Monthly Archives: July 2011

Judge rules Livonia can keep tough stance on medical marijuana [Idiotic]

A Wayne County judge has dismissed the legal challenge of a Livonia city ordinance which the American Civil Liberties Union has charged amounts to a ban on medical-marijuana use.

But Livonia officials said the ordinance will help to keep their community free of crime that is attracted by marijuana users.

The 29-page ruling from Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter lets the city to enforce a zoning ordinance that forbids violating any federal law — including drug laws that criminalize possession of marijuana. Although Livonia’s mayor said the zoning ordinance should not stop legitimate medical-marijuana users from using the drug in their homes, Livonia’s city attorney said anyone who does could face arrest.

“We’ve said from the beginning that somebody who’s a legitimate user and not engaging in a business (involving marijuana) is not going to be a target” of Livonia police, City Attorney Donald Knapp said.

“But if somehow law enforcement comes upon you (using marijuana), you could be prosecuted,” Knapp said today. Baxter’s ruling was released Wednesday afternoon, he said.

Livonia’s ordinance is not a criminal statute but instead governs land use, “to keep marijuana businesses — grow operations — from sprouting up in the neighborhoods, in our industrial corridors and next to every little pizzeria,” Knapp said.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette intervened in the case on Livonia’s behalf, and the city’s leaders “greatly appreciated that,” Mayor Jack Kirksey said. Kirksey said he called Schuette on Wednesday to thank him.

“We’re not in any way trying to stop those people who legitimately use marijuana and find it tempers their pain. But we think it brings a certain criminal element and diminishes the quality of life in a community,” Kirksey said today.

ACLU lawyers challenged the ordinance on behalf of a Birmingham couple, Linda and Robert Lott, who wanted to raise medical marijuana in the Livonia warehouse they own. The couple plans to appeal, ACLU attorney Dan Korobkin said.

The couple’s challenge to nearly identical statutes in Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, said to be modeled after the Livonia ordinance, is under way in Oakland County Circuit Court, Korobkin said today.

“All of these ordinances say the same thing: ‘No violating federal law in our town.’ And all of those ordinances were specifically enacted to block the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which is exactly what the act says that (a local community) can’t do,” Korobkin said.

Linda Lott has battled multiple sclerosis for nearly 30 years, she said in December, when the couple’s lawsuit was filed. At that time, she said that the ordinances in the three communities were forcing her to “choose between being a criminal or being in pain.”

Lott challenged the ordinance in Birmingham because she lives there, and challenged the one in Bloomfield Hills because she liked to spend hours a day at a private club there and must use marijuana occasionally during the day to quell her disease symptoms, the couple said.

Both Lotts said they possessed state approval cards from the Michigan Department of Community Health to use medical marijuana. The ACLU has argued that Linda Lott, who is blind and uses a wheelchair, experiences painful and relentless muscle spasms that can’t be controlled by conventional medicines. Medical marijuana could help, but the couple have said they fear arrest and prosecution by local officials if they grow or use medical marijuana in any of the three communities they sued.

ACLU officials said today they were disappointed by the ruling.

“This judge … forces Linda and her husband, along with countless other patients, to make an untenable choice between health care and potentially their freedom. It’s exactly the choice that Michigan voters wanted to keep patients from having to make when they approved the act” in 2008, Korobkin said.

via Freep

Judge uses Jalen Rose sentence to send a message about drunken driving

Despite his philanthropy and clean criminal record, former NBA player Jalen Rose is going to jail as a statement to the community, a judge said Wednesday.

“There lies the answer to drunk driving,” Judge Kimberly Small told a packed courtroom in 48th District Court in Bloomfield Hills. “Send a message that there will be serious consequences.”

On Tuesday, Rose will report to the Oakland County Jail to begin serving a 20-day sentence for first-time drunken driving. He will likely spend his days in a one-person cell and could shave a few days off for good behavior, officials said.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard declined to describe where Rose will be placed, except to say he will be in a secure cell instead of in the general population. Such practices are standard for well-known inmates like Rose, now an ESPN basketball analyst.

Rose, 38, will be granted one day of good time for every seven days he serves, meaning he could be released as early as Aug. 18.

Rose’s attorneys accused Small of abusing her discretion. Most judges in metro Detroit and nationwide sentence first-time offenders to time served or a few days in jail if their blood-alcohol level is above 0.17%, a two-day Free Press report published this week showed.

Rose, a former University of Michigan basketball star who spent 13 seasons in the NBA, was arrested March 11 after he crashed his Cadillac Escalade on Walnut Lake Road in West Bloomfield. He registered a 0.08% on a preliminary breath test at the scene and later registered 0.12% in a blood test.

Under Michigan law, 0.08% is legally drunk. He pleaded guilty in May to one count of driving while under the influence, a 93-day misdemeanor.

“We have two crimes here,” Keith Davidson, Rose’s California-based attorney, said after the sentencing. “What my client did, and what happened here today. What we have is an elected judge legislating from the bench. What we saw today was a miscarriage of justice.”

Small allowed Rose to remain free until Tuesday to celebrate his grandmother’s 93rd birthday over the weekend. Rose also will be on probation for a year, but can report long distance from California, where he now lives.

On Wednesday, he told Small that he had been “humbled and humiliated by this process.”

“I have no one else to blame for endangering the community,” he said.

But Small, waving a stack of newspaper clippings about drunken driving deaths, said, “These are the most senseless, preventable deaths. I have no doubt you’re never going to do this again, but I wonder why you did this in the first place.”

via Freep

A New Way to Fight Mexico’s Vicious Cartels: Legalizing Marijuana

As journalists filmed Mexican soldiers burning a record-breaking 300-acre (120 hectare) field of marijuana earlier this month, they learned the old lesson of these public displays: You don’t actually get high from all the smoke. The plants have to be more mature and fully dried out to release their active psychedelic properties, and all the fumes waft straight up to the clouds rather than into your lungs. Consequently, soldiers in Mexico happily burn marijuana plantations in front of the cameras every week and still stay sober enough to shoot back at irate gangsters. President Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs is shown on TV in clouds of green smoke.

But while the marijuana bonfires demonstrate how the Mexican government is constantly hitting drug cartels, they also illustrate how colossal Mexico’s marijuana industry is. The 300-acre plantation was busted in the Baja California desert 200 miles (about 320 km) south of San Diego on July 14. Soldiers say a single harvest could yield 120 tons of cannabis, worth some $160 million. It had a sophisticated irrigation system to water plants that sprang up to 2.5 yd. (2.3 m) high alongside kitchens, bathrooms and sleeping quarters for 60 workers. Close by, in Tijuana, soldiers made a megabust in October when they seized 134 metric tons of vacuum-packed marijuana stacked in tractor trailers. That stash was so big, it filled an entire parking lot and unleashed a particularly apocalyptic-looking blaze.

These fires add heat to the simmering debate about marijuana laws raging north of the border. In November — just after the Tijuana bust — Proposition 19, an initiative to legalize marijuana, narrowly missed being approved in California. This month, as the 300-acre farm burned in Baja, petitioners were collecting signatures for a similar referendum to legalize marijuana in Colorado. In both cases, campaigners have cited the Mexican conflict as a reason to change U.S. drug laws. American ganja smokers are giving billions of dollars to psychotic Mexican drug cartels, they argue, and legalization is the only way to stop the war. It is a compelling argument. But is it true?

Drug-policy reform continues to be a highly contentious debate on both sides of the Rio Grande. Several former Latin American presidents, including Mexico’s Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, support a change in policy, specifically legalization in Mexico. “We have to take all the production chain out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of producers,” Fox told TIME in a recent interview. “So there are farmers that produce marijuana and manufacturers that process it and distributors that distribute it and shops that sell it.” In this vision, marijuana could be a niche Mexican industry akin to tequila. However, Calderón stands firmly against legalization, saying it would make more kids get high and commit crime. “If it is legalized … it would completely liberate the drug market and spark a reduction in price, which are factors that will drive millions of young people to consume drugs,” he said in the lead-up to the California vote.

Politicians and pundits are equally divided about what the physical effect would be on Mexican drug cartels if Colorado or California took the plunge and legalized marijuana. A core problem is that because the trade is illegal, no one really knows how much weed Mexican farmers raise or Americans devour in smoke-filled college dorms. Back in 1997, the U.S. drug czar’s office estimated Mexican marijuana yields on the basis of aerial sightings and speculated that cartels made 60% of their income — or some $20 billion annually — from cannabis. However, last year a Rand Corp. study challenged this wisdom by estimating American marijuana consumption, concluding that Mexican gangsters make only $1.1 billion to $2 billion in the green racket. The truth is that neither can be certain about the numbers.

Mexican traffickers have also morphed into criminal cartels with a broad portfolio of businesses. In addition to smuggling marijuana, cocaine, heroin and crystal meth, they make money from kidnapping, human-smuggling, running guns, stealing crude oil, product piracy, business extortion and any other devious rackets they can come up with. Legalizing marijuana would destroy only one division of their empire.

However, policy reformists point out that whatever the exact numbers, everyone agrees that Mexican gangsters are making billions of dollars selling marijuana to American smokers. “There is no doubt that marijuana legalization would hurt Mexican gangsters in their pocketbooks,” says Tom Angell, spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a U.S. group that opposes the war on drugs. Mexico has seven major cartels involved in marijuana-growing and -smuggling. The profits of the green help them finance paramilitary death squads that have claimed 40,000 victims since 2006. Some of the violence can be directly linked to the marijuana trade. After the Tijuana bust in October, gunmen murdered 13 recovering addicts at a rehab center — one for each 10 tons of weed seized — apparently to try to make the government back off. Mexican cartels commit murder over the business precisely because it is so important to them. Legalization could take away more gangster profits than the DEA and Mexican army have managed to do in decades. It might not kill the Mexican cartels, but it would certainly hurt them.

If Colorado or California were to legalize marijuana though, there would be a legal can of worms. Federal agents could still bust marijuana dealers in those states, and the U.N. could castigate the U.S. for failing to uphold its treaty obligations to fight drugs. Policy reformists like Angell, however, argue that a yes vote in a marijuana referendum would be a first step toward a historic change in drug policy. If marijuana were sold legally in shops north of the Rio Grande, Mexican authorities would be much less eager to spark more bonfires of captured weed. “Politicians across the U.S. and in Latin America would become emboldened to change their own marijuana laws,” Angell said. “It is a vote that will be heard across the world.”

via Time

Drunken-driving penalties “could” depend on your location

When former NBA star and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose was sentenced for a March drunken driving incident this week, one of the biggest factors in his punishment was the location of his arrest: the Detroit suburb of West Bloomfield.

Rose appeared before Judge Kimberly Small on Wednesday, who ordered him to serve 20 days in the county jail on his first offense. Small told him she doesn’t mind him drinking but said: “I do mind when you get behind the wheel of a two-ton vehicle and use it as a weapon against the rest of us.”

If Rose had been arrested a few miles away in Pontiac, Mich., his chances of going to jail would have been almost zero, Michigan state statistics show.

The case showed the inconsistent punishment meted out for drunken driving in Michigan and across the country. Drunken driving penalties are a lot like real estate values; they depend on location, location, location.

Alaska, Tennessee and Georgia are among the states with mandatory jail time for first offenders, locking up drunks for three, two and one day respectively, a survey of state laws shows. California, Connecticut and Indiana don’t require jail for first timers.

In Wisconsin, first-offense drunken driving isn’t even a crime. It’s a civil infraction that results in a ticket.

“There are no set guidelines on this. There’s no national standard on this,” said Alex R. Piquero, a criminology professor at the University of Texas-Dallas, who has studied drunken driving for more than 20 years. “There is a lot of discretion. It’s like a ref on the football field. Everyone holds on every play. Which one is the most egregious of the offense?”

No one doubts the frequency of the problem. Drunken driving is blamed for 12,744 traffic deaths in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 1.4 million drivers are arrested for it annually, according to FBI statistics.

So what to do with them?

Different courts use different means, from fines, probation, education classes and jail time , and the court a driver ends up in often is a big factor in the type of punishment handed down.

National research suggests jailing first-time offenders doesn’t influence whether they will do it again, said James Fell, senior program director for the Alcohol, Policy and Safety Research Center in Maryland.

“The studies show it has no impact,” Fell said. “Jail is really only an effective tool if it is used as a threat to make the drunk driver comply with other orders for probation, treatment, community service, alcohol testing.”

Federal highway officials and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism issued sentencing guidelines in 2006 that are used by drunken-driving courts nationwide.

“The available evidence suggests that as a specific deterrent, jail terms are extremely costly and no more effective in reducing (drunken-driving) recidivism,” the manual notes, adding that one study found “two days in jail may have a specific deterrent effect and may be more effective than a two-week sentence … for first-time offenders.”

Instead, the manual suggests several sanctions, including the use of ignition interlock devices that require offenders to blow into a device that prevents the car from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said those devices are the leading tool in stopping drunken driving.

“There needs to be that threat of incarceration because drunk driving is a crime,” said Frank Harris, the state legislative affairs manager for the national MADD office. “But we are finding the most effective way is to have the ignition interlock.”

Piquero said the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the devices because researchers haven’t had the chance to study them yet.

Still, some judges like Small, insist nothing sends a stronger message, to the driver and to other drinkers, than the inside of a jail cell. Rose’s lawyer, Keith Davidson, disagreed, noting Rose has done community service for years, and funded a soon-to-open charter school in Detroit and medical facilities in the Congo.

“We have two crimes here. What my client did, and what happened here today,” Davidson said Wednesday after the sentencing. “What we have is an elected judge legislating from the bench. What we saw today was a miscarriage of justice.”

Rose told Small on Wednesday that he had been “humbled and humiliated by this process.”

“I have no one else to blame for endangering the community,” he said.

via USA Today

Jalen Rose to do jail time for DUI [Absurd]

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — Jalen Rose was sentenced Wednesday to 20 days in jail for a March drunken-driving crash near Detroit, despite a recommendation that the ESPN analyst and former NBA player not serve jail time and the public support of several prominent figures, including Detroit’s mayor.

When he pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in May, Rose told the judge he drank six martinis before crashing his SUV along a snowy road in West Bloomfield Township. He apologized in a brief statement after Wednesday’s hearing.

“I’m humbled, I’m embarrassed, and I’m very apologetic. I can assure everyone that nothing like this will ever happen again,” he said.

One of his attorneys, Keith Davidson, wasn’t so contrite, railing against the sentence handed down by 48th District Court Judge Kimberly Small.

“This was nothing less than an elected judge legislating from the bench,” Davidson said. “This is a man who has given millions of dollars to charity, started schools around the world and worked endlessly for the community, yet her average sentence is 17 days, and she sentenced Mr. Rose to 20 days.”

Small, who is known for coming down hard on drunken drivers, lectured the former University of Michigan star for 15 minutes before delivering her sentence.

“I don’t think you have an alcohol problem, and I sincerely believe you when you say this will not happen again,” she said. “But there are issues of punishment and deterrence. The one thing that people never want — that they will hire expensive lawyers to avoid — is jail time. That’s why I believe it is the right punishment.”

Several prominent figures, including Detroit mayor Dave Bing, wrote letters to the court asking for leniency. Rose, who is from Detroit, is opening a school that will bear his own name in Detroit.

When another of Rose’s attorneys, James Burdick, pointed out that the probation department did not recommend jail, Small wasn’t having any of it.

“The people have hired me, not my probation department,” the judge replied.

Rose’s actual sentence is 92 days in jail and one year’s probation, but Small suspended 72 days of the sentence. The maximum penalty for the charge is 93 days, but Rose received credit for the night he spent in jail after the crash.

ESPN released a statement Wednesday, saying “the incident was regrettable and we’ve dealt with it internally. Jalen has expressed remorse and we all are looking forward to putting this behind us.”

Rose is scheduled to begin serving his 20 days in jail Aug. 2, although Davidson said they might appeal before then.

“There were two crimes committed in this case. The first was when Jalen got behind the wheel, and the second one was today,” Davidson said.

Small granted Rose the six-day delay so he could attend a birthday party for his 93-year-old grandmother this weekend.

Rose played for six teams during his 13-year NBA career, including six years with the Indiana Pacers.

via ESPN

Oakland County judge among toughest in nation on 1st-time drunken driving offenders

Judges, as a rule, don’t toss first-time drunken drivers in jail for weeks.

But that rule doesn’t apply in the courtroom of 48th District Judge Kimberly Small, who routinely jails such offenders — often for 14 to 30 days or more — even when they have relatively low blood-alcohol levels.

Small, who has been on the bench in Oakland County for 15 years, is an anomaly nationwide. She isn’t the only judge who orders jail for drunken drivers, but her sentences are longer.

A Free Press survey of all 50 states found that most judges sentence first-time drunken drivers to time served (from their arrest), work release or a weekend in jail, along with probation and community service. Some states mandate jail time, but never longer than a few days.

In metro Detroit, a handful of judges order jail time for first-time offenders, particularly those with high levels of alcohol in their blood. But the sentences almost never stretch into weeks or a month.

Small makes no apologies.

“Nobody ever thinks you’re going to kill somebody,” she told the Free Press. “To me, it’s all about protecting the public.”

But Small’s critics say her approach is excessive and her sentences aren’t an effective deterrent for keeping first-time offenders from repeating their mistake.

“It’s so that she can say she’s tough on crime,” said veteran defense attorney Cyril Hall, who says he will no longer represent clients in Small’s courtroom because he can do nothing to help them.

Judge’s tough DUI sentences out of step

The woman standing before Judge Kimberly Small had never been in trouble before.

The judge asked how much she had to drink.

Too much, she admitted. She was with friends and thought she was just tired when she got behind the wheel.

The woman, in her 50s and arrested for the first time for driving while intoxicated, promised it would never happen again.

Small responded with a lengthy lecture, waving a stack of newspaper clippings she keeps on the bench detailing drunken-driving deaths.

As the woman pleaded with her, Small rendered her sentence — 17 days in the Oakland County Jail. The woman, by then crying, handed her purse to her husband and was handcuffed and transported to join 1,200 other inmates for more than two weeks.

That scenario, played out earlier this summer in 48th District Court in Bloomfield Township, is common in Small’s courtroom.

The veteran judge sends almost every drunken-driving defendant to jail, including first-time offenders with low blood-alcohol levels. On Wednesday, she will sentence former University of Michigan basketball star Jalen Rose, who pleaded guilty to driving drunk and rolling his SUV in March in West Bloomfield.

Small doesn’t offer second chances, and she makes no apology for that.

“I don’t believe people have the right to roll the dice with other people’s lives,” she said. “Not when you get behind the wheel of a 2-ton vehicle.”

Small insists she’s not a prohibitionist, acknowledging she enjoys a glass of wine. But she wants people thinking about the consequences before they begin drinking, not after. Simple planning — such as arranging a designated driver or abstaining — makes the roads safer, she said.

“Otherwise, we’re just dealing with the consequences,” Small said.

JAIL SEEN TO BE INEFFECTIVE

National research suggests jail time for first-time offenders doesn’t influence whether they will do it again.

“The studies show it has no impact,” said James Fell, senior program director for the Alcohol, Policy and Safety Research Center in Maryland. “Jail is really only an effective tool if it is used as a threat to make the drunk driver comply with other orders for probation, treatment, community service, alcohol testing.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism agree. The organizations issued a 2006 manual of sentencing guidelines used by drunken-driving courts nationwide.

“The available evidence suggests that as a specific deterrent, jail terms are extremely costly and no more effective in reducing (drunken-driving) recidivism,” the manual notes, adding that one study found “two days in jail may have a specific deterrent effect and may be more effective than a two-week sentence … for first-time offenders.”

Instead, the manual suggests several sanctions, including the use of ignition interlock devices that require offenders to blow into a device that prevents the car from starting if the driver has been drinking.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said those devices are the leading tool in stopping drunken driving.

“There needs to be that threat of incarceration because drunk driving is a crime,” said Frank Harris, the state legislative affairs manager for the national MADD office. “But we are finding the most effective way is to have the ignition interlock.”

Small said therapy, community service and impounding or disabling vehicles aren’t enough of a deterrent or punishment. “I’m not interested in a slap on the hand,” she said.

Jail time has other supporters, too.

“Those charged with this offense are a serious threat to the public,” said Paul Walton, Oakland County’s chief assistant prosecutor.

ONE CASE IS DIFFERENT

Records show that although Small’s average jail sentences for drunken drivers exceed those of other judges, she doesn’t put every defendant behind bars.

In one case, Small declined to send a Southfield woman to jail even after her second arrest. The first time, she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14% when her vehicle struck another driver’s car. Five months later, while on bond, she was arrested after she took a Breathalyzer test that showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.17%.

Small ordered the woman held on a $250,000 bond, which the judge said was an attempt to keep the woman in jail. A circuit court judge released her, and she was sent to an inpatient program.

In April 2008, 20 months after the woman’s first arrest, Small sentenced her to the nine days she had already spent in jail and ordered her to wear an electronic tether. Under Michigan sentencing guidelines, Small could have jailed her for up to a year.

“Contrary to public belief, I hate putting people in jail … I know some of your family members, you know that. I grew up in the same community with you,” Small told her, according to the court transcript. “Your sister and I have known each other since we were — oh gosh, a long time … a very long time.”

Asked about the case, Small said it was unfair to “cherry pick a single case” out of the thousands she has handled. She said she hadn’t seen the defendant’s sister in several years and also noted the woman had completed addiction therapy when she was sentenced.

“I evaluate every case that comes before me,” she said.

‘IT’S UNHEARD OF’

The Free Press reviewed drunken-driving laws for all 50 states and contacted attorneys in dozens of states. The vast majority don’t have jail time for first offenses.

A few states have mandatory jail sentences, with the highest in Alaska at 72 hours. Conversely, Mississippi doesn’t permit more than two days.

“It’s unheard of,” Jason Lieber, an attorney specializing in impaired-driving cases in Los Angeles, said of jail sentences exceeding a few days for first-time offenders.

In some L.A. courts, first-time DUI offenders are allowed to plead guilty to speeding violations and are fined $500, Lieber said. “There isn’t a courthouse in southern California that would put a first-time offender in jail,” he said.

In Seattle, attorney Geoffrey Burg has been handling drunken-driving cases since 1994 and couldn’t recall a first-time offender going to jail for multiple days. Washington law requires one day in jail or 15 days on an electronic tether.

In Washington and California, defendants can ask for another judge. “That’s what we’d being doing if we had a judge like that,” Burg said.

Oakland County defense attorney Cyril Hall said he will no longer represent clients in Small’s courtroom.

“There is no reason for a lawyer to be there because no matter how strong you advocate, regardless of the facts of your case, they’re still going to jail,” Hall said. “I’m not going to take a client’s money when I know I can’t help.”

Small disputed that, saying she takes into account everything attorneys say in her courtroom.

Small said she’s been influenced by the suffering of families and friends who have lost loved ones to drunken drivers. At a recent MADD memorial, she was asked to read a list of those who died and listened as sobs erupted in the crowd.

“We have to decide if we’re going to get serious about this or not,” she said.

via Freep