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San Luis Obispo Criminal Law Blog

Lange faces drug possession charges

Comedian Artie Lange is facing a number of drug-related charges following an incident that took place near his home in New Jersey that may be of interest to the popular comedian's fan base in California. According to one news source, Lange himself reported the news in a tweet on March 17. His comments included praise for the professionalism of the arresting officers and indicated his intent to follow the advice of his attorney moving forward.

The Hoboken Police Department detained the former "Howard Stern Show" regular after responding to a parking garage in the area of Shipyard Lane and 14th Street on a report that someone was attempting to enter a parked vehicle. A department spokesperson told the press that upon arrival at the scene, one of the officers observed what appeared to be suspected cocaine and heroin inside the car in question.

African-Americans more likely to be wrongly convicted

Researchers have discovered that people who are wrongly convicted of crimes in California and around the country are far more likely to be African-American than white. Going over cases between 1989 and 2016, it was discovered that, of 1,900 instances where people were convicted then exonerated, 47 percent were African-American, which is about three times their representation in the United States population.

The study, which was completed by the National Registry of Exonerations, found that African-Americans were 12 times as likely to be wrongly convicted of drug crimes compared to whites. For wrongful murder convictions of African-Americans, the rate was seven times as likely as whites.

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.

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San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Phone: 805-543-8869
Fax: 805-543-3210
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