Friday, May 18, 2012

The Dangers of Synthetic Marijuana

            Synthetic marijuana sold at gas stations under such names as K-2 and Spice are advertised as a legal way to get a herbal high. However, these “herbs” are made with synthetic chemicals that are sprayed onto dry herbs and plants in an attempt to mimic the appearance of marijuana. Professor Tod Burke, a professor of criminal justice at Radford University, these chemicals are more potent than THC and can lead to loss of consciousness, paranoia, and psychotic episodes. Twenty states have imposed bans on the substance and legislation is pending in an additional 37 states.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Local Deputy Suspended for Erasing Video Evidence

A Pinellas County deputy who ordered a DVR hard drive seized during a search warrant was suspended for 40 hours for violating agency policy. Sergeant Chris Taylor claimed that the video showed the faces of undercover detectives and ordered the erasure as a precautionary measure. A local attorney claims the reasons were more sinister and alleges the images would have shown deputies trespassing on his client’s property in an attempt to smell marijuana. This case is one of many involving surveillance conducted at Simply Hydroponics in Largo. The Sheriff's office had a surveillance camera aimed at the store parking lot which would record the license plate owners of its patrons. After deputies linked the plate to the registered owner, “spot checks” were conducted at their residence in an attempt to smell marijuana. Power records were also obtained from the target residence and other similarly sized residences in the neighborhood. A spot check revealed an odor of marijuana and the house was using more power than others in the area deputies would obtain a search warrant for the residence. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri admitted that Sergeant Taylor handled the situation in an improper manner but was quick to point out that there is no corroborating evidence that the deputies trespassed on any property.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Be careful where you shop for your gardening needs

            Simply Hydroponics is a store located in Largo that caters to those who are growing pesticide free plants. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has utilized the store as a way to initiate investigations against those who shop there. The rationale according to the Sheriff’s office is those who manufacture marijuana shop at hydroponics stores. According to this article in the St. Petersburg Times of the  450 search warrants have been filed in Pinellas County between January 1, 2010 and September 15, 2011, 39 warrants began with surveillance at Simply Hydroponics.

            The investigation begins with a surveillance camera located on a pole across the street from the business. Detectives then run tag numbers to determine a name and address. Detectives will engage in spot checks of the residences looking for signs of a grow operation such as the sound of running motors, windows that are blacked out, and obviously the odor of marijuana. Finally, the residences power records are pulled and compared with other residences in the area of comparable size. If the amount of power used is higher than for other homes then that could be a sign of a grow operation. Law enforcement then presents their findings by way a search warrant for a judge’s signature.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

More Marijuana News

            Recently a petition to legalize and regulate marijuana which contained 75,000 signatures was submitted to President Obama’s “We the people” project and was….rejected. According to the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, research indicates that marijuana use is closely associated with addiction, respiratory problems, and brain development.

            Federal prosecutors in California are claiming that many have used the medicinal marijuana law as a disguise for large scale drug operations with marijuana being transported across state lines.  Federal officials will now be focused on targeting landlords who lease to medical marijuana dispensaries and properties used to grow marijuana.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Update on Florida’s Controversial Drug Law

            On July 26, 2011 United States District Judge Mary Scriven issued an order declaring FLA. STAT. §893.13 unconstitutional on its face due to lack of knowledge requirement which was deleted by the Florida legislature in 2002. This ruling is binding on federal courts but not at the state court level. Now Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal issued an order asking the Florida Supreme Court immediately resolve this issue.

If the Florida Supreme Court were to agree with Judge Scriven thousands of convictions are at stake at being overturned. According to this article from the St. Petersburg Times this drastic step has only happened a dozen or so times in the past 31 years.  According to critics the current statute punishes those who inadvertently and unintentionally possess or deliver a controlled substance.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Legislative update on treatment based drug court programs

Recently the legislature amended some of the guidelines related to admission to treatment based drug court programs. Entry into a post adjudicatory treatment based drug court program as a condition of probation or community control must be based on the sentencing court’s assessment of the Defendant’s criminal history, abuse screening outcome, and amenability to the services of the program, total sentence points, the recommendation of the state attorney and the victim and the Defendant’s agreement to enter the program An offender sentenced to such a program who violates probation or community control shall have the violation heard by the presiding over the post adjudicatory drug court program.

For offenses committed on or after July 1, 2009 the sentencing court may place the Defendant into a post adjudicatory treatment based drug court program if the Defendant’s total scoresheet points are 60 points or fewer and the offense is a nonviolent felony.  The term “nonviolent felony means it is considered as a third degree felony violation under chapter 810 or any other felony offense that is not a forcible felony. A forcible felony is defined as treason, murder, manslaughter, sexual battery, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, aggravated stalking, aircraft piracy, unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb, and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual.

For offenders who have violated probation or community control for offenses committed on or after July 1, 2009, the court may order the Defendant to successfully complete a post adjudicatory treatment based court program if the offender admits the violation, the scoresheet total sentence points are 60 points or fewer after including points for the violation, the underlying offense is a nonviolent felony, and the Defendant is amenable to services. The original sentencing court relinquishes jurisdiction to the drug court program.

If it appears that a Defendant is a chronic substance abuser whose criminal conduct is for a violation of chapter 893 or a non violent felony committed on or after July 1, 2009, and the total scoresheet sentence points are under 60 the court may either adjudicate the Defendant guilty or withhold adjudication and place the Defendant on drug offender probation or into a drug court program. The Department of Corrections supervises the probation program which emphasizes treatment and intensive supervision.  Typical sanctions on drug offender probation include surveillance, random drug testing, and a curfew.