Attorney General moves for Suspension of Nursing License

The Delaware State Attorney General has called for the Board of Nursing to permanently suspend the professional license of a Delaware nurse who was recently charged with several Pennsylvania drug offenses. Authorities allege that the nurse, a 37-year-old man who is licensed to practice in Delaware but who had been employed at DuBois Regional Medical Center in central Pennsylvania, was in possession of four bags of cocaine and 33 bags of heroin. Stating that he believes the nurse to be an “immediate and imminent danger to public health,” the attorney general reportedly generated the emergency petition to ensure that the nurse will permanently lose his license and never be able to work in Delaware.

The nurse was taken into custody on July 13 by the Towamencin Township Police. He was charged with two counts of drug possession, possession of drug paraphernalia and receipt in commerce of a controlled substance. He has reportedly resigned from his position at DuBois Regional Medical Center and faces an October hearing.

While the nurse’s alleged acts are serious, they are at this point only charges. While it may benefit the attorney general to take a tough stance against a health care professional who allegedly committed these offenses, the accused has not been convicted of any crime. He is protected by a presumption of innocence and entitled to due process of law.

When a member of the health care profession is charged with drug offenses, a lawyer will have to challenge the evidence on two fronts: at an administrative hearing in front of the licensing authority as well as in the courtroom. The mere the fact of an arrest does not always rise to the level of unprofessional conduct in the one forum, nor is it proof beyond a reasonable doubt in the other.

Source: delawareonline, “Delaware nurse faces drug charges; emergency license suspension sought“, Terri Sanginiti, July 31, 2013


The Problem of Mandatory Sentencing

Many states, including Pennsylvania, have begun to reform their sentencing laws in regards to mandatory sentencing. Mandatory sentencing, normally subjected to those convicted of drug charges, is a minimum sentence that is to be given to someone convicted of a specific crime. Since it’s introduction in the 1970s, the prison population in the U.S. has quadrupled. The U.S. currently incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other country, including Iran and China.

Many politicians believe that mandatory sentencing is causing more problems than it is solving. In addition to states changing their laws, this concern has pushed the federal government to consider legislation that would do the same. Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder directed prosecutors working on federal cases to not introduce evidence against people with a limited criminal history that could cause such sentences to be given.

Those in favor of reform want to completely do away with these sentences of non-violent crimes. They also want sentencing to be back in the hands of judges for minor drug crimes. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is co-sponsoring federal legislation to reform the practice for federal crimes because he thinks mandatory sentencing is costly and unfair.

These laws have filled prisons with non-violent criminals and haven’t stopped the sale or use of illegal drugs. This movement to end these mandatory minimum sentences may help many people avoid prison sentences that are a harsher punishment than the crime they were convicted of deserves. While Pennsylvania has taken steps to address the issue, those with drug charges still face the possibility of long prison sentences. An attorney may be able to assist those charged with drug crimes better understand what options they have to protect their future. An attorney could also negotiate for a plea deal with the prosecution that results in their client enrolling in a substance abuse program.

Source: The Week, “Rethinking mandatory sentencing“, Dan Stewart, September 14, 2013

Philadelphia police officers sued for planting drugs at apartment

Dozens of drug cases are being dropped by the Philadelphia district attorney’s office after several officers had been accused of making false arrests, using excessive force and planting drugs while conducting drug crime investigations in the area.

When the Philadelphia police officers had their credibility questioned last year, it was also reported that dozens of other cases involving the officers would likely need to be reexamined in order to determine whether similar wrongdoings and violations were made in those cases. And a few weeks ago, three individuals who have claimed that they are victims of these wrongdoings reported that they are now filing a lawsuit against several of the officers for illegally raiding their apartment and arresting them.

The lawsuit was filed by three individuals who were inside an apartment unit when police raided the unit on July 31, 2012. Several officers that are named in the lawsuit are the same officers who were involved in the dozens of cases that had to be dropped late last year due to credibility concerns. Other officers have also been named in the lawsuit for allegedly conducting the illegal arrests and planting evidence at the apartment.

According to the lawsuit, police had executed a search warrant at the wrong apartment unit. Police also allegedly harassed the occupants and then arrested the individuals after planting drugs in their apartment. After arresting the occupants, it was later discovered that police were supposed to execute the search warrant at a different unit at the same apartment complex.

Although many drug arrests are conducted lawfully, folks should always consider consulting an attorney after being accused of committing drug crimes in order to make sure they protect their rights as best as possible. Clearly, mistakes may be made when executing search warrants and conducting criminal investigations, but even when arrests are conducted lawfully, an aggressive defense attorney may still help to mitigate the consequences of a drug arrest in Pennsylvania.

Source: Philly.com, “Lawsuit accuses cops of false arrests,” Morgan Zalot, Feb. 1, 2013

Will Pennsylvania Leaglize Marijuana?

Although several states   have legalized the use and possession of marijuana under certain conditions,   pot is still illegal in Pennsylvania. This means folks in Bucks County and   throughout the entire state may still face serious legal consequences if they   are caught with marijuana.

Despite marijuana being   illegal throughout most of the U.S., there are still many Americans who use   marijuana. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 24,000 people were arrested in   2006 for marijuana-related crimes. The Office of National Drug Control Policy   claims that taxpayers paid about $325.36 million for these arrests and other   costs associated with the alleged drug crimes.

With thousands of people   being arrested and millions being spent on marijuana-related arrests each   year in the state, citizens and lawmakers have often considered whether it   would be better to just legalize marijuana and regulate the substance like   alcohol in order to avoid wasting taxpayers’ dollars and law enforcement   officers’ time and efforts. Although it may be awhile yet before Pennsylvania   even considers legalizing marijuana, one lawmaker has recently stated that he   plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in the state.

Democrat State Sen.   Daylin Leach announced that he plans to introduce a bill that would legalize   the use of marijuana in Pennsylvania. The bill would only make it legal for   residents who are 21 or older to possess and smoke marijuana. The lawmaker   said that he believes legalizing marijuana will not only allow folks to   purchase safer forms of the substance, but it could also reduce wasteful   spending of taxpayers’ dollars.

If the bill is ever   passed, residents could still face criminal charges for marijuana-related   offenses. For example, folks could face criminal charges for driving under   the influence of marijuana or for selling marijuana to those who are under   the age of 21. It will certainly be interesting to see what comes of the   lawmaker’s plans to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania. We will be sure to   revisit this topic on our blog when more developments occur.

Source: CBS Pittsburgh, “Pa. Senator Introduces Bill To Legalize Marijuana,”   Jan. 10, 2013