Criminal Defense Blog

Trafficking vs. Distribution

17October
2016

Is There a Difference Between Trafficking and Distribution?

A common question clients have is what is the difference between drug trafficking and drug distribution?  Basically, drug distribution refers to the selling, delivering, or providing of a controlled substances illegally. This charge is often used if someone tries to sell drugs to an undercover officer. Drug “trafficking,” on the other hand, generally refers to the illegal sale and/or distribution of a controlled substance. Put another way, distribution involves the movement of drugs and trafficking is determined by the weight of the drugs – no movement is required.

Specifics about drug distribution

Essentially, if law enforcement catches you attempting to move drugs in any manner, you could face distribution charges.  What some people don’t realize is that you don’t have to be caught in the act of actually exchange money for drugs in order to be charged with distribution.  In fact, if you are found carrying a large quantity of drugs or a substantial amount of cash, you could be charged with possession with the intent to distribute.

Federal laws on drug trafficking are comprehensive

Under federal law, drug trafficking charges can include charges for manufacturing, distributing, as well as possession with the intent to distribute.  It all depends on the amount or weight of the drugs found. Drug trafficking charges do not necessarily involve crossing state or national borders, contrary to what many believe.  Yet, when drugs are moved across borders, it is more likely that federal law enforcement will get involved.

Ultimately, if you are facing any type of drug charges, you need to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney.  You could be facing serious jail time. If you have questions regarding drug trafficking or distribution, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking, Marijuana Offenses |

Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance (UPOCS)

6October
2016

It is basically understood that owning or possessing a controlled substance without justification or permission, can be a crime in Alabama – specifically, unlawful possession of a controlled substance. This crime is typically when an individual is found with marijuana cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycontin or other narcotics.  What some people forget is that prescription medications can also qualify as controlled substances.  So, if you have possession of a prescribed narcotic without a valid prescription or justification for having it, you could be charged will illegal possession.

3 Forms of illegal drug possession

A drug possession charge in Alabama can be more complicated than you think.  There are many nuances that most people are unfamiliar with.  It is not as simple as having drugs in your possession.  So, if you are facing a drug possession charge, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney representing you. One key element that must be shown is possession.  There are 3 ways to analyze this element.

Knowing possession of a controlled substance

In order to be guilty of the crime of unlawful possession a controlled substance, the person must knowingly and intentionally have control of the controlled drug. This means that a prosecutor only needs to show that the accused knew the drugs were present and intended to use or control them. On the other hand, it is not necessary to show that the accused knew it was a controlled substance or that having it was illegal in that particular situation.

Actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance

The term “possession” technically means that a person has personal and physical control over the controlled substance. That “possession” can be actual or constructive, which can mean that the drug is on their person (i.e., in their pocket) or in the trunk of their car or hidden in their apartment.

Shared possession of a controlled substance

Unlawful possession over a controlled substance does not have to belong solely to the accused.  Put another way, you can still be convicted of possessing a controlled substance if it can be shown the accused had at least partial control over the drug. A most common example is when two roommates share an apartment in which the police found the illegal drugs. Yet, more must be shown than merely that the two roommates lived in the same home.  Instead, each defendant must have had control over the drugs or made incriminating statements about them.

If you have questions regarding possession controlled substances, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Drug Possession, Marijuana Offenses |

Do I Need A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

30September
2016

Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer

In order to have a balanced and fair justice system, defense attorneys are a necessity.  Their goal is to aid in keeping innocent people from going to jail, but more importantly, to safeguard the constitutional protections of the accused, making sure that due process of the law is provided before a person’s freedom is taken away.

The goal of criminal defense

You know the rule: “innocent until proven guilty.”  Essentially, this means that everyone is entitled to certain legal protections, even those who have been accused of committing a crime.  Law enforcement certainly has substantial resources at its disposal, as do criminal prosecutors.  Likewise, every individual who is charged with a crime has the right to a proper criminal defense.  The area of criminal defense law governs the legal protections of those individuals.  Without these protections, there would be no balance of power within the justice system.

A defense lawyer has certain duties to the client

Be assured that just treatment for a criminal defendant will depend as much on the skill of the defense attorney, as it will on the protections provided by the law.  The defense attorney has a duty to understand and properly utilize the applicable constitutional guarantees, to the advantage of his or her client.  It is the job of the prosecutor to present evidence to support the charges against the criminal defendant.  The defense attorney has the duty of ensuring that the evidence presented was obtained in compliance with the various laws and rules of court.  Criminal defendants also have a right to a public trial, and in many cases, the right to have their guilt or innocence decided by a jury. The constitution also provides the right to confront adverse witnesses, and to subpoena the appearance of favorable witnesses, as well.

If you have questions regarding the role of criminal lawyers, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Uncategorized |

DUI in Alabama

14September
2016

In Alabama, drunk driving is the single largest cause of motor vehicle related fatalities each year.  Many drunk driving cases lead to DUI’s.  You may be familiar with the terms DUI and DWI, but wondering what is the difference between the two?  In reality, these are two very closely related criminal charges. Here is what you need to know.

It is called a DUI in Alabama

Driving Under the Influence (DUI), like Driving While Intoxicated/Impaired (DWI),  is a criminal charge committed when a driver operates a vehicle after the consumption of alcohol, drugs or intoxicants or other kinds.  It is well known that increased alcohol levels in the blood stream diminish mental acuity, reaction time and motor skills. This effect directly reduces the driver’s ability to control the vehicle safely.  However, alcohol is not the only substance that causes these issues.

Some states have a broader definition

Nine states have enacted laws that address other types of driving impairments apart from drugs or alcohol.  For example, in New Jersey, a driver that has been without sleep for 24 hours is considered to be driving recklessly, in the same class as an intoxicated driver.  Similarly, in Arkansas, if a driver is involved in a fatal accident and has been without sleep for 24 consecutive hours, they can be charged with “fatigued driving,” which is a class A misdemeanor.

Penalties for DUI in Alabama

There are different possible sentences for a DUI conviction in Alabama depending on your criminal record.  On the first conviction you can face up to one year in a county or municipal jail, however, there is no minimum mandatory jail sentence.  For a second conviction you could face a minimum of 48 hours and up to one year in jail, plus community service.  After four or more convictions, you can be charged with a Class C Felony with a sentence of 1 to 10 years.

Points will also be added to your driving record and your license will be suspended or revoked, if you are convicted of a DUI in Alabama. The number of points assessed, depends on the severity of the offense and the number of prior convictions.

If you have questions regarding a DUI in Alabama, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in DUI |

Federal Penalties for Drug Manufacturing

23August
2016

You may not have realized but Alabama law is not the only source of criminal penalties for drug charges.  In particular, criminal charges for manufacturing illegal drugs can come from both the federal and state government.  It depends, oftentimes, on the seriousness of the offense or the scale of the drug operation.

When does a drug charge become “federal?”

There are a few surefire ways to end up in federal court on a drug charge.  First, if you are arrested by a federal officer, such as a DEA agent during a drug bust, then your charges will most likely be federal.  Another example is committing a crime on federal property, such as a national park.  Another way you may end up in federal court on a drug charge is if someone informs on you.  If there is someone who is facing their own federal drug charge, they may be given some form of leniency if they identify someone else involved in drug crimes.  Most important to remember is, just because you may be arrested by local police doesn’t mean law enforcement cannot make an agreement to hand you over to the federal authorities.

Drug manufacturing charges under federal law

Under federal law, it is illegal to manufacture, sell or possess illegal substances, just as it is under applicable state law.  If you participate in any part of the manufacturing process you have committed the offense of drug manufacturing. So, this could include mixing chemicals together, so-called “cooking” meth, planting or cultivating the seeds to grow marijuana or even merely supervising the manufacturing process in some way.  Also, you can be convicted even if you only possessed the equipment for manufacturing, though you never participated in the process, but you knew it was used to do so.

The federal penalties for drug manufacturing

The federal penalties for drug manufacturing are rather severe, depending on the type and amount of drugs that are involved.  With cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine, you can get anywhere from 10 years to life, depending on the amount.  If the charges involve death or serious injury in connection with the drugs that were manufactured, then a fine of between 2 and 4 million dollars could be added.  Sentences can also be greatly increased if a firearm was possessed or used in the commission of the drug offense.

If you have questions regarding drug manufacturing charges, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking, Marijuana Offenses |

Cultivation of Marijuana

16August
2016

Cultivation of Marijuana Plants in Alabama is Illegal

Regardless of the push for legalized marijuana across the country, in Alabama, cultivation of Marijuana is a criminal offense.  This is true even if you grow the plant in your backyard or basement and even if it is for personal use.  Although some states may be close to decriminalizing marijuana, Alabama is not one of them.  So, remember, if you grow marijuana for yourself on your own property, then you could end up in prison for a minimum of 3 years and fined up to $25,000.

Alabama imposes mandatory sentences

Alabama imposes mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana related offense, which means that if you are convicted, the judge has no choice but to sentence you to the mandatory minimum.  The judge can impose a higher sentence, as well.  Conviction of a federal offense carrying a mandatory minimum means you are not be eligible for parole.

Cultivation is a felony

Cultivation of marijuana in Alabama is considered a felony. Depending on the amount of marijuana involved, you could be facing anywhere from 3 years in prison to life and fines from $25,000 to $200,000.  These mandatory sentences are based on the weight of the raw plants in their entirety.  Also, a conviction in Alabama also brings with it the suspension of your driving privileges for six months.

Seek the assistance of a criminal defense attorney

Drug charges are taken extremely seriously in Alabama.  So, if you are facing marijuana cultivation charges, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney who has experience with handling drug charges of all types. Since the penalties for drug charges in Alabama can be severe, a drug crime defense lawyer can help you work towards the most favorable outcome possible.

If you have questions regarding marijuana related charges, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking, Marijuana Offenses |

Alabama’s Expungement Law

13August
2016

Retroactive Application of Alabama’s Expungement Law

Alabama’s new expungement law provides that certain components of your criminal record can be expunged or erased. Not everyone is eligible and not every crime is covered, but your Alabama criminal defense attorney can explain the requirements to you.

Retroactive application of the Alabama expungement law

The 2014 Alabama expungement law applies to all misdemeanors and non-violent felonies that were resolved in favor of the defendant. This is true, regardless of how old the case is because the law has retroactive application. For instance, if you were accused of marijuana possession when you were a college student in 1970, you can apply for expungement under the new expungement law.

How long does the expungement process take?

Every case is different, but it normally takes 30-45 days to obtain all of the necessary records and then draft and file the petition with the court.  Typically, it takes 45 days from the filing of the petition for it to be granted by the Court.  However, if there is an objection to the petition, then the process will take longer.

You should hire a lawyer to assist in obtaining expungement

Generally speaking, it is always best to have a criminal attorney represent you in all aspects of a criminal proceeding.  There is so much at stake that it would wise to have someone with experience at your side.  Even with something like a Petition for Expungement, there are technical requirements which, if not properly adhered to, your petition could easily be denied.

If you have been charged with a non-violent felony, a misdemeanor criminal offense, a traffic violation, or a municipal ordinance violation, the record may be expunged.  If you have questions regarding expungement, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Alabama DUI Arrest

1August
2016

Alabama DUI Arrest and the Consequences 

Many people are under the false impression that getting arrested in Alabama for a DUI is not something to get that worried about.  While an arrest is not a criminal conviction, it is a public record and record of that arrest can be viewed by others. Not only can someone, say an employer or a school, find record of your arrest; the fact that you were arrested can cause your drivers insurance to increase and there is a likely going to be a suspension of your Alabama driving privileges.

Administrative Suspension of Your Alabama License 

Once someone is arrested for a DUI in Alabama then that individual is given a “yellow sheet of paper” that is their notice of suspension of their Alabama license.  This fine print letter informs the recently arrested person that they have certain rights that they can choose to protect but that their license is set to be suspended within 45 days. It is very important to hire an Alabama DUI lawyer to help with the administrative suspension process from this point on.

Alabama Administrative DUI Conviction

Once an administrative suspension begins you need a lawyer to keep you legally driving and to advise you as to what to do about the record of this administrative DUI conviction. Even though the administrative DUI conviction is not criminal record, for purposes of your driving record abstract there will be a DUI conviction listed. Having an experienced DUI lawyer to help you through this issue and getting this cleared up is key to your future well being and ability to keeping your license and having low insurance rates.

Call Ketcham Law at 205-296-4233 if you have been arrested for a DUI. Let our DUI law firm help guide you through this process and counsel you as to what your best options are.

 

Posted in DUI, Underage Drinking |

A Life Sentence for a Non-Violent Drug Crime?

15July
2016

So-called “three strikes” laws or habitual offender statutes have been around for a long time.  The purpose of these laws is to keep career criminals off the streets.  Basically, anyone who is convicted of three felonies will face a long prison sentence – anywhere from 15 years to life depending on the state.  But, what happens when a non-violent crime leads to a life sentence?

A life sentence for drug possession?

Many argue that imposing a life sentence for a drug possession conviction, for example, is simply excessive.  Drug possession, as well as other non-violent crimes, are not worthy of life sentences in most people’s minds.  Consider for instance the case of Alabama resident Lee Carroll Brooker, who is currently serving a life sentence without parole for growing three dozen marijuana plants.  Some question whether this is the type of situation the habitual offender laws were created to address.

Indeed, life sentences are rare – coming in at a huge 1% of total prison sentences. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 2000 the average sentence in state courts for murder was 20 years.  If you are considering the severity of a sentence, life without parole is the second worst punishment an offender can receive, second only to the death penalty.

History of “three strikes” laws in the U.S.

Washington was the first state in the nation to adopt a “three strikes” law.  Beginning in the 1990s, nearly half of the states in our country have adopted some type of “three strikes” law.  The practice of imposing longer prison sentences for repeat offenders is not really a new concept.  Judges typically take into consideration prior offenses when determining sentencing.

Even in states that do not specifically impose a life sentence enhancement for habitual offenders, their laws could still send someone away for life.  Currently, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Oklahoma all sentence nonviolent offenders to life without parole for nonviolent crimes. Mississippi alone requires life sentences for being convicted of possession for barely one ounce of marijuana.

If you have questions regarding sentencing, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking, Marijuana Offenses |

Understanding Drug-Free Zone Laws and their Consequences

8July
2016

When the “War on Drugs” first began decades ago, drug-free zones were established and enhancement laws created which increased the penalties for certain drug offenses committed near schools.  Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some version of drug-free school zone law.

The purpose of drug-free zone laws

Recognizing the danger that drug trafficking near schools poses to children, drug-free zone laws were established to protect children from drug activity.  The zones often extend to public parks as well.  Under these laws, anyone caught using or selling drugs within the designated protected zones faced significantly stiffer penalties than others who engaged in the same conduct outside these zones.

Different states have different laws

Drug-free school zone laws vary by jurisdiction when it comes to factors such as zone size, locations, offenses, and penalties imposed.  Some states also have restrictions on when and under what circumstances the enhanced penalties apply. In 30 states, the law defines drug offenses within the protected zone as distinct crimes with their own penalties or penalty ranges. In other states, the law imposes enhanced penalties for underlying crimes when they occur within the protected zone. This is true regardless of how far from the actual school the crime may have occurred, the fact that school children were not actually involved, or the fact that the offense did not occur during school hours.

In Alabama, if you are convicted of selling drugs within three miles of a school or university, five years will automatically be added to your sentence.  If the crime occurred within three miles of public housing, another 5 years will be added as well.

If you have questions regarding drug-free zone laws, or any other criminal defense matters, please contact Ketcham Law for a consultation by calling us at (205) 296-4233.

Posted in Drug Possession, Drug Trafficking |