Posts Tagged ‘drugs’

The opinion line-up for United States v. Bell, a recent Fourth Circuit opinion ordering resentencing in a drug case, showcases a defection by two of the three judges. It reads as follows:

Judge Davis wrote the opinion, in which Judge Floyd and Senior Judge Hamilton joined except as to footnote 8. Senior Judge Hamilton wrote an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Judge Floyd joined.

The defecting-inducing footnote states, in part:

Perhaps in some future case we might be required to decide whether a defendant in circumstances similar to Bell’s bears a burden of production as to his or her personal consumption of a validly prescribed medication. But that question is not before us; in this case, whatever burden of production Appellant Bell may have had was satisfied by the very evidence produced by the government itself, along with the drug screens and evidence of her longstanding legitimate medical needs. Thus, to the extent the concurrence purports to announce a rule imposing an “obligation” on such a defendant to produce evidence of personal consumption at sentencing, it constitutes mere dicta and, in any event, was not argued by the government.

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In United States v. Hackley, the Fourth Circuit today affirmed the conviction and sentence for several offenses arising out of a drug conspiracy. Judge Duncan authored the opinion, which was joined in by Judge Davis and Judge Diaz. While the ultimate outcome favors the prosecution, the language in the opinion strikes a cautionary note for federal prosecutors. The opinion begins as follows:

James Richard Hackley (“Hackley”) was convicted of several offenses related to his sale of cocaine base to a government informant and subsequent efforts to have that informant—the lead witness in the government’s case against him—murdered. Hackley challenges his convictions, the joinder of the charges into a single trial, the court’s refusal to grant him new counsel, and his sentence. Although the facts in this case come perilously close to the lower boundary of what we will accept as substantive evidence of a conspiracy to distribute drugs, for the reasons discussed below, we affirm.

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The Fourth Circuit has affirmed the suppression of drugs seized during a traffic stop on I-95 in Maryland. Senior Judge Hamilton wrote the opinion in United States v. Digiovanni, which Judges Motz and Diaz joined.

A few tidbits from the opinion are after the jump below. From the non-specialist point of view, there seem to be a few take-aways for civilian motorists and law enforcement alike. For civilian motorists: (1) pack your shirts in a garment bag, or you might be suspected of being a drug trafficker; (2) don’t keep your car too clean, or you might be suspected of being a drug trafficker; (3) never off-handedly say “oh boy” while answering an officer’s question; (4) when asked if you use marijuana, don’t say “I never smoked marijuana in my life. It makes me sleepy.” Most important, don’t agree to transport over 34,000 oxycodone pills from Miami to Boston. The take-away for law enforcement is to get consent faster, running through questions after plugging in license information.


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