White House Officials Plan To Challenge Washington-Colorado Drug Laws

Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states. Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law. Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol.

Even if federal law enforcement attempt to stop these States from allowing their citizens to use the substance, the resources need to enforce it are limited. Under the Obama administration, the Justice Department has issued a policy for dealing with enforcement in states that have legalized medical marijuana. The policy states that federal officials should generally not use the limited resources at their disposal to go after small-time offenders, but should use those resources for large-scale trafficking organizations. These orders in affect give law enforcement the go ahead to pursue bigger organized crime divisions, charging potential defendants with RICO violations.

Florida’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) Act refers to participating in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering, often involving Jacksonville drug crimes. Florida’s RICO Act closely mirrors the Federal RICO Act, although important differences exist. RICO prosecutions often involve complicated and voluminous wire-tap evidence and financial records.

Florida law defines “racketeering activity” as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, soliciting to commit, coercing to commit, or intimidating another person to commit any of the criminal charges listed in Florida Statute Section 895.02(1)(a) that could be charged by petition, information, or indictment.

A violation of Florida’s RICO act is a first degree felony, exposing the accused to a possible sentence of 30 years in State Prison. In order to prove a RICO violation, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

– One was associated with an enterprise
– One either directly or indirectly participated in the enterprise by engaging in at least two incidents of “racketeering activity” and
– For those incidents in which one was engaged, at least two of them had either similar or the same methods of commission victims, accomplices results intents or were interrelated by distinguishing characteristics which were not isolated incidents.

The prosecutor is not required to prove that any of the predicate acts nor the RICO enterprise itself involved any underlying economic motivation. The charging document is not required to identify the relationship between the accused and the crimes alleged on its face.
At least one of the predicate acts forming the pattern of racketeering activity must have commenced or began within five (5) years after the cause of action accrues or the conduct terminates. At least two of the required related incidents forming the pattern of racketeering activity must have occurred within five years of each other.

In many cases, the threat of a RICO indictment can force the accused to plead guilty to lesser charges, in part because a seizure or sale of assets would make it difficult to pay a defense attorney. Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court, as it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.

One has one choice of relief in a situation like this. One charged with a crime of this nature should contact an experienced Jacksonville drug crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights and defenses are known and protected. One can either sit back and wait for the Judge to render a decision against one, or one can take charge of one’s defense and win one’s cause for freedom.

The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Administration Weighs Legal Action Against States That Legalized Marijuana Use, Charlie Savage, The New York Times

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