ST. LOUIS DRUG OFFENSES ATTORNEY
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Most people know someone who has been arrested for a drug offense. Drug charges in St. Louis City and St. Louis County occur every hour of every day.
If you are facing a drug charge, you need St. Louis attorney James P. Feely, Jr., who has over 25 years of successful experience representing clients facing drug offenses. Call today for a free consultation.
Police departments vigorously enforce drug laws which results in many otherwise law-abiding citizens getting arrested for drug charges every day, especially marijuana.
Marijuana, or "weed" as it most commonly known, is the most used illegal drug in the US.
In Missouri, possession of marijuana remains illegal unless a person has a Missouri medicinal marijuana card.
Fortunately, the legislature has reduced the penalty for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana to a maximum fine of $500 with no jail time for a first-time offense.
Possession of greater than 10 grams up to 35 grams is a class A misdemeanor at the state level in Missouri. Possession of over 35 grams is a felony in Missouri.
Many people who get charged with marijuana possession also wind up with a paraphernalia charge as well.
POSSESSION WITH INTENT TO DISTRIBUTE
It is possible that a person can be caught with less than 35 grams of marijuana and still be charged with a felony in Missouri.
Let's say a person gets caught with 28 grams of marijuana, but it is subdivided into four 7 gram bags.
Even though the total amount is under 35 grams, the person can be charged with possession with intent to distribute the marijuana, which is a felony.
In cases such as this the prosecution will attempt to tie together various facts to show that the person possessing the marijuana was going to sell it.
If the person arrested had the marijuana bagged up in equal sized amounts, had scales on their person, had various amounts of currency, a ledger or list showing whom owes money and how much, etc., these things can be argued by the government to show intent to distribute.
It would be up to the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person possessed the marijuana with the intent to distribute (sell it). The defendant could testify it was for personal use only, if so desired.
Mr. Feely has won at trial before in cases with facts almost identical to the above example - beating the distribution case.
Keep in mind that even if you get caught for the first time with less than 10 grams of marijuana (and are only facing a $500 fine with no jail time), that you can still wind up with a marijuana possession conviction on your record if you are not careful.
Besides marijuana, St. Louis City and St. Louis County have many arrests for "hard" drugs like heroin, prescription pills, cocaine, molly and methamphetamine.
Possession of any of these controlled substances is a felony. Even a very small amount of residue of illegal drugs can result in a possession charge, as long as there is enough substance to test positive in the crime lab.
St. Louis has many arrests for heroin every day, in part due to its addictive qualities but also due to its wide availability in the area.
Virtually all heroin in the US comes from other countries where they can grow the poppies necessary to produce the drug in large amounts, without law enforcement interference.
The potency of heroin has been on the rise and prices have been falling. This has led to many overdose deaths and a high number of arrests of users.
Many heroin users report that initially they became addicted to prescription pain pills due to an accident or injury.
When they could no longer obtain legal prescriptions or could not afford to pay for street (illegal) pain pills, they switched to the cheaper and stronger heroin.
Cocaine is also widely present in St. Louis and is used as both powder (cocaine hydrochloride), and also as what is known as "crack cocaine".
Both come from the coca plant which grows in South America. Crack cocaine is made from powder cocaine that is treated in a way that allows it to be absorbed via smoking it.
Molly is a drug that has become more popular in recent times. The term Molly is generally meant to represent the drug MDMA (ecstasy).
However, according to law enforcement statistics, a substantial amount of seized Molly is shown to be a drug called methylone after laboratory testing.
Methylone is chemically-related to MDMA, but is not the same drug. In Missouri, both are illegal to possess.
Methamphetamine has been prevalent in Missouri and the St. Louis area for many years. In the past much of it was made within Missouri or brought in from places like California.
But today most of it is imported from other countries due to the restrictions on pseudoephedrine that exist in the US.
Pseudoephedrine is one of the main ingredients in manufacturing methamphetamine. It is also used in popular cold and allergy medicines.
Often, people do not realize how serious their drug charges are when they are initially arrested.
Being convicted of even a misdemeanor drug charge can have serious consequences, including job loss and jail time.
In some instances, just being present in a place where drugs are found by the police (house or car) can lead to your arrest and prosecution.
PUNISHMENTS FOR DRUG OFFENSES
The range of punishment for drug offenses is very broad. From a maximum $500 fine for first time marijuana possession charges (less than 10 grams) to life imprisonment for more serious sales/trafficking/distribution offenses.
In addition, there are "enhancers" the government can utilized to increase how much time you get and how much of that time you serve.
For example if you have prior drug convictions and receive a new offense, you could face more time and serve a higher percentage than you would receive normally.
The chapter of the Missouri laws for drug offenses in in §579 RSMo.
One of the most successful ways law enforcement catches people selling drugs is by using a "confidential informant".
In street language, this person is often referred to as a "snitch", or in the olden days, as a "stool pigeon".
A confidential informant (CI) can be anyone. It could be your friend, a stranger, or even an undercover police officer.
The "usual" CI is a friend, customer, or business associate of the drug seller.
The friend somehow winds up getting arrested (for drugs or something else), and decides to make a deal and cooperate with the government, in hopes of receiving dropped charges, or a great plea offer/outcome.
In these situations, the police will find out all of the information they can from the CI.
They will ask the CI for names of drug dealers, and those involved in other types of crimes.
Such things as types and amounts of drugs present on scene, amounts being sold, if there are guns present in the residence, etc., are all important to the police.
Once the information is evaluated by the police, they will have the CI go to one or more dealers to purchase drugs or other contraband items.
They will search the person of the CI to make sure they didn't bring their own drugs or contraband.
They will then give the CI cash that has been photocopied and documented, to buy the drugs.
In the past, the police would "wire" the CI with a recording device of some type, either tape or digital.
In more modern times, the CI will receive a special cell phone or other tiny recording device hidden in something, that transmits a signal to a nearby detective who is listening and recording the conversation.
A cell phone or other "spy" type transmitter/recorder is much easier to hide in plain site than an actual obvious recording device.
There is always the chance a wary dealer will ask the CI to lift their shirt, etc, searching for a possible device.
The police will be within the vicinity of the transaction, and will be monitoring the audio to make sure the CI is still alive and unharmed.
After the transaction is complete, the CI will leave and meet up again with the police at a predetermined location. They will take the drugs and again search the CI.
The evidence of the sale and seized drugs will then be the basis for a search warrant application to raid the residence of the dealer.
The police may never present to the prosecutor the sale the dealer made to the CI - that was the basis of the search warrant.
This is done to try and protect the identity of the informant.
It is possible the dealer sold to multiple people on the same day and won't know, at least initially, who the CI could have been.
Sometimes, the CI will take an undercover officer to a purchase and introduce them as a "friend" to the dealer.
This tactic is used more often when the police are trying to "infiltrate" a network and need an undercover cop inside who can function as a fellow drug dealer, etc, to learn valuable information about the top dealers and associates.
BEING A CI WITHOUT AN ATTORNEY
If a person is working as a CI without an attorney being involved, there is a chance that CI won't receive all they were promised.
Only a prosecutor can make a "deal" in a criminal case - the plea offer or disposition offered by the government in exchange for the CI's cooperation.
The police can't make plea offers, so if a CI is simply relying on a cop's promise, that could end bad for the CI.
It is possible in some cases, the police will entice an arrested individual to cooperate, then not ever present the CI's case to the prosecutor.
So in that case, the CI might get what is promised, but that is taking a chance.
Mr. Feely has represented clients who have wished to cooperate, and was able in some cases to make an agreement with the prosecutor before any cooperating took place, ensuring the client would receive what was promised by the government.
SHOULD YOU COOPERATE?
That is a decision only you can make. However, unless you are facing serious charges and many years of prison time, is it worth the risks associated with being a CI?
It is quite common for police to try to turn folks caught with small amounts of marijuana into informants.
This is especially true when those caught are younger individuals.
Everyone's situation is unique, so it is possible you are in a situation where it is a smart move to become an informant to try and escape or reduce possible criminal charges and prison time.
Your attorney can negotiate and coordinate with the prosecutor to ensure that everything goes through proper channels - so that you receive the maximum benefits for your cooperation.
Whatever choice you make, talk to an attorney before you make any decisions.
DRUG DEFENSE STRATEGY
As an experienced criminal defense lawyer, Mr. Feely believes in utilizing aggressive pretrial strategies that include various motions that can be filed depending on the specific facts of your case.
One type of motion is called a motion to suppress. It asks the judge to suppress (or keep out of the case) physical evidence (drugs or a weapon for instance) or a statement/confession given to the police.
These types of pretrial motions are used in all types of criminal cases, not just drug charges.
Mr. Feely has been successful in having both statements and confessions, and physical evidence kept out of evidence at trial, because he was able to show the Judges the police violated the rights of his clients in obtaining the statements / confession or physical evidence.
On one particular occasion where Mr. Feely won a motion to suppress in the trial court, the prosecutor appealed the Judge’s decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals - Eastern District.
At the appellate level, Mr. Feely successfully argued to the Court of Appeals panel, and they upheld the trial judge’s decision suppressing the evidence.
That case made caselaw on a Miranda issue. If you would like to learn more about Mr. Feely's case and Miranda issues, click here.
Mr. Feely will advise you of all defense strategies that are available to you when facing your drug offenses. He has over 25 years of handling all types of criminal defense matters, including drug charges.
If your drug offense is related to a driving while intoxicated matter, Mr. Feely can help you.
Contact attorney James P. Feely, Jr., to learn more about his defense strategies, and his experience in the area of criminal defense. All initial consultations are free.