Just in time for election season, chief election officials for West Virginia and neighboring Kentucky have informed their state’s candidates that they intend to keep an extra close watch on election proceedings to make sure that prescription pills or money are not exchanged for votes.
Both states have suffered from episodes of voter fraud, and both also have high levels of prescription drug abuse, as this blog has mentioned in previous posts. In Kentucky, as in West Virginia, prescription drug overdoses are one of the leading causes of death. While typical voter fraud in Kentucky has involved an exchange of money, in recent years, it has not been uncommon for votes to be exchanged for prescription pills. Most recently, in 2008, a Kentucky mayoral candidate pled guilty to charges of trading pills and money for votes. Both Kentucky’s Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes and West Virginia’s Secretary of State Natalie Tennant have vowed ensure that the integrity of the vote is preserved.
In West Virginia, Tennant is joined in her efforts by federal prosecutors. In the northern district, William Ihlenfeld and Stephen Warner will field election-related complaints, while in the southern district, Booth Goodwin is offering a toll-free hotline that residents can use to report voter fraud. Voter fraud is a federal offense, of course, as well as a state offense. The most recent voter fraud case in West Virginia, from 2010, involved stuffing the ballot box with absentee ballots. However, it would not be surprising if there were several instances of prescription pills exchanged for votes that have thus far gone unrecorded.
If you are involved in a case of voter fraud, you should hire a West Virginia criminal defense attorney to represent you in court. Many voters involved with fraud may be desperate or easily manipulated, and may be able to get the charges against them reduced. That said, most people involved with illegal medications have no experience with voter fraud. Rather, it is methamphetamine production, or getting prescriptions for medications from a pill mill (generally a doctor who writes prescriptions in exchange for money, whether you need the medication or not), ordering prescriptions from illicit websites, or selling illegal drugs on the streets that are the usual causes of trouble. If one of those describes your situation, then you definitely need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side.
No matter how grim your situation appears to be, it is always possible that you could be exonerated, or that you could receive a reduced sentence through a plea bargain. Oftentimes cases that seem iron clad are undone by poorly gathered evidence, such as failure by police to get a search warrant, interrogating a suspect without reading him his Miranda rights, or questioning a suspect when his attorney is not present. A good attorney can raise these issues with the court and arrange it so that the evidence is stricken. As for plea bargaining, that is a common practice in the criminal justice system. Most criminal cases never even go to trial in part because of plea bargains, which often result in dismissed charges or a reduced sentence.
We at the Wolfe Law Firm think that it is important that the integrity of the electoral process be preserved. However, that does not mean that those involved with fraud are not also entitled to be represented by a criminal defense attorney.