At one point in our nation's history, legislators turned to studies that showed longer, harsher prison sentences would cause a drop in the crime rates. While prison sentences have, in some instances, reduced the amount of criminal activity, the PEW Center on the States says that they have only accounted for, at most, a one-third reduction. With the overall crime rate dropping, it appears that the need for longer prison sentences is ending.
While Montgomery County police and prosecutors portray criminal drug activity as a black and white, guilty or not guilty incident, there are often mitigating circumstances that can change how a suspect is prosecuted or tried. For example, prosecutors are trying to figure out what to do with a man who has been criminally charged after being caught with marijuana, despite his insistence that he was only transporting the drug because he had received a death threat.
It is a cornerstone of the American legal system that someone is presumed innocent until proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she is guilty. One of the ways that the courts protect this right is by only trying someone in front of an unbiased and impartial jury. Trying to defend against a criminal charge in front of anything less puts a suspect in an extremely difficult and dangerous position. A former member of the Taliban's recent extradition to the United States and conviction of serious drug charges in Washington, D.C., calls into question whether he truly had an unbiased and impartial jury.
Nearly all Marylanders are familiar with what a pharmacist does -- he or she fills prescriptions. It is often impossible for an individual pharmacist or a large pharmacy with many pharmacists to recognize when a physician is writing a suspiciously high number of prescriptions. That has not stopped the federal government, however, from accusing certain pharmacies and medication distributers of being involved in what federal agencies are calling a nationwide problem with prescription drug abuse.
For many people in Montgomery County and across Maryland living with serious medical conditions, medical marijuana provides relief from the chronic pain and constant discomfort caused by their poor health. Despite Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's enactment of legislation that no longer made it a crime for patients to receive medical marijuana, many patients are still arrested and prosecuted for marijuana drug crimes. Now, a representative from Baltimore County has submitted two bills to the state House of Representatives that would protect patients that have a medical need for marijuana.
The war on drugs continues to wage on, leaving many people arrested and locked up for decades for merely possessing or taking a substance some find objectionable. Others are often kept under close scrutiny because they fit the "type" of person who uses drugs. Some people in Maryland may have heard that certain areas of the country have seen an increase in prescriptions for painkillers such as oxycodone, leading many to assume that there has been a similar increase in the illicit use of narcotics.
In some situations, it is better to work with a prosecutor or judge than going through a trial. The only way to know this, however, is to work closely with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately after Maryland or Washington, D.C., police make you a suspect. Because of the serious nature of many drug crimes, pleading guilty without consulting an attorney could land you behind bars for years, paying a large fine or dealing with an unfavorable criminal record. Luckily for a 21-year-old college student who was arrested and charged with an alleged prescription drug crime was able to get a satisfying plea deal.
For many Maryland residents, the borders with Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia may not mean much, but for criminal courts, traveling with drugs across a border could make a relatively minor drug crime into something much more serious. If someone is convicted of a felony drug charge in Maryland, it is possible that he or she could face years in prison and large fines. In some cases, it is impossible to avoid prison time because of mandatory minimum prison sentences, making it extremely important to work with a criminal defense attorney as soon as someone is charged with a felony drug crime.
What would you do if you were arrested as part of a 50-person roundup and confronted by local and federal law enforcement? What if you weren't a citizen and there were also officers from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement department potentially threatening deportation involved in your arrest? In this kind of situation, any Maryland resident would rightfully be frightened and confused on what to do next. If police were to ask any questions, a suspect may forget his or her right to speak with a criminal defense attorney and the right to remain silent, giving up information that police and prosecutors may twist and use in court.
The war against drugs has taken its toll on Maryland; many Silver Spring residents have been arrested, convicted and sent to prison because they were in the wrong place in the wrong time. Sometimes, it is simply a matter of having over-the-counter medicine or prescription medications that have the potential for abuse. Regardless of why a person was charged, it is extremely important to work with a lawyer to protect his or her rights and attempt to get the charges dropped.