person’s sense of time, and she added that science might not be too far away from developing a pill that makes a prisoner feel like they are serving a 1,000-year sentence.

Despite her curiousity into the science, Dr. Roache notes the arguments against psychoactive medication.

“Of course, there is a widely held view that any amount of tinkering with a person’s brain is unacceptably invasive.” she said. ‘But you might not need to interfere with the brain directly.”

Mel Welch comments

While I think Dr. Roache is being overly optimistic about how close the science community is to extending lifespans into the thousands of years, I simply cannot get on board with this plan.

The idea of keeping someone alive to extend his or her sentence seems like a huge waste of taxpayer money. Is it really worth it to keep someone alive, someone who likely has limited or little control over their bodily actions at this point in their life (is a 150-year-old really going to be moving about his cell?) just so he doesn’t die, with the taxpayers footing the bill?

And the point about drugging a prisoner to alter their mind is just too abusurd to comment on. Do we really want to play judge, jury, doctor and god with someone’s life?

Related sources: Dailymail.co.uk, Aeon, Blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk

Kerry Kennedy Acquitted of Drugged Driving

Friday, 28. February 2014

Kerry KennedyA 6-person jury ruled that Kerry Kennedy was not guilty of drugged driving on Friday after defense attorneys argued that Kennedy accidentally took the sleeping pill and its affects clouded her judgment to the point that she couldn’t consciously make the decision to pull over.

“I’m incredibility grateful to the jury for working so hard on this case, and to my lawyers and to my family and friends and so many other people who supported me,” Kennedy said at the conclusion of the trial. “I’m just happy justice was done.”

Kennedy faced misdemeanor drugged driving charges after she got behind the wheel after accidentally taking Ambien instead of taking her thyroid medication. Kennedy crashed her car into a tractor-trailer and claimed she had no recollection of the accident at trial.

“If I realized I was impaired, I would have pulled over,” Kennedy testified.

Curious Case

As the case proceeded, it was clear that both prosecutors and defense attorneys believed Kennedy took the sleeping pill on accident, but they were split on what they believe happened next. Prosecutors argued that Kennedy knowingly ignored signs of impairment while she was driving, while defense attorneys claimed the pill made her unable to recognize the warning signs.

Ordinarily, controlled substance DWIs are difficult cases to prove, especially when the drug is prescribed, such as the sleeping aid Ambien. When folks take medications, they believe, and rightfully so, that their doctors are looking out for them, and that they understand the side effects and problems arising from the use of any medication.

With Ambien, and other prescribed sleeping medications, the onset of drowsiness can be swift. Many folks who are not familiar with medications may not have sufficient time to realize what is happening. They become drowsy in a matter of minutes, and in some cases nod off shortly after taking the pills. The pharmacologist who testified in Kennedy’s case told the jury that folks who take sleeping aids are often unaware of what is happening biologically.

The prosecutor in the Kennedy case had an uphill battle. Once prosecutors conceded that Kennedy took the medication accidentally, the state was left to argue that she had to realize that she was drifting off to sleep, and that she should have pulled over at the moment she realized her senses were impaired. When confronted with various medical and pharmacological experts refuting the state’s contention, the jury simply had to acquit her.

Related source: Dailymail.co.uk

McGruff the Crime Dog to Serve 16 Years for Pot, Weapons Charges

Tuesday, 18. February 2014

McGruff the Crime DogeJohn R. Morales, better known for his portrayal of McGruff the Crime Dog, was sentenced to 16 years in prison earlier this month after authorities seized 1,000 marijuana plants, 9,000 rounds of ammunition, 26 weapons and a grenade launcher from his Texas residence. 

The “ruff” ordeal began when Morales was picked up for speeding back in 2011. During the traffic stop, authorities found diagrams for two grow houses and marijuana seeds in the trunk of his car. Shortly after he was arrested, law enforcement officials raided his home, which uncovered the stash of plants, weapons and ammunition. Also discovered during the raid was a fully functioning grenade launcher. He pled guilty to charges during a February 3 court appearance and was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Ironically, Morales spent a good portion of his life advocating against crime as McGruff the Crime Dog, a costumed mascot that visited schools to spread awareness about crime. McGruff’s tagline “Take a bite out of crime,” became a popular slogan during the anti-crime campaign that began in the early 1980’s.

Mel Welch comments

This is quite the ironic twist. A man who championed the anti-crime cause goes to jail with quite the stockpile of illegal substances at his residence. The weapons and marijuana didn’t help his cause, and certainly the high court looked down upon the discovery of a grenade launcher. It doesn’t appear that authorities found any explosive devices while searching his residence, which only would have lengthened his already extended sentence.

Morales could have benefited from the old adage, “practice what you preach.”

Related source: CBS Houston

Can New Lab Manager Save Troubled St. Paul Crime Lab?

Thursday, 23. January 2014

Crime LabThe struggling St. Paul crime lab hopes a new criminologist can implement positive changes and restore public trust that was lost under the previous regimen.

“The past is the past,” said Rosanna Caswell, who will take over the floundering department. “I’m going to move forward. I wasn’t here, but obviously there were deficiencies.”

Caswell, 41, has been appointed as the new forensic lab manager for the St. Paul crime lab that came under scrutiny in 2012. It all unraveled for the crime lab after two public defenders challenged test results and collection procedures conducted by the lab. Independent consultants were brought in to review the lab’s techniques, and according to their reports, they found numerous errors in the way the lab tested, reviewed, and processed crime scene evidence.

Other issues with the lab include:

  • Sloppy documentation
  • Dirty Equipment
  • Faulty collection techniques
  • Ignorance of basic science
  • Inaccurate recording of drug weights
  • Citing Wikipedia as a technical reference

Aftermath

The fallout from the mishandled evidence reporting was widespread. Because the crime lab provided evidentiary reports for court cases in Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges needed to reevaluate previous cases based on the new information.

In many cases, prosecutors dropped pending charges or offered reduced plea agreements because defense attorneys would be able to easily dispute the evidence’s credibility. Defense attorneys had to review past cases to see if any of their clients could have been wrongly convicted because faulty evidence was taken as fact. Judges were left to sort out the mess.

Criminal Defense Attorney Mel Welch said it’s impossible to know how many innocent people were affected by the crime lab’s mistakes. 

“The process of reading fingerprint evidence, deciphering multiple DNA alleles and analyzing compounds in a chemical mixture is an intricate science, and when done correctly, can be the crucial piece of evidence that puts a man behind bars or sets him free,” said Welch. “Judges and juries rely on this information as fact, because the evidence often paints a truer picture than the usual ‘he said-she-said’ arguments that occur in a courtroom. When the reporting is done incorrectly, be it out of accident, negligence, or even purposefully, those who rely on the information as fact are duped, and we all suffer the consequences.”

Welch concluded that the crime lab’s employees aren’t the only ones to blame.

“There needs to be a top down review, because lives are at stake,” said Welch. “It’s not just the people doing the testing, but the people who put them in charge, and the people whose job it was to ensure the lab was functioning correctly. Removing a few bad apples from the tree won’t stop the problem if the tree itself is poisoned.”

Related source: Pioneer Press

Oregon Couple Tries To Tip Waitress With Crystal Meth

Wednesday, 8. January 2014

Crystal MethLeave the crystal meth to Walter White – not to your waitress. 

An Oregon couple learned that lesson the hard way after they attempted to settle their bill with a few rocks of crystal meth.

According to the police report, Ryan Bensen, 40, and Erica Manley, 37, were at the Twisted Fish Steakhouse on Thursday when the incident occurred. After a night of wining and dining, it came time to pay the bill. The couple used a gift card to cover the tab, but they wanted to make sure they took care of their waitress with a tip. When the waitress returned to the table, the couple handed her an envelope with a question mark on it.

Expecting cash, the waitress was surprised to find a small stash of crystal meth inside the envelope. She calmly walked towards the kitchen and called police, who arrived on the scene a short while later.

“She was like ‘Whoa — what the …?’” said Steve Keszler, a manager at the Seaside steakhouse. “We’re not a little dive bar or hole in the wall. We’re a classy place.”

Bensen and Manley were still in the restaurant when authorities arrived. A search of Manley’s purse uncovered more than 17 ounces of methamphetamine, which have a street value of nearly $30,000.

“While I should be shocked and surprised, it’s just another example of how dumb these users and dealers are,” said Seaside Police Chief Robert Gross said. “The whole thing almost made me chuckle.”

After uncovering the crystal meth on the suspects, authorities received a warrant to search the hotel room the suspects had rented at a nearby Holiday Inn Express. Chief Gross said police found a small torch, batteries, and other items for making crystal in the mini meth lab.

Bensen was charged with possession and manufacturing methamphetamine, while Manley was charged with possession, delivering, and manufacturing methamphetamine.

Meth in Minnesota

Looking at the law in Minnesota, drug possession crimes are broken down into five degrees. All five degrees carry serious consequences, but first-degree charges are the most severe.

A person can be found guilty of first-degree criminal possession in Minnesota if they possess:

  • 25 grams or more of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, or any combination of the three.
  • 500 grams or more of a narcotic drug other than cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
  • 500 grams (or dosage units) or more of amphetamine, phencyclidine, or hallucinogenic drugs.
  • 100 kilograms or more of marijuana or Tetrahydrocannabinols

An ounce of meth is equivalent to roughly 28 grams, meaning that Manley had nearly 500 grams of methamphetamine in her possession when authorities searched her purse, well above the 25-gram threshold necessary to bring first-degree charges.

If a person is found guilty of first-degree possession of a controlled substance, they can be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison, fines of up to $1,000,000, or both.

Related source: The Oregonian

Breaking Bad Sweepstakes Winner Caught In Drug Ring

Friday, 3. January 2014

Breaking BadA Florida man who won the chance to meet the stars of the hit TV show Breaking Bad is facing felony drug charges after authorities found homemade synthetic drugs in his home after a New Year’s Day raid.

Ryan Carroll, 28, faces charges of synthetic narcotic possession with intent to sell, drug possession, and keeping a shop or vehicle for dangerous drugs in connection with the drug bust.

According to authorities, Carroll and colleagues used a cement mixer along with plant matter and chemicals to create synthetic marijuana. After they added “flavors” to their product, they would ship the packages across the country using the U.S. Postal Service.

Carroll’s neighbor, Randy Hughes, said he suspected something shady was going on when he noticed how much mail the men received on a daily basis.

“You knew something was up,” Hughes said. “They either had a very successful business, or they were up to something they shouldn’t be. Every day, FedEx deliveries.”

Busted Breaking Bad

Carroll may have been addicted to making marijuana, but he was also hooked on the show Breaking Bad, which centers around a high school teacher turned meth cook. In September, Carroll won a sweepstakes to meet the cast of the show and watch the series finale at a private party in Los Angeles.

Aaron Paul, who plays partner-in-crime Jesse Pinkman on the show, announced the news about Carroll’s lucky break on Twitter back in September.

Carroll gushed about the show after winning the prize, but his words take on new context based on his recent arrest.

“If you start watching it, you can’t stop,” Carroll said. “It’s highly addicting, just like the meth they make [on the show].”

During the raid on his home, investigators seized a large Hazmat suit signed by the stars of the show. It’s uncertain if Carroll donned the jumpsuit while making synthetic marijuana, but investigators seized the piece as evidence.

Carroll is currently being held on a $12,500 bond.

Can’t get enough Breaking Bad? Check out our previous post on three real life Breaking Bad criminals.

Related sources: Naples News, Huffington Post

Scientists Develop Breath Test for Marijuana

Tuesday, 29. October 2013

Marijuana Breath TestResearchers with the National Institute on Drug Abuse believe they have developed a roadside testing device that can accurately determine if a driver is operating the vehicle under the influence of marijuana.

Similar to a Breathalyzer that detects the presence of alcohol, the new equipment can determine if a driver has recently smoked weed by analyzing the suspect’s breath.

Understanding the Technology

As states like Washington and Colorado have legalized marijuana for recreational use, law enforcement officials have been trying to develop the best methods for identifying impaired drivers. Some signs they check for include:

  • Red, bloodshot eyes;
  • Delayed response to questions;
  • Marijuana odor or drug paraphernalia;
  • Lack of focus;
  • Inability to balance during roadside testing.

While these methods can help determine the likelihood that a driver had been smoking weed, it’s hardly an airtight solution. To improve upon the science, researchers decided to conduct a study.

For their study, researchers asked participants to smoke standardized marijuana joints. After they finished their joint, participants had their breath analyzed using a specially calibrated Breathalyzer. In all cases, researchers were accurately able to determine the participant’s THC levels without detecting the carboyl-THC molecule, which can be stored in fat cells and trigger positive tests in blood tests days, weeks and even months after smoking marijuana. By testing for the presence of THC without searching to the carboyl-THC molecule, scientists have created a way to test if a driver is under the influence of marijuana without falsely identifying law-abiding citizens.

Coming Soon to a Squad Car Near You?

Researchers still want to improve the technology and test it on a bigger sample size, but it could mark a big shift in how police officers collect evidence during traffic stops.

This is especially true in Washington and Colorado, where recreational marijuana use is legal. According to the US Department of Justice, as long as the states create a practical system for maintaining and regulating marijuana use, the federal government will stay out of the way. In their statement to the states, the DOJ outlined eight points that must be regulated, one of which is drugged driving. If the technology continues to advance, don’t be surprised if Colorado and Washington impose a THC limits for driving, similar to the 0.08 law for alcohol.

Related sources: Huffington Post, ClinChem.org

Wisconsin Fetal Protection Law Under Scrutiny After Pregnant Mom Arrested

Monday, 28. October 2013

fetal lawsA pregnant mother in Wisconsin is fighting a state law that landed her in jail after authorities deemed she “habitually lacked self-control” while weaning herself off painkiller medication.

The strange saga began when Alicia Beltran, 28, met with a physician’s assistant for her 12-week pregnancy checkup. When the physician’s assistant asked about her medical history, Alicia admitted to a past problem with the painkiller Percocet. Alicia also told the assistant that she was currently taking Suboxone, which is usually prescribed to help treat Percocet dependency.

The problem for Alicia, though, was that she did not have health insurance and couldn’t afford to obtain the medication on her own. Instead, she was self-administering the drug from a friend’s prescription. Alicia said she was trying to reduce her Suboxone dosage to eventually become clean.

The physician’s assistant recommended that Alicia renew her Suboxone use under a doctor’s supervision. Alicia refused. Two weeks after her checkup, a social worker stopped by Alicia’s house to inform her that if she was going to continue to take Suboxone, she needed to do so under a doctor’s supervision. Once again, Alicia refused.

Two days later, authorities arrived at her home and placed her under arrest for creating a “substantial risk” to her unborn child.

Looking at the Law

Although Alicia’s lawyers said a doctor’s exam revealed her pregnancy was healthy and normal, Alicia was ordered to spend 90 days in a drug treatment facility. She was released from the facility earlier this month, but she lost her job while she was away. Her attorney said Alicia had no idea being honest with medical personnel could land her in jail and in treatment.

“Alicia had no idea she was giving information to the physician’s assistant that would ultimately be used against her in a court of law,” said Linda Vanden Heuvel. “She should not have to fear losing her liberty because she was pregnant and she was honest with her doctor.”

The law in question is a 1997 statute that states courts have authority over the fetus of a pregnant woman who “habitually lacks self-control” with drugs or alcohol “to a severe degree” such that there is “substantial risk” to the fetus. The language of the statute is rather ambiguous and vague, and Alicia’s attorneys have filed a petition to the U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, citing that the law leaves too much room for interpretation.

Supporters of the statute say the law is designed to prevent child abuse, whether it occurs inside or outside of the womb, but other claim that prosecuting pregnant women can have unintended consequences. Kenneth De Ville, who teaches medical humanities at East Carolina University, said the law could push pregnant women away from their doctors.

“Prenatal care is really the best thing you can do to enhance fetal health,” he said. “And you’re driving women away from prenatal care.”

Abuse on the Rise

While some activists are calling for a change, proponents of the bill need only to point to the statistics to prove that painkiller abuse is on the rise among pregnant women.

  • From 1973-2005, 413 women were arrested or forced into treatment under prenatal drug laws, an average of 13 women a year.
  • Since 2005, at least 300 women have been arrested or forced into treatment under similar laws, an average of 33 women a year.

The statistics point to the issue at heart – a mother’s rights versus the rights of her unborn child, and when does one outweigh the other to the degree that doctor-patient confidentiality is broken? While most will argue that Alicia should have sought a different way to administer Soboxone, it is clear that she was taking steps to make positive changes in her life. Until the law is re-written, expectant mothers like Alicia will continue to suffer the consequences of ambiguous legislation.

Related sources: NBC News

More High School Seniors Driving After Smoking Marijuana

Tuesday, 15. October 2013

Driving HighNearly 30 percent of high school seniors said they had driven a car after smoking marijuana or ridden in a car with a driver under the influence of marijuana within the last two weeks, according to a study by the American Journal of Public Health.

Although researchers noted that drinking and driving violations have decreased among high school students over the past few decades, due in large part to moving the legal drinking age to 21, there has been a steady increase in the amount of students who are driving while high. According to the research:

  • In 2008, 10 percent of seniors reported driving after smoking marijuana.
  • In 2011, 12 percent of seniors reported driving after smoking marijuana.
  • In 2013, roughly 28 percent of seniors reported driving after smoking marijuana or riding in a vehicle with a driver who was high.

Stephen Gray Wallace, a senior adviser for Students Against Destructive Decisions, said the data reveals that drivers in the US are sharing the roads with millions of impaired teens.

“I’m very concerned, when you do the math, which we did,” Wallace said. “That means of 13 million driving age teenagers, as many as 3 million impaired teenagers may be on the road. That’s a problem.”

Safer Than Drinking?

Many researchers and industry insiders believe that more teens are driving after smoking marijuana because they believe it is safer than drinking and driving.

“One of the messages is that kids don’t see these things as as dangerous as they should,” said Wallace. “It’s distressing, certainly concerning, worrying. It’s a matter we really need to pay more attention to.”

Others say the decriminalization of marijuana in states like Washington and Colorado are to blame, but researchers say that is not the case.

“The behavior was fairly widespread throughout society,” the researchers said.

How to Test?

Another issue with driving under the influence of marijuana is the fact that there is no simple test to judge a driver’s level of impairment. A breathalyzer can easily detect whether or not a driver is over the 0.08 legal limit, but authorities have to rely on their observations to determine if the red-eyed teen they just stopped is simply suffering from allergies, or they just ripped the bong.

“We don’t have any good degree of impairment,” said Patrick O’Malley, a research professor at the University of Michigan. “It’s almost impossible to say what the level of marijuana in your system is.”

Avery Appelman, a criminal defense attorney in Minnesota, said parents should talk to their children about the dangers of impaired driving.

“Parents are quick to discuss the dangers of drinking and driving, but oftentimes they leave it at that,” said Appelman. “The emphasis needs to be on safe driving habits as a whole, like always wearing your seat belt, not driving while tired or on medication, and not riding in a car with an impaired driver.”

Related source: NBC News


 

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