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Wrong Conviction: A Product of Bias and Overzealousness

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) makes more than 30,000 drug-related arrests every year. These arrests are based on various drug-related activities, which include simple possession, sale of a controlled substance, drug manufacturing, possession with intent, drug trafficking, and drug conspiracy. Two bases of arrests frequently made by state or federal law enforcers are simple possession of illegal drugs and possession with intent.

Simple possession alleges that an individual has a controlled substance for his or her own personal use (illegal or controlled substance includes cocaine, heroin, marijuana and ecstasy, which is otherwise known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or simply MDMA. Heroin, marijuana and ecstasy are Schedule I drugs or drugs with no currently accepted medical use and have a high potential for abuse; cocaine, on the other hand, is a Schedule II drug or a type of illegal drug that has high potential for abuse, the use of which can potentially lead to severe psychological or physical dependence).

Possession with intent, on the other hand, which is a worse offense than simple possession, alleges that a person, who has illegal drugs in his/her possession, has intent to sell, distribute, deliver, or even manufacture the controlled substance. A charger that may supposedly just be simple possession can be elevated to possession with intent if the amount of drugs possessed is more than enough or too much for personal consumption. Also, the presence of some items, like small plastic bags, containers, and scales can most likely indicate that a person does have intent to sell. While simple possession may only be a misdemeanor, possession with intent is a felony.

Drug-related activities are punished with mandatory sentences, steep fines, and possibly many hours of community service, among others. A mandatory sentence refers to the penalties a court must hand down to a person convicted of certain offense. Felony offenses, under state law, are punishable by a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one year imprisonment. Class A felonies, which are the most serious of offenses under state law, carry a mandatory minimum of 15 years jail time. Mandatory minimum sentences, however, may be increased due to certain factors, such as prior convictions or aggravating factors.

Though arrested suspects in drug-related crimes are given the chance to defend themselves in court, actual court cases show and prove that many have been convicted of the crime they have been charged with due to certain biases or offer of to plea bargain, wherein an accused is promised minimum sentence if he/she will confess to the crime.

As explained by Ian Inglis Attorney at Law, wrongful arrests have also been made many times in the past due to the enormous emphasis which state and federal governments place on enforcing laws against the possession, sale, or manufacturing of illicit drugs. Thus, many of those accused of a crime find themselves facing potentially severe penalties for seemingly minor offenses.

On Criminal Conviction and Immigration Status

An arrest record – this is one major obstacle that stands between foreign nationals aspiring to acquire a U.S. visa and the acquisition of the visa itself. A U.S. visa is what will enable a hopeful immigrant to work and live in the United States, however, to make sure that no “inadmissible” applicants will set foot on U.S. soil (these are individuals may be or become threats to others or to the nation’s peace and order), government officials review visa and citizenship applications more strictly.

Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.), enumerates the different kinds of crimes, past immigration violations, and communicable diseases which are grounds for inadmissibility. In reference to crimes, a foreign national who may guilty of any of the following crimes will be rendered inadmissible, much more be denied of a green card; this is despite the absence of an actual court conviction:

  • Human trafficking, drug trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping, money laundering, profiting financially from human trafficking activities (this specific crime does not include children of traffickers), and multiple criminal convictions that is given a collective sentence of five years or more;
  • Aggravated felony, such as sexual abuse of a minor, rape, serious theft, money laundering and murder;
  • Crimes indicated in Section 101(a)(15)(B) of the US Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), but wherein the offender has declared immunity from prosecution, left the US, and refused to surrender to to the authority of a U.S. court; and,
  • A crime that involves moral turpitude and controlled substances (this crime includes possession of cocaine, marijuana or heroine). There are inconsistencies with regard to what “crimes involving moral turpitude” (CIMT) actually mean since interpretation of this is entrusted to courts. One sure common factor, though, is evil intent, which will surely put theft, fraud, murder and serious crimes of violence, in the list.

US immigration laws, however, have made some exceptions concerning CIMT and violations of laws on controlled substances, based on the following considerations:

  • The criminal was still a minor (under 18) when he/she committed the crime;
  • The crime was committed five (or more) years ago; and,
  • The person is no longer in jail or the penalty for the crime committed does not exceed a year and that the actual length of imprisonment does not go beyond six months (an exception called “petty offense”).

Whether one is a foreign national or a citizen in the U.S., Chicago criminal defense attorneys of the Bruno Law Offices, know that the effects of a criminal conviction can result to serious damages to his/her professional and personal reputation, affecting his/her future employment, international travels, and so many others (losses may be greater for foreign nationals, though, who are aspiring to immigrate in the U.S.).

Austin immigration attorneys also point out how having a criminal record can be a major challenge for visa applicants; this is besides the fact that immigrating and establishing citizenship in the U.S. is a long and difficult process. Despite these issues, a seasoned immigration attorney may be able to render valuable assistance with regard to immigration concerns, while a highly-skilled criminal defense lawyer may be able to provide the necessary help where applying for a “waiver” or legal forgiveness for the crime committed is the issue, especially if the crime was the applicant’s first offense.

Truck Accident: Coverage of the Compensation the Liable Party should Pay

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires the following from truck drivers:

  • Not operate their truck or any type of commercial vehicle within four hours of using alcohol;
  • Submit to a regular, random drug and alcohol testing (this is part of the FMCSA’s safety program); and,
  • Strictly observe the 0.04 percent blood-alcohol concentration limit, which is the BAC limit for drivers of commercial vehicles.

A semi-trailer’s length and weight make it necessary that it be operated only by a licensed commercial vehicle driver who, it is supposed, has received proper trainer, has developed the required skills and has passed the tests required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Despite all these qualifications, though, once on the road, many of these drivers lay aside the rules on safe driving in order to complete a job as fast as they can and get the chance to do another – all for a higher take home pay. What this means, however, is longer time on the road, little time of rest between driving duties and, at times, taking drugs or drinking alcohol during stops.

In a study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), out of 91 long-distance truck drivers who were asked to answer a questionnaire which would assess incidences of alcohol and amphetamine use (amphetamine is an addictive, mood-altering synthetic drug, used illegally as a stimulant), 66% of the respondents admitted to having used the stimulant during their travels, while 91% admitted to having consumed alcohol.

Alcohol not only impairs a driver’s motor skills and mental capacity, but also affects his/her reaction time, perception, judgment, general ability to focus on the road, and coordination. The impairment it causes, which increases risks of accidents, injuries and deaths, is the major reason why alcohol-impaired driving is a considered a major traffic violation and why the law holds drunk drivers totally liable for any accident that may result from their imprudent decision to drink and drive.

Because commercial vehicles are significantly larger than other vehicles on the road, truck drivers must exercise extreme caution while operating their vehicles in an effort to reduce the possibility of an accident; however, many truck drivers consciously disregard the safety of others on roadways by driving intoxicated. Due to their careless and reckless behavior, despite their special training, skills and experience, many continue to cause fatal accidents.

In its website, the Sampson Law Firm explains that holding truck drivers or trucking companies responsible for the tragic outcome of accidents means pursuing legal action to seek compensation that should cover:

  • Medical expenses involving any operations or hospital stay;
  • Cost of prescription medication and rehabilitation;
  • Lost wages;
  • Pain and suffering; and,
  • Wrongful death of a loved one.

Drunk Driving Defense

Federal and state authorities, as well as non-profit organizations, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have never failed in pointing out the dangers associated with drunk driving, especially how this irresponsible behavior puts in great risk of a serious accident the drunk driver himself/herself and all other motorists (and even pedestrians) who are on the road.

Driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or alcohol-impaired driving, whatever one calls it, is a serious traffic offense due to one simple, yet major reason: it puts lives in danger of serious injuries or death (in some states, like in Texas, for instance, DUI and DWI are used separately. As explained by Austin DWI attorney Ian Inglis, besides differences in penalties, DWI is the offense committed by individuals who are at least 21 years old and caught driving while legally intoxicated, that is with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.08%. DUI. On the other hand, is the charge on those who are below 21 years old and caught driving with any alcohol in their system. DUI is the mandatory charge under the Zero-tolerance law, which is in effect in all U.S. states as well as in the District of Columbia).

Before anyone can be charged with a DUI or DWI, however, it needs to be proven first that the person accused of the violation has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08%. Getting a 0.08% BAC level, though, can differ from one person to another due to a multitude of influential factors, such as strength of drink, rate of consumption, age, gender, body type, body fat or muscle content, metabolism, hydration, overall health, alcohol tolerance, food taken (an empty stomach can result to a higher BAC level), and so forth.

During the recent years, law enforcement officers have never been more zealous in enforcing the anti-drunk driving law. Though this move has had some good results, leading to the apprehension of violators, especially frequent violators, there have also been occasions when individuals have been wrongly charged due to wrong BAC readings while some have been arrested improperly.

Law firms and criminal defense lawyers know too well that law enforcement officers do commit mistakes which lead to wrongful accusations and wrongful arrests. Thus, according to a Cape Cod DUI lawyer, during a court proceeding, a typically issues a sentence based on the facts of a case, the perceived risk and danger to society, the evidence against the arrested driver, and many other factors.

Since a DUI charge, much more, a conviction, can truly have devastating effects in the life of an accused, it would make sense for him/her to consult an experienced DUI lawyer who can explain to him/her the most likely scenario for how the case would play out and what penalties will likely be faced if there will be a guilty verdict.