A 61-year-old woman was arrested after she allegedly sold heroin to undercover police officers in the Philadelphia area. According to the Philly.com article, the woman's home sits on a 1.7 acre lot, but her property is only 150 feet from an access road to the New Eagle Elementary School. Precisely where the delivery of the drug occurred on the property could substantially impact the sentence that the woman receives if she is convicted of the felony drug charge.
In a very important decision for lawyers across the state of Pennsylvania, but especially important for defense lawyers in State College that handle drug distribution and possession with intent to deliver cases, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is holding that the drug-free school zone law is unconstitutional and cannot be used by prosecutors or imposed by judges. The decision in Commonwealth v. Hopkins affirmed a decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court that had previously held that the law violated constitutional requirements. Most county courts that addressed the issue reached the conclusion that the law was unconstitutional, but the Honorable Judge Bradley Lunsford in Centre County issued one of the few holdings that permitted prosecutors to use mandatory minimum sentences. After Lunsford issued his ruling, the remaining Centre County judges adopted his opinion and thereby continued to impose mandatory minimum sentences in drug cases. The good news is that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the constitution and struck down the awful law. The holding in this decision is likely to be applied to other drug-related mandatory minimum sentences like the drug trafficking law.
I believe that it is undisputed that the current drug-related mandatory minimum sentences in Pennsylvania, like the "drug-free school zone" and "drug trafficking," are unconstitutional. The laws as written do not require a prosecutor to actually charge a person with the mandatory, and prosecutors are not required to prove applicability of the drug mandatory sentences to a jury with a beyond a reasonable doubt standard. The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling which requires that such mandatory sentences be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Clearly, the Pennsylvania drug sentencing laws as written violate what the U.S. Supreme Court has said is required.
Pennsylvania State troopers from the Rockview Barracks in Centre County recently stopped a rented van from Michigan after the driver failed to use a turn signal when switching lanes. During the traffic stop, the police asked the driver if the police could search the van, and the driver consented. The troopers removed two Christmas gifts and a piece of luggage from the van. A drug-sniffing dog was brought to the scene and alerted to the Christmas packages, meaning it was suspected that the packages contained drugs. The packages were then opened, and the troopers found approximately 20 pounds of marijuana. The man was arrested, taken before a Centre County judge for a Preliminary Arraignment on charges of Possession With Intent to Deliver Marijuana in violation of 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(30).
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.