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Pennsylvania Defense Lawyer Jailed After Allegedly Selling Drugs to Undercover Cop

According to an online newspaper report, a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney was recently arrested and charged with various offenses related to the delivery of drugs after he allegedly sold prescription pills to an undercover police officer on two separate occasions. Ironically, it is claimed that the lawyer had just represented a doctor that had been accused of over-prescribing medications to clients and that the lawyer delivered oxycodone pills to an undercover officer one day after the doctor's trial had ended. Approximately one month later, the attorney allegedly called the undercover officer again and delivered 180 oxycodone pills to him in exchange for approximately $3,000.00.

"Controlled Buys" of Drugs

Many police departments and drug task forces across Pennsylvania use "controlled buys" in drug investigations. Controlled buys are when the police are in contact with a suspected drug dealer and schedule the purchase and delivery of drugs to either an undercover officer or a confidential informant working with the police. In many State College drug delivery cases, the charges are based upon the delivery of drugs to a confidential informant.  In such drug distribution investigations, the police often take photos of text messages, photocopy the money that is given to the drug dealer, and use audio and video recordings as evidence to supplement the live testimony of the officer or informant that purchased the drugs. If the delivery of drugs occurred outside, the police often have secondary officers testify as to seeing the suspected drug dealer and may even take photos of the person. If the delivery happened in a State College apartment, the police often obtain surveillance video from the apartment building that shows the suspected drug dealer going into the apartment. The police are using more video, audio, and text evidence to bolster their cases.

Pennsylvania Drug Delivery Felony Charges

The lawyer was charged with numerous felony offenses, including Delivery of Drugs, 35 P.S. § 780-113(30); Criminal Use of a Communication Facility, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 7512; and Dealing in Proceeds of Unlawful Activity, 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5111. A charge of Criminal Use of a Communication Facility alleges that a "communication facility," which includes a cell phone, was used to facilitate a crime. Here, I am sure that the police claim that a phone was used to either call or text the police to set up each deal, so the lawyer is charged with two offenses of Criminal Use of a Communication Facility. The delivery charges are  obviously based upon the alleged hand-to-hand deliveries of the oxy pills to the undercover officer. Given the quantity of pills involved, the defense attorney may face "drug trafficking" mandatory minimum sentences that are imposed for drug distribution charges involving higher quantities of drugs.

Law License in Jeopardy

Aside from the criminal penalties, if the lawyer is convicted or pleads guilty to the most severe felony charges, his license to practice law may be in jeopardy. Pennsylvania ethical rules governing the conduct of lawyers does allow the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to punish lawyers for violations of the law. A State College criminal defense law firm recently dealt with a similar problem when an attorney within the office was having prescription pills and marijuana delivered to the firm's office. The attorney was a former Centre County prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer admitted to delivering marijuana to a fellow employee at the firm, and because of his guilty plea, he was sentenced to seven years of probation and was disbarred from practicing law.

Lawyers are not the only professionals that incur licensing issues if they are convicted of criminal charges. Doctors, teachers, nurses, engineers, and even morticians have professional licenses that can be in jeopardy because of criminal charges. In the case of Pennsylvania teachers and other State Employee Retirement System (SERS) participants, a criminal conviction can result in the loss of state pension benefits. Criminal convictions often have a direct impact on a person via a sentence of probation or jail time and payment of costs, but a conviction can also impact other aspects of life like professional licensing, driving privileges, the right to possess a gun, the right to vote, and the ability to keep one's retirement. One bad decision can have far reaching consequences.

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