Hydrocodone Combinations Moved Into Schedule II in Federal Controlled Substances Act

Pills2The Drug Enforcement Agency has moved hydrocodone combination products (HCPs), a popular prescription drug for managing pain, from Schedule III to more restrictive Schedule II. HCPs are combinations of hydrocodone, an opioid,  and other painkillers or substances, including acetaminophen. Hydrocodone itself has been in Schedule II since the Controlled Substances Act’s inception.

The DEA is citing a high number of overdoses from prescription painkillers as the reason behind the move. Schedule II substances have been determined to have a high potential for abuse with potential for severe physiological and/or psychological dependence. Schedule III substances have a lesser potential for abuse with moderate to low physiological and/or psychological dependence.

The decision follows the trend of the government “cracking down” on prescription drug abuse. The media has been full of horror stories in recent years of teenagers using substances available from pharmacists instead of illegal substances like cocaine and heroin.

The change means that hydrocodone combination products may be more complicated to obtain by patients. For instance, a doctor can rarely use an oral prescription for a Schedule II drug. A patient may need to just through more hoops if prescribed an HCP for pain management.

It also has implications for federal criminal law. The maximum penalty for trafficking a Schedule II substance (20 years in prison, with a fine up to $1 million) is twice the maximum for trafficking a Schedule III drug (10 years, with a fine up to $500,000).

The change only applies to cases heard in federal court. Most drug cases, including possession cases, are tried under state law. Under the Nevada Controlled Substances Act, hydrocodone combination products remain under Schedule III. However, state law on controlled substances in regards to what substances are illegal and how severe they are judge to be, with some notable exceptions, like medical marijuana.

The Board of Pharmacy may make similar findings as the DEA and move HCPs into Schedule II. Like with federal law, this has some implications on state drug law. Most drug charges in Las Vegas and Clark County are tried under state law.

Unlawful possession for sale of any Schedule III substance charges are a Category D felony for a second offense and a Category C felony for a third or subsequent offense. The same charges for a Schedule II substance are a Category C felony for a second offense and a Category B felony for a third or subsequent offense.

Whether or not this change may seem substantial, they reflect a more punitive and aggressive stance by the federal government, which often sets the trend for state governments. If you face charges for any crime relating to controlled substances in Clark County, immediately contact a Las Vegas drug defense lawyer.

Clark County successfully prosecutes first case under sex trafficking law

legsA Las Vegas man was found guilty last month of sex trafficking, marking the first conviction for the state offense. The offense of sex trafficking was created with the passage of AB 67 in 2013. Prosecuting sex trafficking has been a major focus of law enforcement in recent years, and a successful conviction is likely to herald more people facing these charges. It is critical, therefore, to understand the differences between charges relating to sex work.

Sex work, generally, is a broad term that applies to people who engage in sexual acts as a profession. Sex work crosses the legal line when it becomes prostitution. Nevada law defines prostitution as the act of engaging in “sexual intercourse, oral-genital contact, touching the sexual organs or other intimate parts for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either person” for pay or anything of value.

Both the act of engaging in prostitution and soliciting prostitution (being a “John” or customer) are misdemeanors, unless the person involved was in a licensed brothel. There are no licensed brothels in Clark County.

Penalties are more significant for people accused of being the business of managing and recruiting prostitutes. In the past, these people, often called “pimps,” have faced charges of pandering.

Pandering remains a crime under Nevada law. If charged with pandering, a person is accused of inducing a person to engage in prostitution or to continue to engage in prostitution without engaging in physical force or the threat of physical force. The charges are a Class C felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Under the new, more serious sex trafficking charges, a person who takes, places, harbors, induces, causes or compels a person into sex work using force, threats, fraud or intimidation can be convicted of a Class B felony. It is the same charge to harbor, induce, recruit, transport, obtain or maintain a sex worker knowing force, threats, fraud or intimidation to compel that person into that work.  A Class B felony is punishable by three to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

Additionally, if any sex worker involved was a child, the charges become sex trafficking, whether or not force or threats were involved. Charges are a Class A felony. If the child was between 16 and 18 years old, there is a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. For a child between 14 and 16, the mandatory minimum is 10 years. Trafficking any child sex worker younger than 14 will result in a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison under state law.

Regardless of the offense, any charge involving sex work is serious. It’s important to immediately contact a Las Vegas prostitution defense lawyer if accused.

Nevada Leads Nation By Far in Electronic Wiretapping Per Person

Using iPhone - 21209382 - SAccording to a report released this month by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, courts in Nevada authorized 38.2 electronic wiretaps for every 500,000 residents of the state in 2013. It is the highest number of wiretaps per person in the nation – more than three times the rate for the next highest state, Colorado.

Courts in Nevada authorized 213 wiretaps, or “intercept orders.” The federal U.S. District of Nevada issued 26, and state courts in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and Henderson, issued 187, meaning the overwhelming majority of wiretaps were in the Las Vegas area. Though federal officials only actually executed one, Clark County installed 178. The wiretaps results in 725 incriminating intercepts, according to the report.

The wiretaps resulted in 134 people being arrested and 78 people being convicted in Nevada, all due to orders issued by Clark County. It is a significantly higher conviction rate than the nation, in which only 19 percent of arrests due to a wiretap resulted in a conviction.

The vast majority of these wiretaps (97 percent for the nation, 100 percent for Nevada) are for portable devices, including cell phones and digital pagers. Using a wiretap, police can listen in on a suspect’s conversations and collect evidence to be used against that person.

Every intercept order authorized in Nevada in 2013 was for a narcotics charge. Nationwide, drug offenses are the reason behind about 90 percent of wiretaps, according to an analysis of the report by the Pew Research Center.

The Pew Research Center could not confirm any reason why Nevada would be at the top of the list. However, Las Vegas law enforcement officials told the Las Vegas Review-Journal  they believed they were simply more effective at obtaining them. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office has two federally funded prosecutors who work full time on drug cases, the Review-Journal reported.

Conversations obtained by a wiretap may seem like damning evidence. However, even if obtained by a warrant (always a requirement for a wiretap), this evidence is not always admissible. To obtain an order, law enforcement must show probable cause that the suspect is committing a crime listed in the Wiretap Act, that a communication against that crime will be intercepted, and that the phone is used in connection with the offense.

Your attorney may be able to call into question the grounds on which the intercept order was obtained. If the order was wrongly obtained, all evidence obtained may be determined to be “fruit of a poisoned tree.”

Celebrate America By Knowing Your Constitutional Rights This July 4th

America the greatThe Fourth of July means there will be fireworks in the sky, barbeques in backyards and cops patrolling the streets of Las Vegas, looking for people they suspect of drunk driving. There will also be heavy police presence at the many pool parties hosted around the city, looking for people breaking the law. On this holiday, we celebrate our country. There’s no better way to celebrate it than by being familiar with the document on which it is founded: The Constitution, particularly the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments found in the Bill of Rights.

The Fourth Amendment is very important in DUI stops. The Fourth Amendments guarantees the freedom against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court has found that this means that, in order to stop a person on the belief they are driving drunk, officers must have reasonable suspicion.

Reasonable suspicion means that there must be specific facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime was being committed. A person who is driving too fast, driving too slow or weaving through lanes may present reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. If prosecutors fail to show police had reasonable suspicion, however, the stop may be deemed illegal.

The Fourth Amendment is also critical for the issue of DUI tests. For most searches involving places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, a search warrant is necessary. There is no place where a person has a more reasonable expectation of privacy than their own body. To obtain blood, urine or breath, the officer must obtain either the person’s permission or a search warrant.

If you are offered the opportunity to take a DUI test, the best option is to refuse. You will be denying critical evidence against yourself.

Independence Day is a big opportunity to for hotels and casinos to promote pool parties. At the pool parties, arrests are common for drugs, open or gross lewdness, indecent exposure or other offenses. When police grab a person on suspicion of a crime at a pool party, far too often that person will forget their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

If police approach you and question you, you should assume they are seeking evidence to arrest you. Do not believe that if you are honest and confess a “minor” offense to an officer that he or she will not arrest you.

Instead, exercise your Sixth Amendment right to an attorney. Your criminal defense attorney will advise and represent you, and will protect your rights.

As you celebrate America this holiday, know the rights guaranteed to you in our founding document.

The United States Supreme Court Rules that Police Must Get a Warrant to Search Your Cell Phone

cellphonewarrantsThe United States Supreme Court ruled today that the police must obtain a search warrant before looking through your cell phone.  With continual intrusion in a person’s privacy this is a good step in the right direction of the Fourth Amendment.   Although apparently conflicted, the Supreme Court stated that a person’s cell phone today carries extensively private information on their cell phone, including documents, photos, and videos.  Because of the massive amounts of data carried on a person’s cell phone, the police should be required to get a warrant before being able to search the phone.

The Supreme Court did contemplate the possibility of remote wiping and how that might effect the need for an exigency search.  However, the Supreme Court ultimately decided that the possibility of remote wiping inherently is not enough to forgo the warrant requirements.

Even though the United States Supreme Court ruled for the protection of the Fourth Amendment, the practical matter requires that a person exercise their right to privacy.  What that means is when stopped by police or when being questioned, it is imperative that a person not consent to the search of their cell phone.  If a person gives an officer the consent to search a cell phone the officer does not need to get a warrant.  Although it can be hard to resist an officer’s strongly suggestive request for consent, do not give up your rights.  Make them get a warrant.

Las Vegas City Council Passes Limited Ban on Open Liquor Containers On Fremont Street Experience

bottles-smallOn Wednesday, Las Vegas City Council passed a ban on open glass or aluminum containers containing liquor on the Fremont Street Experience, a pedestrian mall downtown popular with tourists. The new ordinance puts most of the onus on store owners, particularly souvenir stores, who sell liquor. Store owners whose employees allow people to violate the law may face a $500 civil penalty.

The FSE ban is actually significantly watered down from the original proposal. The original proposal would have banned open containers in a 32-block area, and made it a misdemeanor offense with up to a $1,000 fine for a person to possess an open container.

Las Vegas remains a city with liberal laws surrounding alcohol. People may still carry open containers in most of the city and on the Vegas Strip (which is not within city limits). However, Las Vegas residents would be incorrect to think they cannot face legal trouble for certain actions that pertain to alcohol.

While Nevada does not contain a charge for public intoxication, it does have a charge called “breach of the peace.” This is similar to what other jurisdictions call “disorderly conduct.” Breach of the peace is a charge police and prosecutors may pursue if they believe a person is intoxicated and causing problems in public.

Under NRS § 203.010, a person is guilty of breach of the peach if he or she maliciously or willfully disturbs the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, person or family with loud or unusual noises, tumultuous and offensive conduct, threatening, quarreling, fighting or challenging people to fight. It is a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

The situation becomes dramatically different once an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel. It is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or with a blood-alcohol content level at or above 0.08. A conviction for a first offense will result in jail time between 48 hours and six months, or 96 hours of community service, between $340 and $1,175 in fines and a 90-day suspension of driving privileges. Consequences could become harsher if the BAC is at or above 0.18 or if it is a second or subsequent offense.

A Las Vegas DUI defense lawyer can challenge the traffic stop, the DUI test, the arrest and any other matter to seek to have the charges dropped or reduced. An attorney can also help the accused maintain his or her driver’s license.

While Las Vegas may have looser laws for alcohol than most places, it is not a free-for-all on the Fremont Street Experience or anywhere else. Those in the city and surrounding area are advised to know their rights in case of a criminal accusation, including the right to an attorney.

EDC Vegas 2014 Revelers Should Be Aware of Rights On and Off Festival Grounds

Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas 2014

The Electric Daisy Carnival, one of the most well-attended electronic music festivals in the world, will be at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway later this month from June 20 to June 22. The festival has a reputation as a free-wheeling event where narcotics are permitted. This is not the case.

The festival posts security guards at the doors who search people entering, and attendees should be very careful what they say to these guards. The security guards are not required to advise festival goers of their rights, and will turn people over to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Once turned over a person may face charges for drug possession, possession with intent to sell or any other relevant charge. In addition to Electric Daisy Carnival security, undercover police officers are inside the festival and are looking to arrest people, as well.

However, many people who are arrested in Las Vegas during EDC weekend are not apprehended on the grounds of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. They, instead, may be stopped on the road to and from the festival, or at one of the many parties that occur at hotels and around the area.

There are about 15 miles between the EDC grounds and the Vegas Strip, where many attendees stay. Many will drive to and from the festival. Along the way, on both North Las Vegas Boulevard and the Las Vegas Freeway (I-15), the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Nevada Highway Patrol are likely to be posted and on the lookout for intoxicated drivers.

To pull a person over, police must have reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated or committing a crime. Speeding, driving slowly, weaving between lanes or driving recklessly may give officers cause to stop a person. Once stopped, the officer must develop probable cause in order to arrest you on the charge of DUI or any other crime. Typically an officer will ask a driver to perform standardized field sobriety tests or SFST to determine if the officer can establish probable cause for more specific testing. If the officer believes you have failed the SFSTs or has other probable cause, he will then take you to have a blood or breath tests administered to gather evidence of your intoxication. The officer will ask that you consent to a blood or breath test, he will try and scare and threaten you. It is important that you do not consent to a blood or breath test. You instruct the officer, nicely, but clearly, that you require that the officer get a warrant for any test. Do not sign any sort of consent document.

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any controlled substance, including prescription drugs. These tests are designed to determine whether any such substances are in the system of the driver. If you are asked to take a test, it is your right to refuse. In Nevada, currently, there are no consequences for your refusal. By requiring the Officer to get a warrant you avoid handing over critical evidence to prosecutors. Your Las Vegas DUI defense lawyer can seek to have charges dismissed and assist you with any DMV issues that may arise.

If police pull a person over on suspicion of DUI and finds illegal drugs or illegal weapons in the car, the driver may face charges for that.

Additionally, there are many parties that happen in and around Las Vegas during the Electric Daisy Carnival and in the week leading up to it – the week has been dubbed “EDC Week” due to its popularity. There are parties at nightclubs, hotels and at pools. Like at the festival, security guards are often on hand to pat down and check bags for these parties. If they find illegal substances, they will likely detain the person and turn them over to Las Vegas police.  Possessing even a little bit of any drug, other than marijuana, is a felony.  If you possess a larger quantity of drugs you could be looking at a felony that would be mandatory prison or even a life sentence.

Security guards and, sometimes, undercover officers may also be inside the party. They may detain or arrest people for indecent exposure, lewd conduct, drug use or any other charge.  A significant portion of arrests occur with people taking drugs in the bathroom of the clubs or pools.  So be aware of anyone watching or listening to what you do.

There are many opportunities for revelers during EDC Week and the Electric Daisy Carnival to find themselves in legal trouble. They should always be aware of their rights — most importantly, their right to a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer who will represent and advise them.

Troubling Supreme Court Opinion Gives Anonymous Tipsters Weight in Providing Reasonable Suspicion

pulled over cop lightsA U.S. Supreme Court opinion handed down last week is giving significant new weight to people who anonymously call in tips to police. In Navarette v. California, the Court upheld a marijuana conviction that hinged on the issue of whether an anonymous tip gave enough cause to pull a driver over for drunk driving.

To pull a driver over for DUI, police must have reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk. This standard is less than probable cause, the standard necessary for an arrest or search warrant. It does require clear facts from a sufficiently reliable source, from which an officer can infer suspicion that the suspect committed a crime. For drunk driving, that could include erratic driving, driving too fast or traffic violations, such as rolling through a stop sign.

In the Navarette case, police received an anonymous tip that a driver had almost driven the tipster off the road. The caller gave a description of the vehicle and its license plate number. Believing this type of driving indicated the driver was intoxicated, police located the truck and followed it for five minutes. Despite witnessing no signs of drunk driving, officers pulled the truck over.

Police smelled marijuana, searched the truck and found 30 pounds of cannabis. The driver and petitioner were convicted on drug charges, and appealed on the issue of whether the stop was legal.

In the 5-4 opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court ruled that it was. Thomas wrote that the anonymous tip was sufficiently reliable because there was too little time between the alleged incident and the call to fabricate a story and because the tipster called 911, which meant she knew that the call could be traced and she could face charges for a false report if the call was untrue.

Reckless driving gave police sufficient reasonable suspicion to pull the driver over on suspicion of driving under the influence, so the stop was legal, Thomas wrote.

In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia called the majority opinion a “freedom-destroying cocktail,” with both the proposition that the tip was reliable and the proposition that the information in the tip was sufficient reasonable suspicion for drunk driving being false.

Police had no reason to believe the information in the tip, that the truck had nearly driven the tipster off the road, was even true, Scalia wrote. Furthermore, the information itself did not indicate the driver was drunk, and following the truck for five minutes with no signs of intoxicated driving should have indicated that he was not, Scalia said.

The majority ruling is a troubling development on the issue of reasonable suspicion and the ability of police to stop a person. Previously, the court had allowed an anonymous tip to suffice for reasonable suspicion when the caller had predicted an exact pattern of behavior. In Alabama v. White, in 1990, an anonymous tip said that a woman would drive a brown station wagon with a broken tail light from an apartment building to a motel, and that she would have cocaine. The fact that the tipster was knowledgeable enough to accurately predict behavior gave the tip sufficient reliability.

The Navarette case expands the reliability granted to anonymous tipsters. It does not overrule Florida v. J.L., a 2000 case in which the tip simply stated that a young black man in a plaid shirt at a bus stop had a gun. In that case, the tip was not sufficiently reliable. However, the Navarette case does appear to dramatically narrow the grounds by which a tip should be deemed unreliable, with the mere facts that the caller dialed 911 and had a short amount of time to fabricate a story being sufficient.

Reflexology Clinics Targeted for Regulation Due to Prostitution Allegations

 

arrested man hands close upThe Clark County Commission recently passed new restrictions this past week on clinics that practice reflexology, an alternative medicine. The Commission targeted the clinics under the suspicion that they have become locations where prostitution occurs.

The clinics are now required to close at midnight, and may not open earlier than 8 a.m., unless they receive a special permit. Practitioners must have background checks and certification from a licensed school. The new regulations put them more in line with massage parlors, which have long been regulated under the suspicion that they frequently engage in prostitution.

Reflexology involves putting pressure on the feet, hands and ears to relieve pain.

The commissioners have cited multiple reasons for the new regulations ranging from accusations that clinics overcharge, to safety for consumers. One specific recurring concern is that the clinics are a front for prostitution. The same accusation is the reason for many regulations on massage parlors.

Regulations have not stopped arrests for prostitution at massage parlors, and are unlikely to stop them at reflexology clinics. It’s important for reflexology clients to understand what prostitution is under Nevada law, so that they avoid arrest if they cross the line.

Under Nevada Revised Statute 201.295, prostitution is when a person, for a fee, engages in “sexual intercourse, oral-genital contact or any touching of the sexual organs or other intimate parts of a person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying the sexual desire of either person.”

Reflexology is a varying practice, with few set rules. However, if the practitioner is touching a person’s genitals or breasts, or the client is touching the practitioner’s breasts or sexual organs, there is a very good chance that it has crossed the line into prostitution.

It is also important for clients to know that they may be arrested for solicitation if they express a desire to have a reflexologist touch him or her sexually for money.

There is nothing about the practice of reflexology that makes paying a fee legal if for a service performed for sexual gratification. The key is the person’s intent: Whether or not the person sought to give or receive sexual pleasure for a fee.

New regulations may mean that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department will keep a careful eye on reflexology clinics. If you are a practitioner or client arrested, it is important to immediately seek the services of a Las Vegas prostitution defense lawyer.

 

Guests at National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas Should Be Wary of DUI Charges and Know Their Rights

AlcoholKeys

The National Finals Rodeo, called the “super bowl” of rodeo, kicks off Thursday, December 5, and continues until December 14. Held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the event brings in participants, rodeo enthusiasts and spectators from around the world. While in Las Vegas, though, many of these visitors may find themselves the subject of criminal accusations, especially drunk driving.

Under Nevada law, it is illegal for a person to be in actual physical control of a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than .08. If found with a BAC of .08 or higher within two hours of having actual physical control of a vehicle, you may also be charged with a DUI.

A first DUI in Nevada is a misdemeanor. It carries a presumptive sentence of at least two days in jail, with a maximum of six months. There may be a fee of $400 to $1,200, and your license could be suspended for 90 days. The Nevada DMV will report your conviction to the appropriate governmental body in your state, and your state may take action against you, like suspending your license.

Like in any other state, you have the right to refuse a DUI test in Nevada, unless police obtain a warrant. Denying a DUI test deprives the prosecution critical evidence against you. However, there may be consequences in your state if Nevada reports the matter.

If you are an out-of-state visitor who is arrested for DUI during the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, it is important not to assume that you can go home and forget about it. If you ignore the charges, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. The open warrant may turn up in background searches, and it’s even possible for Nevada to seek for you to be extradited back to Las Vegas, a difficult, time-consuming and expensive procedure.

You can hire a Las Vegas DUI lawyer to handle your case. Your attorney can represent you in courts in Clark County. It’s possible that you will not have to travel back to Las Vegas. He can seek to have your charges reduced or dismissed, challenging your arrest and calling into question any DUI tests or other evidence against you. While there are no guarantees, your lawyer will work diligently to fight for your rights and seek the best possible result.

If you are attending the National Finals Rodeo this week, enjoy Las Vegas. Call a cab if you are drinking, or have a designated driver. But if you are accused of drunk driving, know your rights, especially the right to have qualified counsel on your side.

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