As a State College drug defense attorney, I am very familiar with police officers going under cover, buying marijuana from drug dealers, and then charging the dealers with felony offenses of drug delivery and possession with intent to deliver. The deals are done somewhat secretly to avoid detection. A Georgia deputy sheriff chose a different approach and decided to distribute marijuana while in full uniform, displaying his badge, and selling drugs out of the back of his squad car. According to the FBI, it is alleged that the deputy had quite an operation and distributed approximately 10 to 15 pounds of marijuana a week.
Because the sheriff was in uniform, he also had his firearm with him during the marijuana deliveries. Therefore, he was also charged with possession of a firearm to further a drug trafficking offense. The gun charge is actually probably more severe than the actual drug distribution charges.
Pennsylvania Delivery of Marijuana
Had this occurred in Pennsylvania, the man would have been charged with felony counts of drug delivery and possession with intent to deliver under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30). The maximum sentence that could be imposed for the delivery of marijuana is 5 years incarceration and a $15,000.00 fine. However, given the quantities of marijuana allegedly involved, the man is probably facing a mandatory minimum sentence that is imposed when people distribute large quantities of drugs. If the prosecution could prove that the man had delivered more than 50 pounds of marijuana, then a "drug trafficking" mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years incarceration and a fine of $50,000.00 would be applicable. Since the maximum and minimum sentence would be the same in this situation, the man would be required to serve the entire 5 year sentence in prison, meaning he would have no possibility of getting parole.
Firearms and Felony Drug Charges
Pennsylvania charges of drug delivery and possession with intent to deliver are treated harshly by the courts as evidenced by the felony grading, and felony drug charges, in violation of 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(30), that involve a firearm invoke a mandatory minimum sentence. If the prosecution can prove that a person involved in the delivery, possession with intent to deliver, or manufacturing of drugs and that a firearm was either possessed, controlled, within the reach of the person or his accomplice, or were in close proximity to drugs, then the prosecution can impose a 5-year mandatory minimum sentence under 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9712.1.
In this case, since the deputy sheriff clearly had his firearm on his person when he was selling marijuana, he would be subject to the 5-year mandatory minimum sentence related to gun possession. It is also likely that he would be facing a second 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking. Even though two mandatory minimum sentences would be applicable here, the man's sentence is still limited by the maximum sentence permitted by law for the delivery of marijuana, which is 5 years. The mandatory minimum sentence laws are sentencing enhancements and not separate charges that allow for additional sentences. This means that the mandatory minimums can only be used to increase the sentence on the actual criminal charge, in this case marijuana delivery, and cannot be used to impose a sentence in additional to the drug delivery charge.