New legislation was introduced today to create a new safety valve regarding the mandatory sentencing guidelines pertaining to federal crimes. The Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 would give federal judges a safety valve, allowing them to sentence a person to less than the mandatory minimum in cases where such a sentence is considered too lengthy, unjust or unreasonable, or in cases where the sentence simply does not fit the offender or the crime. With federal detention facilities currently operating at 139 percent of capacity, such a safety valve could help stem the steady increase in the number of people under federal correctional supervision, many of them sentenced for federal drug crimes.
Federal authorities often work closely with other countries to prosecute the "war on drugs." As part of these efforts, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Navy and other government offices have used a 1986 law to justify apprehending defendants in the territorial waters belonging to foreign countries. These defendants then face prosecution in the United States - often in Miami or other South Florida courts.
A federal judge recently sentenced a South Florida defendant to 120 months in prison. The defendant pled guilty to several charges, including conspiring with a corporation to resell diverted prescription drugs. Drug diversion is a federal crime that occurs when a defendant sells prescription pharmaceuticals outside of a lawful distribution method.
A raid led to over 90 arrests and seizure of millions of packets of incense by federal officials. The material is currently being tested to determine if it contains any illegal substances that would allow U.S. prosecutors to charge the group with federal drug trafficking. The product is often referred to by law enforcement and other government officials as synthetic marijuana, though it may be nothing of the sort.
In 2010, law enforcement officials began an investigation known as "Operation Wild West." The operation involved state and federal drug crimes and gang violence in Florida. This week, 29 arrests were made under the authority of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with an additional 35 state arrests made under the authority of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office's Violent Crimes Division and Gang Units. The U.S. Attorney's Office and the Palme Beach County State Attorney's Office also participated in the investigation.
Not that long ago, the so-called war on drugs was rightly focused on cocaine, heroin crack and other illicit substances. Now, federal drug crimes are increasingly focused on prescription painkillers and pill mills. The United States has long devoted significant time and energy into preventing illegal drugs from coming into the country. The explosion of prescription painkiller abuse has called into question the efficacy of that use of funds. Some experts now believe that the nation's policy should be shifted away from the traditional efforts of impounding drugs and arresting high profile individuals.
The HBO series "The Wire" was critically acclaimed for its accuracy and unflinching honesty in portraying police and a host of characters caught up in inner city Baltimore life. One of the actors from the show, Felicia "Snoop" Pearson has probably seen as much of the criminal justice system as she cares to. She was arrested with more than 60 other people this time last year as part of a federal drug crime investigation known as "Operation Usual Suspects." The massive investigation took place over the course of years and involved wiretaps, confidential informants, surveillance and undercover work. It involved multiple parties in multiple states up and down the East Coast. To date, more than 20 people have pleaded guilty and at least 7 have been sentenced to years in prison for their roles in the heroin trade.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's attempt to stop two Florida CVS pharmacies from selling painkillers suffered a setback on Wednesday. The DEA had issued suspension orders to the Orlando pharmacies as part of their efforts to combat federal drug crimes involving oxycodone and other prescription painkillers. Florida's reputation as a hub for so-called "pill mills" has led federal law enforcement authorities to take aggressive steps against anyone involved in the distribution of pain killers.
The U.S. Supreme Court has not looked at the issue of eyewitness testimony since 1977 but it will consider the question of what the Constitution has to say about it again this November. This time, the court will be able to consider decades of social science research into the subject of the reliability of human memory and observation.
The practices Florida doctors and pharmacies may be leading to an increase in out of state residents in the criminal justice system. The so-called pill mills may be responsible for a rise in possession and drug trafficking charges leveled at residents of Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and other nearby states. The proliferation of pain clinics and supposed ease of acquiring oxycodone and other painkillers and sedatives is accused of drawing a different kind of tourist to South Florida.