plea

Mitigated Sentences for Prescription Drug Convictions

When Bucks County residents are convicted of committing serious drug offenses, their sentences will most likely be determined by Pennsylvania’s drug crimes sentencing guidelines. Sentencing guidelines include suggested minimum sentences for specific drug crimes as well as suggested maximum sentences for specific offenses.

Although there are guidelines for minimum and maximum sentences, those who are accused of committing drug crimes also need to understand that each case is unique and defendants may still be able to fight for sentences that are below minimum sentencing guidelines.

For example, a doctor from Philadelphia who was convicted last year of illegally selling prescription drugs has avoided being sentenced for the crimes based on minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines. The doctor is 79 years old and he has two adult daughters who have been in wheelchairs all of their lives as a result of a neurological disorder. After reviewing the man’s case, a judge decided that sentencing the man based on sentencing guidelines was not appropriate in this situation.

Although the man’s daughters have been able to go to college on their own and have earned advanced academic degrees, the man’s attorney argued that the doctor’s daughters are still dependant on their father and mother. In court, the man’s three daughters asked that the judge be lenient when sentencing their father. The man also suffers from several health complications, which could make his time in prison very challenging.

According to reports, the doctor was convicted in March 2012 of illegally selling prescription medications on several occasions between January 2005 and September 2010. He faced a minimum prison sentence of 12 ½ years for the crimes. After taking his situation into consideration, though, a judge concluded last week that the former doctor should be sentenced to serve seven years in prison and three years on probation. The doctor has also been sentenced to pay $40,000 in fines and some of his property may even be forfeited.

After announcing the sentence, the judge told the man that he was doing him a “favor.” The judge also noted that prescription drug use and abuse has become a significant problem and doctors need to be held responsible when they fail to distribute the medications under lawful and appropriate conditions.

Defendants who are facing drug charges will not want to proceed with their cases in court until they have developed a strategic defense and understand how the charges they are facing could affect them if they are convicted. An experienced and aggressive attorney will help folks handle these issues as strategically as possible.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “‘Pill-mill’ doctor gets seven years in prison,” David Sell, Jan. 31, 2013

Pennsylvania House weighs expansion of designer drug ban

The Pennsylvania legislature is currently considering a bill that would expand the types of synthetic drugs that are prohibited. The state currently has laws that ban these substances, including bath salts, synthetic marijuana and any substance designed to imitate the effects of heroin, methamphetamine or cocaine. However, drug manufacturers are still able to change the formulation of the drug and produce a similar substance that is not contained within the list of illegal substances.

Supporters of the bill, known as House Bill 1217, believe that if it ultimately becomes law, it will be more difficult for synthetic drug manufacturers to get around the law by making minor chemical changes. This may make it easier for law enforcement to catch those creating and selling so-called designer drugs.

The bill was approved by a legislative committee in the House of Representatives on April 22. The full House will now consider the proposed law. If it passes the House, it must also be approved by the Senate before being forwarded to the governor for approval. It was not stated whether or not the governor supports the bill.

Act 7 of 2011 amended the Pennsylvania controlled substance act to make designer drugs a Schedule I controlled substance, which means the government believes the drugs have no accepted medical purpose and a high potential for abuse. Any person who has been charged with a crime related to the possession, sale or manufacture of designer drugs may benefit from speaking with a defense lawyer to discuss the situation. In some cases, a lawyer may be able to get a person into a drug diversion program to avoid some of the penalties of a conviction or possibly negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution for a reduced sentence.

Source: WHTM, “Pa. bill would expand designer drug ban,” Myles Snyder, April 23, 2013

Source: General Assembly, “SB 1006,” June 23, 2011