Monday, October 28, 2013


Could an unintended consequence of Attorney General Holder's memorandum for more lenient marijuana enforcement be stricter enforcement of federal steroid laws by federal and state law enforcement? 

Since as many as six million Americans use steroids, pushing for more arrests of steroid users could be catastrophic for unsuspecting users many of whom have no idea that the Government classifies steroids with hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine and LSD with equivalent harsh federal drug trafficking sentencing for relatively small quantities.

Not only do Federal Drug Enforcement Agents appear to be focusing on making more arrests for steroid users, but in the Middle District of Florida located in Tampa Bay numerous arrests are being made by local and state police officers which are then being pursued in federal court rather than in state court. Pushing the cases into federal court garners the risk of much more prison time if a Defendant is convicted. With steroids the actual weight of the drug is not as important as the number of 'units' one is accused of possessing, this can make for unfair sentencing results when the drugs are diluted. Therefore, it's important to take urgent action if one is arrested for steroid possession or for steroid trafficking.

Reducing the damage of a federal arrest may be alleviated if the Government agrees to a timely Waiver of Indictment which allows a federal case to be filed with an information rather than by a grand jury indictment. When the Government files an information limiting the scope of the Defendant's knowledge or the sheer amount of the steroids the Defendant may have sold or possessed, this can be useful in avoiding minimum mandatory sentences under the trafficking laws especially in cases where steroids have been found incident to a search warrant, but law enforcement has evidence of long term use, buys or sales of steroids. 

Often an early agreement on the filing of an information rather than an indictment from a grand jury has an addition benefit in that the Government also binds itself to an additional agreement that Government won't object to allow the Defendant to be free on a bond. This is useful in achieving a successful Federal bond, bail and detention strategy. After every Federal arrest a Federal Magistrate determines whether a Defendant should be free on bond. Factors the Judge looks to include the Defendant's ties to the community and whether the Defendant is a threat to the community. Unfortunately under federal law when a grand jury indicts a person for trafficking in drugs, the presumption is that the Defendant is a threat to the community and therefore must remain incarcerated until the case is resolved.

So there's much more likelihood that the Federal Magistrate will agree to a bond when an agreement has reached with prosecutors that allows for a Waiver of Indictment and the avoidance of a trafficking charge. The bond gives security to the court that the Defendant can remain free and working to support his family while the case moves forward. In some cases the Magistrate may even allow a signature bond, which is one without direct security other than the signature of the Defendant promising to pay in the future whatever amount the Federal Magistrate believes will prompt the Defendant to attend each court hearing.

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