Baltimore Maryland Criminal Lawyer. I blogged last week about cases in which narcotics detectives essentially manufacture felony drug cases by asking defendants caught with prescription drugs if they intended to give or share the pills with someone else and if they answered in the affirmative, charging them with possession with the intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (CDS). In that blog I posited the question, “are the police really looking to make progress in the war on drugs or just stat to further their own careers?” I was retained in case recently that caused me again to think the detective’s goal may be the latter.
In this case the police arrested an individual for possessing illegal prescription drugs. Instead of just charging the individual and moving on to the next case they chose to make him an informant and offer him the opportunity to “work off his charge”. I certainly don’t have a problem with what the police did up to this point. Informants are an essential investigative tool that have been used by law enforcement since the beginning of time. The problem I have is the way in which they used this informant which was to get him to set someone up who was otherwise not predisposed to sell drugs.
This individual called my client whom he has known for many years. He knows that my client has very serious medical problems to include having suffered a serious spinal injury that rendered him paralyzed for a few months and has led to multiple surgeries and fusions of vertebrae. He cannot walk without the use of a walker or crutches and has been deemed totally disabled by Social Security. The informant knows that my client is in chronic pain and is prescribed numerous pain killers to help him combat the pain from this injury as well as his other ailments.
Under the detectives supervision, the informant calls my client and tells him that he re-injured his back at work and is in very serious pain. He advised my client that he could not get in to see his doctor until the following week and asked him if he could spare a few pills to get him through until his appointment. My client agreed and told him he would sell him 20 pills tide him over until he could get to his doctor. The informant then went over to my client’s house and purchased the pills with marked departmental funds.
Based on this controlled buy, the police obtained a search and seizure warrant to search my client’s home. The detective noted in his statement of charges that he seized 10 pill bottles that contained 245 methadone, 46 oxycodone, 106 alprazolam and other prescription medications. Based on this seizure of evidence, the police charged my client with both distribution of CDS based on the controlled buy and possession with the intent to distribute CDS based on the amount of drugs found in his possession. The detective left out one very important fact from the statement of charges: Every single pill that was seized from my client was legally prescribed to him by a physician and was stored in the prescription bottle that it come from the pharmacy in. Hmmmm, I wonder why he left that fact out? (I had a case last year in which the police seized my client’s Ritalin prescription, wrote it up as 70 amphetamines and charged him with possession with the intent to distribute. Even the prosecutor was scratching his head at that one when he found out what the pills really were).
Both my client and I understand that what he did was illegal. But he is clearly not in the drug dealing business. The police did not recover large amounts of money, illegally obtained prescription drugs, owe sheets or anything else that would indicate that he was a person who was selling drugs to make money – and they knew this before they targeted him. They also knew he had no criminal record. Again, he knew he was doing something illegal but does targeting him really do anything to win the so called war on drugs? And is it really worth the investment to spend thousands of tax payer dollars to prosecute and possibly jail a man who is essentially an invalid. It doesn’t seem like a very good use of scarce resources to me but I’m sure the additional feather in the detective’s cap will undoubtedly help his career.