Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Reverse Drug Stings: One Way the Idaho Law Enforcement Community is Capitalizing on Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in Oregon and Washington

Although two contiguous states, Washington in 2012 and Oregon in 2015, have legalized recreational marijuana it is still very much illegal, and prosecuted aggressively, in Idaho.  For example an individual in Ontario, Oregon can possess up to eight (8) ounces of recreational marijuana for personal use whereas possession of three (3) ounces or more just across the Snake River would subject the same individual  to a felony arrest and prosecution and up to five (5)  years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.

Further depending on the actual amount possessed or the how the marijuana is packaged, could expose the individual in Idaho to much larger fines, longer prison sentences and mandatory minimum prison sentences for delivery, intent to deliver or marijuana trafficking.

The Idaho State Police, county sheriffs and prosecutors, city attorneys and police chiefs in Idaho are sworn to uphold Idaho law, however, they have discretion on arresting and making recommendations on sentencing.  For example Payette County Sheriff, Chad Huff, recently stated he has given his officers discretion to cite and not arrest those found with small amounts of marijuana and many of those end up with a $250 fine and no probation.  This begs the question, however, what is law enforcement doing to stem the flow of marijuana into Idaho and what other techniques are they using to enforce Idaho laws and pay for additional enforcement, prosecution and incarceration.  One possible answer, REVERSE DRUG STINGS.

Recently I have seen in my criminal defense practice, and I have heard similar anecdotal evidence from my colleagues, an uptick in so called "reverse drug sting" operations.  These operations are termed "reverse" as it is the undercover officer or the confidential informant that offers not to buy a controlled substance, but to sell it.  What was once considered clear entrapment by law enforcement and an unheard of law enforcement technique, became sporadically used by the DEA in the 1970's and 1980's to cripple large drug trafficking organizations by confiscating and obtaining forfeiture of drug buy money. 

State, county and city law enforcement agencies soon learned that they too could fill their coffers with these reverse sting forfeited monies.  The focus turned not just to large drug operations but to low level street dealers and even to small level drug users.  In the digital age undercover officers are now trolling Facebook and other social medicia cites to find possible interested purchasers to Friend and gain trust which eventually leads to the officer offering to sell, usually a trafficking amount (a pound or more in Idaho), of marijuana at a below market price.  When the unsuspecting purchaser shows up with the funds at the meet, he is arrested and the funds are seized. 

Such operations have received wide spread criticism as they often reward confidential informants with handsome pay days, encourage unscrupulous law enforcement behavior and attract a criminal element to a small cities and counties.  Further the criticism levied is that the operations now are often focused on young, low cognitive functioning, addicted or mentally ill individuals into committing crimes they otherwise would not commit.  

The Idaho law enforcement community seems to recognize that the number of purchasers is growing in and around Idaho and as such are confiscating tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or dollars, from Idaho citizens and citizens of other states drawn into Idaho.  This issue will play out over the next few years in the Idaho courts and in the court of public opinion, but these "reverse stings" are very much a slippery slope.     

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

School Bus Crashes: Dealing with the nightmare

We have all seen it.  A school bus driver turns on the blinkers and engages the stop sign, yet a vehicle speeds by the driver either not knowing, or caring, about the danger he or she has created.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates there were 1,214 fatal crashes involving school transportation vehicles from 2004 to 2013, averaging 134 fatalities each year.

How can we keep our children safe on school buses and what should we do if our child is injured in a bus accident? 

School Bus Safety

School buses are designed and manufactured to have safety features that passenger vehicles do not.  However, whether it is negligent training of or operation by the bus operators or the negligence of the other drivers on the road, accidents can and do happen.    

Educating your child is the first step to increasing safety on his or her way to and from school.  The following tips can help:

  • Educating your children to be aware of things around them: Be attentive and prepared to get on and off the bus and keep distractions such as playing with electronic devices, wearing headphones and horseplay to a minimum.
  • Keeping an eye on your children if possible: If you have spare time in the mornings and afternoons, consider checking on the bus stop and help keep it clear of hazards.
  • Speaking to your children about following the bus rules and safety procedures: Your children should know how to respond to unsafe situations at the bus stop and on the bus itself.
  • Immediately reporting unsafe or unfit drivers or equipment to school administration or law enforcement:  Should you witness, or receive information from your child, that a bus driver is speeding or not following other rules of the road or if you suspect the driver is operating while impaired by drugs or alcohol you should report such immediately to the school district or law enforcement, and, if necessary, not allow your children and other children onto the bus.  
  • School Bus Injuries and Legal Cases
  • Despite you and your children taking reasonable safety measures, oftentimes, situations that you and your children cannot control lead to accidents and resulting bodily injury.    
  • Smith Horras, P.A. and its attorneys can help you determine if a pursuing a civil lawsuit is prudent by looking at the following:

Liability: It must be determined who breached the duty to not injure your child.  In Idaho it could be one or multiple parties including the other drivers involved, the bus driver, the school district, the bus manufacturer and others.  In Idaho It will be important to file a notice of tort claim within 180-days of the accident with the school district or your child may not be able to recover for his or her injury.
Damages:  Your child must suffer some type of injury as a result of the accident.  Typically a bodily injury must occur that requires medical treatment to recover other damages including, but not limited to, medical bills, pain and suffering, out of pocket expenses and wage loss if your child is old enough to be working and currently has a job.   

Smith Horras, P.A. can offer a free initial consultation to help you make an informed decision about pursuing a case for your child.