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San Luis Obispo Criminal Law Blog

Couple accused of selling opium poppy pods

On Feb. 3, it was reported that two California residents were taken into police custody after authorities seized a large amount of opium poppy seeds. Authorities stated that this seizure could potentially be the largest in California history.

Detectives in Mountain View reportedly received a tip that a 34-year-old man was processing and selling the opium seeds in October 2016. Authorities stated that the man and his 45-year-old wife were reportedly importing the opium poppy pods to their home on the 200 block of Monroe Avenue from overseas. The pods were then allegedly ground into a fine powder to be sold as a potent tea.

Obama commuted more sentences than any other U.S. president

California residents may be aware that President Obama pardoned or commuted the sentences of more federal prisoners than any other chief executive in U.S. history. Obama brought the total number of commutations granted during his eight years in the Oval Office to 1,715 on Jan. 18 when he reduced the sentences of 330 inmates as one of his last acts as president. During his eight years he freed 568 federal prisoners who faced spending the rest of their lives behind bars.

Reports indicate that Obama took a personal interest in the cases of the inmates involved, and he was particularly drawn to situations where individuals had worked to turn their lives around while in prison. Only federal inmates who had already spent 10 years in prison and had behaved well during that time were eligible for a sentence commutation under Obama's initiative.

Federal survey reveals sharp fall in drunk driving

Fewer motorists in California and around the country are getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The agency's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration compiles data about alcohol, tobacco and drug use in the United States, and its 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicates that drunk driving rates have been falling steadily for at least 13 years.

SAMSA began compiling data using its current methodology in 2002, and the agency's annual survey is not considered hard science because its findings are based on self-reporting. Not all motorists are willing to admit to driving drunk and views of impairment differ, but the number of drivers who told SAMSA that they drove while impaired during the previous 12 months fell from 15.3 percent in 2002 to 11.1 percent in 2014.

Driving under the influence of caffeine?

When ascertaining one's sobriety, law enforcement officers are typically not checking for the influence of things like sugar or caffeine. However, one case of drunk driving in California reportedly involved no alcohol but caffeine instead.

A 36-year-old man was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence in Aug. 2015 when he allegedly cut off an officer from the department of alcoholic beverage control and was driving erratically. The man was given a Breathalyzer test, and his blood-alcohol concentration level measured at zero percent. A toxicology test revealed no illicit drugs in the man's system, and a secondary test showed only caffeine was present when the incident occurred.

Investigation into illegal fish selling leads to drugs

California Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel who were investigating an illegal fish trafficking scheme discovered drugs and counterfeit money when they searched two Fresno homes. Two men were taken into custody on Dec. 8 as a result.

The two men had allegedly used unauthorized bait to catch fish and then sold the fish for substantial profits. The department reported that the pair had been cited six times in the past two years for various fish violations. Authorities searched the residences of the two men on Dec. 8. While doing so, investigators reportedly found thousands of dollars worth of counterfeit money, marijuana and methamphetamine.

California truck drivers and false-positive ID tests

California drivers should be aware of the potential for baking soda to be identified as cocaine during routine traffic stops. Open containers of baking soda could not only be mistaken for illegal drugs, but they may also test positive during chemical tests. Police officers often use cheap narcotics identification kits to test substances they find in vehicles. In some cases, these tests can yield false positive results.

In Arkansas, quick-ID kits tested positive for cocaine in a roadside investigation of a military-haul team. When the team attempted to enter Fort Chaffee, they were stopped at the gate, and bags of white powder in the vehicle were suspected of being cocaine. In reality, the team was carrying bulk quantities of baking soda. One of the drivers who was stopped was a former police officer.

Marijuana and driving while impaired

California legalized the recreational use of marijuana on Nov.8, 2016. With more than half the 50 states having relaxed drug laws, concern is mounting over the potential for more people driving while they are impaired.

Soon after the state of Washington passed similar legislation, fatal crashes involving drivers who had recently ingested the drug doubled, according to the American Automobile Association's Foundation for Traffic Safety . This statistic has created a rush among technology companies to deliver the first reliable lab test to accurately measure the amount of drug in the breath or bodily fluids of marijuana-impaired motorists.

Prop 64 could help people convicted for marijuana possession

On Nov. 8, residents of California will vote on Proposition 64. If passed, the measure will allow people in the state to purchase, carry and give away up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Prop 64 will also allow Californians to grow six marijuana plants in their home and carry as much as 8 grams of concentrated cannabis.

While many marijuana enthusiasts are excited about the prospect of legal recreational pot use, Prop 64 will have implications for the criminal justice system as well. People who have been arrested for marijuana crimes in the past and those who are currently in prison on pot charges could have their sentences reduced and their convictions overturned. Last year, over a half-million people in the United States were arrested for marijuana possession.

Report about drug possession is concerning

A report points to the need for decriminalizing personal drug use and possession in California as well as in the rest of the nation. The report was released by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Human Rights Watch organizations on Oct. 12.

According to the report, more than 1,250,000 people are arrested for drug possession every year in the country, making it the most frequently charged crime in the nation. This equates to one person being arrested for possessing drugs every 25 seconds. In 2015, people were arrested for possession versus drug sales at a ratio of four to one. Almost 50 percent of the drug possession charges are for marijuana.

New law expands pilot program statewide

On Sept. 28, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1046 into law. The legislation would require most drivers in California who have been convicted of a DUI to have a device similar to a Breathalyzer installed in their vehicles. It continues a pilot program ongoing in four counties that has prevented 125,000 attempts by drivers to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher.

The legislation goes into effect throughout the state on New Year's Day 2019. Those who have been convicted of a first-offense DUI causing injury must have the device in their cars for six months. A first offense that does not involve injury may also require a driver to install the device for six months to retain full driving privileges. Alternatively, he or she may drive on a restricted license for a year while also taking part in a treatment program.

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Law Offices of Jere N. Sullivan, Jr.
1141 Pacific Street, Suite A
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: 805-543-8869
Fax: 805-543-3210
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