by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Pennsylvania lawmakers discuss marijuana law modifications

Local lawmakers in Pennsylvania’s capital city discovered on May 18 that reducing the penalties for possessing small quantities of marijuana can be a delicate and complex process. Members of the Harrisburg City Council had hoped to implement a law that would see marijuana possession classified as a summary offense rather than a misdemeanor, but questions about how the measure would be applied to juvenile offenders led to the discussion being tabled.

The proposed measure was drafted to reduce the burden placed on law enforcement and to favor treatment and counseling over punishment for juveniles caught with marijuana. However, council members were unable to reach an agreement over matters such as fine schedules and the number of repeat offenses that would trigger a misdemeanor charge. The mayor had advocated a beginning fine of $100, but several council members felt that this figure was too high and pointed to similar laws passed recently in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that feature fines beginning at $25.

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by Douglas Sughrue, Esq. Douglas Sughrue, Esq. No Comments

Drug warrants issued in joint task force operation

A drug sweep took place in Pennsylvania on April 28 through a combined law enforcement effort. The Darby Borough police chief said that it sent a message of zero tolerance for future drug sales in his area.

Teams of 20 investigators and officers were dispatched to Chester, West Philadelphia and Darby Borough as part of a joint effort composed of local police, the district attorney’s office in Delaware County, as well as Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration investigators. In total, 180 investigators and officers were involved. The sweep started at daybreak as teams, armed with 110 arrest warrants, went to homes in the area. By mid-morning, 79 of the warrants were served. The subjects of the remaining 31 warrants were at large.

Darby Borough is a poor community with an average median income less than $35,000. Vacant residences number about 20 percent. A state representative who appeared at thenews conference announcing the sweep said that the area has long had a reputation of being a hotbed of drug activity. Not all Darby residents were pleased with the recent activity. Some said this sort of thing happens when elections are upcoming. Others said the raids were done in such a way as to prove frightening to family members including children.

A person who has been taken into custody for drug trafficking will want to have legal representation as soon as possible thereafter, because the penalties resulting from a conviction can be extremely severe. A criminal defense attorney might find it advisable after a review of the evidence to attempt to negotiate an agreement with the prosecutor to reduce the charge to possession in exchange for a guilty plea.