West Virginia is the second highest state on an unflattering list: the number of prescription drug overdoses in the nation. Only New Mexico has more. It is also home to prescription pill trafficking, described by one U.S. Attorney as the “number one problem facing law enforcement in the Northern Panhandle.”
Dubbed “America’s Most Medicated State” in 2010, West Virginia physicians are the most likely to give out prescriptions — 18.4 prescriptions per capita, to be exact. Many of these prescriptions are for valid purposes, as many West Virginians have “comorbid” conditions that require several drugs. More than 68% of people are obese, more than a quarter (27%) smoke, and 20% are disabled. At the same time, many people use and abuse prescription drugs for non-medical reasons. The ease of doling out prescriptions has made West Virginia a “source” state for people from other states who can’t get prescription drugs as easily. Federal and state law enforcement agents are now working together to put a stop to trafficking crimes related to prescription drugs.
While drug trafficking is a legitimate concern, too many people face harsh sentences for minor drug possession. We at the Wolfe Law Firm have seen our share of drug cases at the state and federal level. On the federal level, the Wolfe Law Firm has defended criminal suspects against drug distribution charges brought by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. At the state level, the firm has defended suspects accused of (1) possession of drugs with intent to deliver, (2) delivery of a controlled substance, and (3) manufacturing of a controlled substance. Anyone suspected of a drug crime would be wise to find an experienced West Virginia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
One reason is because of the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which can provide disproportionately harsh sentences for seemingly minor crimes. The Sentencing Guidelines use a sentencing table that contains the level of the crime, the zone of the crime (the zone dictated the length of the sentence), and criminal history. From there, the Sentencing Guidelines are meant to produce a fair sentence and create more certainty. Unfortunately, too often the Sentencing Guidelines have done the opposite. Only in 2010 did the Sentencing Guidelines eliminate the significant difference in sentences between possession of crack cocaine and possession of cocaine base. (Thankfully, the United States Sentencing Commission has voted to make the 2010 amendment retroactive.) While federal judges are not required to follow the Sentencing Guidelines (they are just “advisory”), many of them still do.
Being caught possessing drugs — with no intent to sell or distribute them — should not mean the loss of your freedom for years. That is why if you or your loved one are caught with drugs, an experienced attorney is crucial for your defense. Experienced criminal defense attorneys know how to get evidence thrown out if it is the product of an illegal search, or could successfully get a sentence reduced. If your loved one has been charged with drug trafficking, don’t wait — find a criminal defense attorney immediately.