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Tampa Criminal Defense Blog

Opioid treatment is available, but even the insured aren't getting it

The co-author of a new study in JAMA Pediatrics has a message for parents. "If you have a child struggling with opioid addiction, understand that there are medications that support and sustain recovery."

That seems straightforward, but the study found that many people may not realize there are effective treatments available for addiction to opioid medications like OxyContin, Vicodin and Xanax -- even methadone, fentanyl and heroin. Unfortunately, it seems that most young addicts aren't getting that treatment, even when they have good insurance.

More law enforcement agencies looking for drugged drivers

The growing danger of drugged driving leading accidents continues to be a concern for law enforcement agencies across Florida. It is also widely viewed as a reason against the legalization of marijuana for recreational use even though a number of surveys and polls suggest that many more Americans would not oppose its legalization.

Despite this sentiment, there is still the looming danger of people being injured and losing their lives in crashes ostensibly caused by drugged driving. In fact, the number of people found to be impaired by prescription or illegal drugs while behind the wheel has increased. A USA Today.com report found that at least two in ten drivers involved in accidents in 2015 were found to have Xanax, Oxycontin or other prescription drugs in their systems. 

Senators consider adding new mandatory minimums for fentanyl

The drugs fentanyl and carfentanil have been playing outsized roles in the opioid epidemic, which is already high-profile. Fentanyl is considered to be about 100 times more powerful than morphine, while carfentanil is perhaps 10,000 times more powerful. Yet even though carfentanil is meant to tranquilize large mammals like rhinos and hippopotamuses, the drug is sometimes mixed with heroin or other opiates used by addicts.

These potent synthetic opioids pose a real risk to law enforcement, according to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He recently warned officers to avoid any exposure to the drugs, as people are overdosing in record numbers. He warns that America doesn't have time to debate whether the opioid epidemic is a public health crisis or a matter best handled by law enforcement.

Is it really true that there's no time for debate? Or is fear rushing us into making bad policy decisions?

SCOTUS: Defendant who didn't benefit shouldn't lose to forfeiture

One of the most devastating aspects of the War on Drugs has been civil forfeiture. Under this procedure, the government can seize the money and property of drug defendants before they've even been convicted of a crime. As long as law enforcement can make any reasonable argument that assets are tied to illegal activity, defendants can't get them back without proving they were not. Typically, they can only do that if they're acquitted or have kept very careful records.

Civil forfeiture has been very successful at taking profits from the illegal drug industry and turning them over to the law enforcement agencies that seize them. It has also been harshly criticized for a variety of reasons. For one, it often leads to unjust results.

What defense might Tiger Woods have to his prescription drug DUI?

On Memorial Day, golf legend Tiger Woods was found sleeping in his car near his Jupiter home. Unfortunately for him, the person who discovered him was a police officer.

Police dashcam video shows Woods' car improperly parked, and field sobriety tests performed for the camera show the professional golfer confused and disoriented. He has been charged with DUI and improper parking.

Lawmakers reveal bipartisan effort to reduce harsh drug sentences

Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed all federal prosecutors to return to the old ways. Instead of taking steps to limit long prison sentences for nonviolent, low-level drug offenders, he ordered U.S. Attorneys nationwide to seek the sentence set out in the federal sentencing guidelines, no matter how harsh.

"By definition," he opined in his policy memo, "the most serious offenses are those that carry the most substantial guidelines sentence, including mandatory-minimum sentences." In other words, if the sentence for a nonviolent, street-level marijuana user's sentence is harsh, it's because Congress wants it that way.

Medical marijuana implementation collapses on dispensary issue

How many retail dispensaries should a medical marijuana treatment center reasonably operate? The Florida House thinks it's around 100 dispensaries per treatment center, but the Senate thinks it should be around 5. This disagreement has stalled the implementation of Florida's medical marijuana amendment, to the consternation of many who voted for it.

The bill looks dead for now. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said they continue to review public comments. If the agency makes rules at this point, litigation is expected.

Source: Feds are about to begin filing the most serious charges

Traditionally, prosecutors have had the authority to determine which among the various possible criminal charges to file in a given situation. They can also choose not to file any charges at all, even when there is a provable case. This concept is called prosecutorial discretion.

That said, U.S. Attorneys and their staffs of federal prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the Attorney General, who directs the overall policy direction taken by anyone representing the Department of Justice.

CDC: Opioid abuse costs $78 billion a year. Treatment cuts that.

"The most important reason to support treatment is to improve the well-being and social function of people with addiction disorders," writes the co-director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. But "the economic value of crime reduction largely or totally offsets the costs of treatment."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost to the public sector of prescription opioid abuse, addiction and overdose response, combined with the cost of the related crime, is $23 billion a year. The cost to the private sector in terms of healthcare expenses and lost job productivity is another $55 billion. The total yearly economic burden of substance abuse is somewhere in the hundreds of billions.

Drug-overdose manslaughter bill passes Florida House unanimously

The Florida House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill that would hold drug dealers criminally responsible when their products cause death. Contributing to a death by distributing a controlled substance would be considered manslaughter. A corresponding bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting consideration by the full Senate.

In addition to the manslaughter charge for contributing to death, the bill also adds regulations regarding the opiate drugs fentanyl and carfentanil. Both would be added to Florida's Schedule I of controlled substances.

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Mike G Law
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