Are Police Really Looking to Make Progress in the War on Drugs or Just Stats to furhter their own careers? a Maryland Criminal Lawyer/Attorney I often have cases that make me wonder what it is exactly that the police are attempting to accomplish. Are they really attempting to win the so called war on drugs or is their strategy (or lack thereof) more cynical than that? Is it just to make as many felony drug arrests as possible regardless of whether the people arrested are really involved in the actual distribution of narcotics in order to give the false impression of progress? I have had several cases recently that have reluctantly made me think that it is the latter.

I have had several cases recently that have followed a very similar pattern:

In these cases, the police get tipped off by a pharmacist that someone is attempting to pass a phony prescription for pain killers or other controlled dangerous substances. The person attempting to pass the prescription is told that the prescription will take an hour or so to fill and asked to return later. By the time the person comes back to pick up the prescription the narcotics detectives are waiting and watching the pharmacy counter. As soon as the person picks up the prescription, he or she is arrested.

Until recently that would have been essentially the end of the case. The person would have been charged with passing a phony prescription and possession of a controlled dangerous substance; both misdemeanors. In several of the cases I have had recently, however, that has not been the end of the case. Instead the detective would read the person his or her Miranda rights and begin to question them.

The detective feigns concern for the person and asks them in a sympathetic voice if they have a drug problem. At this point whether the person says yes or no the detective will ask what they intended to do with the pills. The answer is usually something like the person was asked to pass the prescription by a third party and promised a few dollars or a few pills in exchange. The person agrees with the detective that they intended to give (read distribute here) all or most of the pills to the person who asked them to pass the prescription in the first place. The detectives then charge them with possession with the intent to distribute (read drug dealer here) which is a felony on the theory that any distribution, whether for money or not technically violates the felony statute.

When I read the first of the cases with this fact pattern I was a little troubled by it but not alarmed. But after reading several more statements of charges with virtually identical facts, I was lead to the conclusion that the police are doing nothing more than padding their stats by essentially tricking drug addicts into unwittingly admitting to having an intent to “distribute” the pills even though these people are not what we typically think of as drug dealers.

So I ask the question again: what is it that the police are attempting to accomplish by turning these routine cases into felony drug charges? Is there some legitimate law enforcement purpose in their doing so or are they just padding their stats? I will let the reader answer the question but I have another case that I will blog about tomorrow that may influence the reader’s decision.

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