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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorneySince the 1990s, many states across the country have legalized marijuana for medical use, but it was not until just a few years ago that recreational marijuana was legalized. In 2012, Colorado and Washington state became the first two states to legalize the recreational sale, possession, and use of recreational marijuana. Since then, there have been nine other states that have legalized recreational marijuana; however, it still remains illegal on the federal level. One of the biggest oppositions to fully legalizing marijuana is the fear that legalization will increase crime. However, just the opposite is one of the reasons people want to legalize it; they think it will reduce crime.

Studies Show Crime Rates Are Either Unaffected or Decreased

According to the Reason Foundation, studies have been conducted in various states that have legalized recreational marijuana to determine what effect, if any, the legalization has had on the crime rate. In Washington state, the number of adults over the age of 21 who were arrested for marijuana possession fell by 98 percent, while the number of those under the age of 21 convicted of possession fell by 50 percent. In Colorado, the number of cases of illegal marijuana cultivation, distribution, and possession fell by 85 percent. Other states such as Alaska and Oregon have seen similar situations.

The Reason Foundation also states that jurisdictions that have legalized marijuana for medical uses have also seen a decrease in the number of opioid overdoses. Other studies have found that property crime has not increased as some people feared it would. In fact, property crime actually fell in neighborhoods in Colorado that opened marijuana dispensaries.

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Connecticut criminal defense attorney for marijuana crimesIn recent years, the recreational and medical use of marijuana has become legal in several states across the country. Currently, 33 states, including Connecticut, permit the medicinal use of marijuana, and 11 states and the District of Columbia allow the recreational use of marijuana for adults. Even just 10 years ago, police could use the “smell of marijuana” as a legitimate reason to search a citizen’s vehicle or person for evidence which could be used to pursue charges for drug possession or DUI. However, times have changed, and some courts have found that this is not an adequate reason to conduct a search.

Is Marijuana Odor Considered Evidence?

Now that more than half of the states have legalized marijuana in some way, lawmakers and law enforcement officials have run into an issue of constitutionality when it comes to using the smell of marijuana as probable cause to search a vehicle or a person. In the minority of states that have not legalized marijuana, a police officer who believes they smell pot has probable cause to search a vehicle in most cases. In other states, however, the line has become blurred, because the smell of pot does not necessarily point to a crime.

“Pot Smell” and the Fourth Amendment

The “automobile exception” has long been recognized by the Supreme Court as an exception to the Fourth Amendment, which states that citizens have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. In many cases, a vehicle may be searched without the need to obtain a warrant if an officer has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. Police have long used the smell of marijuana as an excuse to conduct vehicle searches, though it is now being reconsidered whether or not the supposed presence of this type of odor is enough to allow a warrantless search. Courts in many states, such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maryland, have ruled that marijuana odor no longer gives police the right to search a vehicle.

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Hartford federal drug charges defense attorneyFor years now, many lawmakers have agreed that the United States criminal justice system has needed major reforms. Many bills intended to address this issue have been introduced in the past few years, but most have fallen on deaf ears in Congress and have not made their way to the President’s desk. This all changed in December 2018 when President Trump signed the FIRST STEP Act into law. The FIRST STEP Act is one of the first major changes to sentencing for federal drug crimes and is intended to help reduce the prison population. It will also help those who are newly convicted with drug crimes.

Reforms Made By the FIRST STEP Act

The FIRST STEP Act pushes the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to assess the risks and needs for every offender when they are sentenced. Then, the BOP will attempt to reduce the rate of reoffending through individualized and evidence-based plans, which will be offered to all inmates. Programs that could be a part of these plans may include substance abuse treatment, mental health care, anger-management courses, job training, educational support, and even faith-based initiatives.

Another reform made by the Act is intended to help inmates transition back into their communities. The Act allows inmates to serve a portion of the end of their imprisonment in a halfway house or in-home confinement. This allows inmates to successfully transition back into normal life and lowers their chances of reoffending. The BOP will perform the risks and needs assessment more frequently during this time to make sure the services the inmate needs are there.

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Hartford federal drug charges defense lawyerBeing charged with a drug crime is a serious matter. Those who commit these offenses are not only breaking state laws, but they are likely violating federal laws as well. This means an offender can be prosecuted at the federal level with sentencing that is more strict than state sentencing.

A person can be charged with both state and federal drug charges for the same crime, which may seem unfair at first, but ultimately makes sense. When multiple jurisdictions are involved in a crime, double jeopardy does not apply. The idea of “dual sovereignty” gives both states and the federal government the ability to prosecute an offender for the same crime. However, there are a few differences between federal and state drug charges, and it is important to understand them.

When Does a Drug Crime Become a Federal Offense?

Not all drug crimes will be of interest to federal prosecutors. Only certain types of drug charges will usually be prosecuted at the federal level. State drug crimes often consist of misdemeanor charges related to possession for a first offense or possession with intent to distribute, which is a felony, when the alleged criminal activity is confined within the state of Connecticut.

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opioid, Connecticut drug crimes defense attorneyAccording to the National Institute on Drug abuse, 115 individuals die in the United States every day as the result of an opioid overdose. The issue has become serious enough in recent years to earn its description as a national epidemic crisis. Not all opioids are illegal, and in fact, many cases of abuse begin with a legal prescription for pain relievers like OxyContin. Patients can quickly become addicted and when the legal supply dries up, they often turn to illegal substitutes like heroin.

Lawmakers around the country have been looking for constructive ways to deal with the opioid crisis. One idea involves the creation of “opioid courts” which are intended to help those who have been arrested for non-violent drug crimes related to opioids. Several such courts have been established around the country, and some Connecticut legislators want to look into creating one in this state.

A Proposed Study

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