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San Luis Obispo Criminal Law Blog

Marijuana legalization creates issues for police

A 40-year-old California man stopped to change a flat tire on Interstate 80 when he was struck and killed by another motorist. That driver, a 24-year-old male, was taken into custody and charged with drugged driving. According to authorities, he had been under the influence of marijuana at the time of the accident. It is believed that the number of drugged-driving incidents will continue to increase in states where the drug has been legalized while the number of DUIs related to alcohol decrease.

Authorities say that it may be harder to test for drugged driving as opposed to drunk driving, which may pose a public safety issue. This is partially because it is harder to objectively determine if a driver is impaired after using marijuana when compared to determining if someone is impaired after using alcohol.

Man detained on drug charges following plane crash

A California man was taken into custody on drug charges after a small plane that he was in crashed on April 24. Around 1:40 that afternoon, a Cessna 210 hit a fence at Banning Municipal Airport. The FAA reported that although the plane tipped onto its nose, the pilot was not seriously injured. Police did not say whether the man taken into custody was also the pilot.

According to law enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the sheriff's office and the Banning Police Department began to investigate the incident. On April 26, the man was charged with transportation of marijuana for sale, possession of marijuana for sale, and possession of more than $100,000 obtained from a transaction involving a controlled substance.

Chief Keef accused of DUI

California music lovers may be interested to learn that, on April 8, it was reported that the 21-year-old rapper Chief Keef was taken into custody in Miami Beach. He was ultimately charged with driving under the influence.

Authorities stated that the musician was driving a green Lamborghini when a passenger got out of the car and approached another vehicle. Both of the cars were stopped afterwards as the police reportedly believed that a drug deal had been conducted. Five people were then taken into custody.

Couple facing drug charges after allegedly texting detective

On March 24, it was reported that a California couple was charged with multiple drug offenses after they allegedly texted a detective to set up a drug deal. A 41-year-old Citrus Heights woman reportedly texted him to offer him prescription medication without realizing that she had the wrong number.

The detective continued the conversation while the department used the opportunity to set up a sting. The authorities set up a meeting with the unknown person. When the woman and her 45-year-old husband arrived at the location that was chosen, they were taken into custody. They were charged with possession of narcotics with intent to sell. The woman was being held in custody on $20,000 bail while the man was being held on $95,000 bond.

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.


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