Archive for the ‘War on Drugs’ Category

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For every case on the podcast and in the Fantasy League, we will provide a brief summary of what to know and what to worry about.
WHAT HAPPENED: When you are a criminal defendant facing drug charges, your defenses to those charges often rank:
(1) contesting a search under the 4th Amendment
(2) disproving possession with factual evidence
(3) hoping for a mistake in the crime lab.
……
(Whatever last place is) alleging the police framed you and planted drugs on you.

This is not to say this never happens, but the defense itself is a Hail Mary before the Court and the Jury, as it is hard to prove and harder to believe. Within that context, consider the plight of Mr. Manuel, the plaintiff in this action. Manuel successfully alleged and proved that police officers arrested him for drugs, even though they knew he was only in possession of health supplements. Accordingly, Manuel is suing the City of Joliet for damages stemming from that arrest.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  This gets a little technical, but the basis of Manuel’s civil claim is a tort known as Malicious Prosecution.  Because of the nuances of Manuel’s criminal case, Manuel was barred from bringing the most common form of a Malicious Prosecution claim due to the Statute of Limitations. Instead, Manuel wants to bring a rarer Malicious Prosecution action which is pursuant to the 4th Amendment, because that claim has a longer Statute of Limitations.  Although many jurisdictions allow this type of claim, Manuel’s does not.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS: Let’s cover the more specific one first. While Manuel’s jurisdiction does not recognize this claim, all other jurisdictions do; so this is not out in left field. Plus, allowing this claim would presumably only extend then Statute of Limitations in a reasonable way, so it’s hard to see harm if SCOTUS wants to make a uniform rule for all federal jurisdictions. That being said, there’s also no harm in allowing different jurisdictions to set their own rules, and it’s hard to see a legal basis for the Court to decide that this issue warrants uniformity.  On a broader end, the entire judicial branch’s inability to ensure that police are held civilly and/or criminally liable for both willful and negligent actions has been a running subplot of 2016. This case won’t change any of those previous cases and nor will it open the door for immediate police accountability, but it’s a small step in the right direction.

ROOT FOR Manuel if you believe the facts of this case warrant the Court taking action away from individual jurisdictions.

ROOT FOR City of Joliet if you believe that jurisdictional sovereignty is worth letting cases like this pass without remedy.

PREDICTION – 6-2 in favor of the City.

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Among the myriad of ongoing legal debates are marijuana law reform – recently set back by the DEA’s decision to keep it as a Schedule I drug because there isn’t enough evidence for any legitimate medical use, despite the fact that it’s basically impossible to do any research on it because it’s a Schedule I drug – and sentencing reform. I mean who doesn’t like to be the runaway winner of the nation for most of its citizens in prison? I guess we’re just, you know, bad. But, just in case some of us thought that this might be an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, well, here’s why we can’t, succinctly stated in this excerpt:

There’s no question that the “war on marijuana” is overblown and unproductive. Since the early 1990s the focus of drug arrests nationally has shifted from a prior emphasis on cocaine and heroin to increasing marijuana arrests.  By 2014 marijuana accounted for nearly half of the 1.5 million drug arrests nationally. But while this elevated level of marijuana enforcement is counterproductive in many respects, there is little evidence to indicate that it has been a substantial contributor to mass incarceration.  Of the 1.5 million people in state or federal prisons, only about 40,000 are incarcerated for a marijuana offense.  The vast majority of this group is behind the walls for selling, not using, the drug, often in large quantities.  We could debate whether even high-level marijuana sellers should be subject to lengthy incarceration, but they constitute less than 3% of the prison population.