Posted On: June 16, 2010

Two Suspects Indicted In Philadelphia for Their Role in an Illegal Online Pharmacy

A pharmacist from Florida and a website operator from the Bahamas were indicted last month for their roles in an illegal online pharmacy. The two suspects worked together and with legitimate pharmacies around the nation to dispense prescription medications without proper prescriptions. At least one pharmacy used by the suspects to facilitate their operation was located in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. Robert Niczyporowicz, acting special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office of the Drug Enforcement Administration described the online pharmacy as a circumvention of medical professionals, as the pharmacies customers would often seek prescription medication which their own doctors would not prescribe; the majority of prescriptions sold on the website were for Phendimetrazine and Phentermine, which are weight loss drugs that are illegal in the United States without prescription. Viagra and Cialis were also found to be popular sales on the website.

The two suspects were indicted under the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act, passed into law in 2008 following the death of Ryan Haight, an eighteen year old that overdosed on prescription Vicodin he ordered without a valid prescription, online. The Act requires websites to obtain a valid prescription from the consumer, prior to dispensing prescription medication. Prior to the Act’s passage, many online pharmacies would only require the consumer to fill-out an online questionnaire; the website in question continued to dispense prescriptions based off of such a questionnaire. The Act now defines a valid prescription as a prescription that is issued for a legitimate medical purpose in the usual course of professional practice, issued by a practitioner who has conducted at least one in-person examination of the patient seeking the prescription.

The Act also requires all online pharmacies to register with the Drug Enforcement Agency. The website must also report to the Attorney General’s office as to what prescriptions and the amount of same the website offers and dispenses. All online pharmacies are now required to obtain licensure from the states in which they operate, and must comply with all state laws regarding the dispensing of prescriptions. Websites must clearly display the states in which they are licensed, the pharmacies contact information as registered with the DEA, the pharmacist-in-charge’s information and a certification that the pharmacy is licensed to practice.

Finally, the Act increases the penalties associated with violations of laws regarding the illegal dispensing of pharmaceuticals. Depending on the severity of the offense, the Act calls for fines up to $5 million and imprisonment of up to 30 years for violations of the Act.

If you are under investigation or have been charged with a violation involving an online pharmacy, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. You may contact Marc Neff to schedule a confidential consultation at (215) 563-9800 or email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: June 14, 2010

Pennsylvania Superior Court Holds that Trial Court May Impose Both Mandatory Minimum and Conditional Minimum Sentences upon a Defendant, Pursuant to State Statutes

The Superior Court of Pennsylvania recent decided an appeal by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in the case of Commonwealth v. Hansley. In Hansley, Frederick Hansley pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, for an incident in which he sold cocaine to a police officer in September of 2008. Hansley pled guilty to a second count of possession with intent to deliver for an incident in which he sold cocaine to the same officer in October of 2008. Both sales were conducted within 1,000 feet of a school zone. Hansley’s guilty pleas subjected him to mandatory minimum sentences, according to state statute, of one to two years for selling drugs in a school zone and three to six years for the possession with intent to distribute charges.

The Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive Act, or RRRI, is a Pennsylvania statute which allows a Court to impose conditional minimum sentences upon a defendant; the act is written to allow non-violent offenders an early release from prison so long as they comply with the necessary requirements. The amount of controlled substance in Hansley’s cases required the imposition of mandatory minimum sentences according to statute, however also allowed for sentences to be imposed under the RRRI. As such, Hansley was sentenced to the mandatory minimum sentences of one to two and three to six years respectively, but also allowed entry into the RRRI program with minimum sentence of eighteen to twenty-seven months. Therefore, Hansley would be eligible for parole after the conditional minimum sentence is served, assuming he’s complied with all necessary requirements under the program; a shorter term than the mandatory minimum sentence imposed.

The Commonwealth appealed Hansley’s sentence to the Superior Court, citing the RRRI’s conditional minimum sentences conflicted with the mandatory minimum sentences which were required by statute. The Commonwealth argued that the Trial Court did not have authority to impose sentence under the RRRI where a mandatory minimum sentence is in place. The Superior Court discussed the assumption that when a new law is passed, the legislature considers all applicable laws which are currently in place. Since there is no mention in the RRRI as to a conflict with the applicable statutes to Hansley’s case, the Court rationed that the Trial Court was at liberty to impose the sentence as such. Further, the Court reasoned that Hansley must comply with the requirements under the RRRI in order to receive early parole; otherwise he will serve the entire sentence as applicable under the mandatory minimum statute.

Drug Possession

Possession of a controlled substance
is a crime which carries many harsh penalties. Depending on the quantity of controlled substance you are found to possess, you may be charged with intent to deliver or drug trafficking. Such charges carry even greater penalties. For example, possessing between 2 and 10 grams of crack-cocaine with intent to traffic carries a minimum penalty of 1 year in prison for a first offense, and 3 years for subsequent offenses. Larger quantities mandate longer minimum sentences as well.

Drug offenses are serious matters which involve serious penalties. If you have been charged with a drug offense, there are many defenses which may be available. Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately, so that your situation can be assessed and a defense to your charges can be developed. To schedule a confidential consultation contact Marc Neff at (215) 563-800 or email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.

Posted On: June 10, 2010

Supreme Court of the United States Rules Prisoners Deemed Sexually Dangerous May Be Detained Beyond Sentence

The Supreme Court of the United States recently decided the case of U.S. v. Comstock, involving four men who were convicted on child pornography and/or sexual abuse of a minor charge(s). The men were convicted under the “Adam Walsh Act”, signed into Federal law in 2006. The Act allows for the civil detainment of sexually dangerous federal inmates, beyond the sentences imposed upon them by the Courts. The Act was challenged by the inmates on Constitutional grounds, the inmates arguing that Congress overstepped its authority by instituting such a law. The Federal District Court agreed with the inmates, and a subsequent appeal to the Circuit Court resulted in a similar holding. The United States then appealed to the Supreme Court who elected to hear the case. The Court also elected to grant an injunction last year, on the release of sexually dangerous prisoners, pending the Courts decision in Comstock.

The Court examined the portion of the Act in question under a Constitutional analysis. It is important to note that the only part of the Act challenged by the inmates was the section regarding civil detainment; the Act also provides for a national registry of sex offenders and other societal protections, not challenged by the inmates nor considered by the Court.

The Court overturned the lower court decisions, holding Congress was well within their Constitutional rights to create such legislation. The Court considered the detainment clause under five separate analyses. First, the Court found that although the Constitution does not expressly give Congress the power to imprison violators of federal crimes and maintain the security of those not imprisoned but who may be affected, there is a broad authority to do both of those things under the necessary and proper clause of the Constitution. In other words, Congress may create legislation which is necessary and proper to protect those members of society who would be put in danger by the release of sexually dangerous prisoners.

Second, legislation is in place which allows for the detainment of mentally ill prisoners who are deemed too dangerous for release. The Court analyzed the established statute and compared it to the Adam Walsh Act, finding similarity between the two. The Court reasoned that since sexually dangerous prisoners can be deemed to have a mental illness, the previously established statute was precedent for the detainment of those deemed sexually dangerous.

Third, the Court found that Congress has the responsibility to protect the safety and welfare of society. Fourth, the Court held that the Adam Walsh Act does not violate the Tenth Amendment as an impingement on States’ powers.

Finally, the Court rationed that the Act is narrowly tailored and does not provide for general police powers. The Act applies solely to those prisoners deemed sexually dangerous and who would pose a risk to society if released. The Act is a narrowly tailored means of accomplishing the goal of protecting society, and only applies to a small percentage of people, already imprisoned by the Federal Government.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court has held that federal inmates may be detained beyond their sentences if deemed sexually dangerous and a threat to society. The Adam Walsh Act has been deemed Constitutional by the Supreme Court and as such, applies to federal inmates convicted of sexual offenses.

Those convicted of crimes and/or imprisoned are still subject to the protections of the Constitution of the United States. An experienced criminal defense attorney not only ensures a defendant’s rights are protected during legal proceedings, but also while imprisoned and beyond. If you have been charged with, or convicted of a sexual offense, you still have constitutional rights which the Law Offices of Marc Neff will protect. For a confidential consultation, please contact our office at 215-563-9800 or via email at marc@nefflawoffices.com.