Wheeling Criminal Law Blog

State has not relaxed stance on pot

As states across the U.S. decriminalize first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana, and West Virginia itself giving its use the green light for medicinal purposes, it would be easy to think that the state is OK with marijuana. But that is not the case, not yet, for West Virginians.

According to CBS Fox WVNStv.com, the state’s medical marijuana law is set to go into effect on July 1, 2019. That law has not been defined beyond allowing patients with certain medical conditions to possess small amounts of marijuana-infused products, such as pills, patches and oils. But even as lawmakers hammer out the details of the 2019 law, proponents are already pushing for changes that would broaden its scope.

The benefits of drug diversion programs

Drug charges in West Virginia can come with various repercussions: costly fines, possible jail time and, not to mention, months of mental and emotional hardship. Many might assume that all drug arrests are justified, but the truth of the matter is that countless individuals face time behind bars all because of a small drug offense. Recent news shows, however, a possible turning of events that could lead to a brighter future for those dealing with the aftereffects of an arrest. 

According to one U.S. News report released last October, West Virginia is turning a positive page when it comes to addressing a high number of drug offenses. Offering low-level drug offenders the option of completing a treatment program instead of jail time, the new regulations have been well received so far. The report even goes as far as to show the program's celebration of three continuous years of success, as many of those who complete the program are not arrested again. At the time of the article, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (or LEAD) planned to expand to southern parts of the state. 

Methamphetamine and a new danger

While America continues to grapple with the opioid crisis, another drug has continued to sweep across West Virginia: methamphetamine. Meth has remained popular through the vehicle of various criminal drug groups, as well as independent providers across the state. Even as West Virginia battles its own opioid epidemic, it also struggles to manage meth-related overdoses and meth lab problems statewide.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported last December that meth-related overdoses in the state had reached an all-time high. Using data from the Health Statistics Center, the Gazette-Mail goes on to share that overdose deaths have increased by 500 percent in only four years. Why the sudden, drastic increase? Fentaynl, a powerful drug often laced into meth, has been the biggest culprit. Many users are unaware that fentanyl has been laced into the drugs they buy. The Gazette-Mail continues by sharing that law enforcement had been seizing meth from Mexican drug cartels, which is later distributed throughout Appalachia. While there has yet to be a solution to this statewide problem, the fear is that this deadly mix will continue to claim lives.

America's exoneration problem

When an exoneration reaches the public spotlight time and time again, the problem becomes all the more clear: America has a long road ahead in regard to the ways it handles false convictions. Not only can a wrongful conviction reflect poor judgement on behalf of a criminal justice system; it can completely destroy a person's life. Time behind bars does not seem as excruciating to those on the other side, but for the West Virginians who face penalties on false grounds, a life can be at stake. 

TIME provides an insightful scope into America's exoneration problem, showing that, as of 2016, the number of exonerations in the country had hit an all-time high. 166 people reclaimed their lives that year after they were declared innocent; furthermore, TIME reports that there are roughly three exonerations per week on average. Many may ask, what is the reason for such a high number? Some experts point toward shifting attitudes toward accountability in the prosecutorial offices across the nation. Convictions most likely to be overturned were those which received repeated reviews on appeal, as well as those supported by various advocacy groups. TIME also pulls from National Registry statistics to show that over 50 percent of exonerations involve perjury or wrongful accusations.

What if you really did hold marijuana for a friend?

You do not use marijuana yourself, but a friend with a prescription has left his supply with you while he takes care of some other business. If an officer discovers you with the marijuana in your possession, should you tell him or her you are simply holding it for your friend? 

From the officer's point of view, you are a person in possession of an illegal substance because you do not have a valid prescription. Even though it may be the truth, if you tell the officer that you had the substance because a friend asked you to hold it temporarily, this tells an officer you were aware the substance was within your dominion. This admission could make the impending trial much harder. 

How the opioid epidemic affects children

Many West Virginia residents may think that the opioid epidemic affects primarily the people who use these drugs. However, many children are also affected by this epidemic.

According to STAT, children may sometimes inhale or ingest the substances their parents are addicted to, and infants may go through withdrawal if a woman took opioids while she was pregnant. Additionally, children living with addicts may experience high stress levels and uncertainty in their daily lives. Some may also be obligated to care for their siblings if a parent is unable to because of an addiction. As these children grow up, they sometimes experience the same factors that led their parents to take these drugs, and this may lead some children to develop their own opioid addiction. People between the ages of 25 and 44 account for roughly half of the opioid deaths. Many people in this age range may have children.

The reality of racial profiling in america

America has long been known for its diverse society, with countless cultures and subcultures thriving in cities across the map. By the same token, an underlying current of racism affects many non-white citizens, especially the country's Muslim population. Although terroristic threats are a real safety risk in today's world -- including West Virginia -- the racial profiling that occurs behind the scenes can inflict serious damage, as well. 

As many have experienced first-hand, racial tension is no secret in today's society. The Washington Post reported around the time of Donald Trump's 2016 campaign that the now-president's plans regarding the combat against terrorism involved racial profiling as a necessary step. While this instance was hardly the first time the president has mentioned this strategy, he has also criticized immigration policies of the past. Trump continues to suggest aggressive methods of addressing the country's terroristic issues in current reports. 

The Kennedy plea explained

Residents of Wheeling who are facing criminal charges often have the daunting task of weighing the benefits of pursuing a trial in order to prove their innocence or accepting a deal that will allow their ordeals to be over. Typically, accepting a plea agreement requires that one plead guilty to an offense. Doing so may result in him or her facing reduced charges, yet that guilty plea may end haunting them down the road. The only alternative may be to face a jury trial, which could result in one still being found guilty. Are there any other options? 

Many may have heard stories of people pleading "no contest" to criminal charges. According to information shared by the Cornell Law School, a no contest plea (often referred to as "nolo contendere") means that one accepts punishment for a crime while neither accepting or denying responsibility for it. One typically offers such a plea if it appears there is sufficient evidence to convict him or her. 

Swatting: the online prank that can get you arrested

The anonymous nature of social media, multi-player online gaming and other internet activities can make people feel safe doing something they would never do in real life. This might include getting into vicious verbal sparring, making threats against others and even attempting to get revenge on someone after an online slight. You and other West Virginia residents who spend time on the internet should understand that some online behaviors may result in criminal repercussions.

The term “swatting” may be familiar to you. The following points outline the basics about this type of prank:

  • The name refers to luring large amounts of law enforcement, or SWAT teams, to an unsuspecting person’s address by making a false police report.
  • People often play this prank on someone after a disagreement over social media or online gaming.
  • Celebrities and people with recent news stories have also been frequent swatting targets.
  • Swatting can come with a charge of filing a false report to law enforcement, as well as other charges depending on the incident.

Felonies and gun rights in west virginia

For many felons in West Virginia, just one past decision has led to years of court hearings, fees and, in some cases, a damaged reputation. Contrary to what some might believe, not all felons have a violent past. Even those who have been convicted for a violent crime have had extensive periods of time to pay fines and face repercussions.

One of the most controversial debates on today's political spectrum involves that of gun control. When it comes to owning guns, laws in the past have made it difficult for some convicted felons to purchase any type of firearm. However, those laws could see future change.

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