Tag Archives: Mt. Vernon Criminal Defense Attorney

WA Supreme Court Rules People Can Be Cited for DUI While Driving High

Driving While High | Time

In State v. Fraser, the WA Supreme Court held that people can be cited for DUI for driving while high. The decision upholds the state’s decade-old law regulating marijuana use behind the wheel of a car.

BACKGROUND FACTS

A Washington State Patrol trooper pulled Mr. Fraser after seeing him speeding alone in an HOV lane, changing lanes erratically and cutting off other drivers. When the trooper approached the car, he noticed Fraser was wearing an employee badge from a local cannabis dispensary. The trooper said Fraser was shaking, sweating and had dark circles under his eyes. According to the trooper, Fraser said he had smoked “half a day” earlier but that he no longer felt impaired. After performing several field tests, the trooper arrested Fraser on suspicion of DUI.

A blood test later showed Fraser had a THC blood concentration of 9.4 nanograms per milliliter, with a margin of error of 2.5. That put his THC blood concentration above the state’s 5 ng/ml limit.

Fraser went to trial. He was convicted of DUI.

On appeal, Fraser challenges the constitutionality of the DUI statute. He claimed that the THC limit was not correlated to any real measure of impairment. Therefore, it was arbitrary, vague and unconstitutional. He backed his opinion with testimony from a doctor who said the effect of a given level of THC can vary significantly from person to person.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSION

All nine justices rejected Douglas Fraser’s argument that his 2017 DUI was based on an arbitrary and vague standard for THC levels in the blood. The justices acknowledged that the correlation between THC levels and impairment is challenging to pinpoint. However, they found that blood measurements nevertheless provide a useful and constitutionally acceptable measurement.

“Although this limit may not be perfect in terms of identifying degree of impairment for all individuals, it is reasonably and substantially related to recent consumption, which is related to impairment.” ~WA Supreme Court Justice G. Helen Whitener

And while driving and cannabis use are both legal, neither is a right, the justices said. The impairment caused by 5 ng/ml of THC in the blood may vary. However, the limit serves its purpose by discouraging drivers from taking to the roads after using marijuana.

“The laws aim to deter people who have consumed cannabis from driving when there is a possibility they could be impaired, thus promoting some public interest of highway safety.” ~WA Supreme Court Justice G. Helen Whitener

It’s reasonable to assume the law will continue to do just that, Whitener wrote, and “the highways will be safer because of it.”

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Website Assists In Whether Criminal Conviction Can Be Removed

Kansas Legal Services

Excellent reporting by Shauna Sowesrby describes a new website allowing Washington residents to determine whether they are eligible to have some criminal convictions vacated from their record. When a court “vacates” a conviction, it withdraws a guilty verdict and dismisses the case. If a conviction is vacated, a person is permitted by law to say that he or she has never been convicted.

The free Vacation Eligibility Calculator quickly helps users check the status of their eligibility through a series of questions, and the website then provides steps to vacating a conviction if the person is eligible. The calculator is timely because the 2019 Washington Legislature unanimously passed

The New Hope Act, which modified the vacation process for those with past convictions, making more Washingtonians eligible to remove convictions from their records.

Under the law, some misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors and felonies can be vacated. For charges not involving certain domestic violence offenses, there is a three-year waiting period after completing all conditions of a sentence. Misdemeanors resulting from certain domestic violence offenses have a five-year waiting period, as long as orders were not violated in the wait period and those individuals are not currently the subject of an order.

The group behind the civic tech project, Clearviction, is composed of all volunteers. In a news release, the group said the mission of the project “is to benefit individuals with criminal convictions and decrease lifelong collateral consequences.” The news release said they created the online tool to support that mission by helping others navigate the process. As Clearviction notes on their website, past criminal convictions can be a barrier to housing, employment and education.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are convicted of a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice. The State of Washington limits on what offenses qualify for expungement. For example, it allows expungement only for arrests and misdemeanor convictions but not for felony convictions. Some states provide a list of ineligible offenses. Common ineligible offenses include violent felony offenseshomicides, sex offenses, and DUI.

Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Highest Level On Record

U.S. drug overdose deaths hit record 107,000 last year

According to provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses in the United States were deadlier than ever in 2021.

Nearly 108,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021, and about two-thirds of those deaths involved fentanyl or another synthetic opioid. Overdose deaths have been on the rise for years in the US, but surged amid the Covid-19 Pandemic. Annual deaths were nearly 50% higher in 2021 than in 2019, CDC data shows.

The spike in overdose deaths in the second year of the pandemic wasn’t as quite as dramatic as in the first year: Overdose deaths were up about 15% between 2020 and 2021, compared with a 30% jump between 2019 and 2020. But the change is still stark. In 2021, about 14,000 more people died of overdose deaths in than in 2020, the CDC data shows.

“This is indeed a continuation of an awful trend. Rates of overdose deaths have been on an upward climb for decades now, increasing at unprecedented rates right before the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S.” ~Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The pandemic accelerated trends that were already heading in the wrong direction, and experts say that reversing course will require concentrated efforts — and it will take time, both strategically and ideologically.

Treatment for drug abuse was lacking even before the pandemic. In 2019, more than 20 million people ages 12 and older reported having a substance abuse disorder, only 10% of whom reported receiving care, according to a report from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

And a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation cites evidence that access and utilization of these services has gotten even worse during the pandemic.

The illicit drug supply in the US has also seen a “massive shift” over the past two decades. Increasing use of synthetic drugs caught the attention of experts before Covid-19 hit, but the pandemic may have exacerbated the problem. With international travel limited, synthetics that are easier to manufacture and more concentrated were likely more efficient to smuggle across borders, Volkow said.

Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, psychostimulants such as methamphetamine, and cocaine all increased between 2020 and 2021, according to the new CDC data. Deaths involving natural or semi-synthetic drugs, such as prescription drugs, fell slightly from the year prior.

My opinion? This is a devastating milestone in the history of the overdose epidemic in America. When we report numbers, we must remember that each number represents an individual, their families, and their communities. Compounding the issue is the fact that the WA Supreme Court struck down Washington felony drug possession law. In the wake of the Blake decision on February 25, people can no longer be arrested for simple drug possession in Washington state.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Drug Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

More Guns Are Being Stolen Out Of Vehicles

332 guns have been stolen from Nashville vehicles in six months | WZTV

According to NBCnews.com, more guns are being stolen out of vehicles in many U.S. cities. New data analysis reveals this alarming trend as shootings rise nationwide, propelled in large part by firearms obtained illegally.

Journalist Melissa Chan reports that from 2019 to 2020, at least 180 cities saw a rise in gun thefts from vehicles. This now makes up the largest source of stolen guns, according to the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. The study analyzed FBI crime data from 2011 to 2020, spanning up to 271 small-to-large cities across 38 states.

The nonprofit, which advocates gun violence prevention, found that in 2020, an estimated 77,000 guns were reported stolen in these 271 cities alone. Of those, more than half were taken out of vehicles — a stark difference from a decade ago, when the majority of gun thefts were from burglaries and less than a quarter were from cars, according to Everytown.

The trend can be seen in states and cities across the country. In South Carolina, gun thefts from motor vehicles climbed to more than 5,100 in 2021, from roughly 4,200 in 2019, according to the statewide data provided by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. In Hampton, Virginia, the number of motor vehicle larcenies in which a firearm was stolen jumped to 142 incidents in 2021, from 88 in 2019, Police Chief Mark Talbot said. Many of the stolen firearms have turned up at crime scenes.

While it’s too soon to definitively say what’s driving the shift, experts said it’s likely exacerbated by many factors, including a surge in firearm purchases during the pandemic. In 2020, the FBI conducted nearly 40 million firearm background checks, more than any year on record, according to the agency’s data. During that time, experts said, Covid also kept more people at home and made easier targets of unoccupied and less-used cars.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Theft of a Firearm and other Firearm Offenses are debilitating felonies. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Prosecutor’s “Gorilla Pimp” Comment Admonished by High Court

Gorilla Pimp the skunk ape by seraphonfire on DeviantArt

In State v. McKenzie, the WA Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s convictions because the prosecutor improperly injected race into the trial and used the term “gorilla pimp” to describe the defendant.

BACKGROUND FACTS

In 2018, the defendant Mr. McKenzie, a 27-year-old Black man, was perusing the dating application Skout when he came across the profile for a white female named “‘Samantha.’”  Samantha’s profile listed her age as 18, and stated “‘Fun Times. My age is wrong. Daddy wanted.’” Samantha was actually a fictional person created by Detective Rodriguez of the Washington State Patrol’s missing and exploited children’s task force. They conduct undercover investigations to find sexual predators in part by using fictional profiles on social media and dating websites. The profile picture Mr. McKenzie viewed was that of an undercover female officer who was at least 22 years old.

The two continued to chat on Skout and then moved to text messaging on their
phones. During the text messaging, Samantha asked Mr. McKenzie if he was interested in being her pimp to which he replied, “Oh nah im not doing all that,” “Thats low. I dont need that & dont have time for all that. If you have a way to get money I support that,” and “But pimping? No thanks missed me with that one.”

Samantha made repeated suggestions that she and Mr. McKenzie meet up. The two discussed where to meet and Mr. McKenzie expressed concern that Samantha was “setting him up.” Later Mr. McKenzie asked Samantha about whether she had condoms. Mr. McKenzie drove from Seattle to Puyallup and waited for Samantha at an agreed meet location for just under 30 minutes. Unbeknownst to Mr. McKenzie, he was under surveillance the entire time he waited. After Mr. McKenzie messaged Samantha that he was giving up and leaving, law enforcement surrounded Mr. McKenzie’s car and placed him under arrest. A search of Mr. McKenzie’s car revealed a box of condoms on the passenger seat.

The State charged Mr. McKenzie with sex offenses to include one count of attempted second degree rape of a child and one count of communication with a minor for immoral purposes. Mr. McKenzie exercised his right to a jury trial.

At trial, Detective Rodriguez took the witness stand. The prosecutor initiated the following
exchange:

Q: Are you familiar with the terms gorilla pimp and romance pimp?
A: Yes.
Q: What are those?
A: A gorilla pimp is someone who is very aggressive. They’re very direct. They’re going to tell you what they want. “This is what you’re going to do.” I’ve had them try to get me or the people they’re victimizing to pay them for that. For them to be sexually exploited, they actually want the victim to pay them for it. As far as a romance pimp, they’re going to come across as your boyfriend or your friend. They’re going to romance you, get you into the situation where then they have control. They can continue to play the romance role or they can switch to a more aggressive pimp or they can go back and forth.
Q: So they’re not mutually exclusive?
A: No.
Q: The romance pimp angle can be used to gain confidence with a young person. And then once you’re engaged with them, the roles can change?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Your Honor, leading.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q: Can the roles change once they’re engaged?
A: Yes.
Q: Do Mr. McKenzie’s answers about, “I’m not into that. I would treat you right,” all of those kind of things, do they negate the possibility that he is looking to put Sam out?
A: No.

The defense never voiced a specific objection to the gorilla pimp concept. The prosecutor made no further reference to it. A jury found Mr. McKenzie guilty as charged. The court subsequently imposed a standard range sentence of 76.5 months to life in prison. Mr. McKenzie appealed on arguments that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct by injecting the racially charged term “gorilla pimp” into the trial.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The WA Court of Appeals reversed the Defendant’s conviction. It reasoned that use of the term “gorilla pimp” by the State was not harmless error beyond a reasonable doubt. The court said that when a prosecutor improperly injects race into a criminal trial, a court will generally reverse the conviction.

“Racist rhetoric has no place in our justice system. It is hurtful, thwarts due process, and undermines the rule of law. ~WA Court of Appeals

The Court discussed the State’s argument that the term used was actually “guerrilla pimp.” However, that argument was unpersuasive to the court, which found the analogy of a “gorilla” to be particularly concerning:

“At this point in our history we should not have to belabor the point that using a gorilla analogy when discussing human behavior, specifically the behavior of a Black man, is clearly racist rhetoric,” said the Court of Appeals. It reasoned that individuals involved in criminal enterprises use racialized language that is sometimes offensive. However, that is no excuse for outsiders to do the same.

“The only purpose served by referencing the gorilla pimp concept was to tap into deepseated racial prejudice by comparing Black human beings to primates. The State cannot prove that this racist rhetoric was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. We therefore reverse Mr. McKenzie’s conviction.” ~WA Court of Appeals

My opinion? Great decision. The type of racist rhetoric invoked by the Prosecution appears to have especially strong pull. A six-year study of undergraduates at Stanford University and Pennsylvania State University showed young people are swayed by Black-ape associations, even when they claim to know nothing about the historical context of racist simianization. According to this study, undergraduates who were exposed to words associated with apes were more likely to condone the beating of those in police custody when they thought the suspect was Black.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime, especially one involving race or Prosecutorial Misconduct. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Biden Expands Second Chance Opportunities for Formerly Incarcerated Persons

Biden: April Is Second Chance Month | myMotherLode.com

Journalist Brett Samuels for the Hill reports that President Biden granted pardons and commutations to people convicted of nonviolent crimes. Biden also announced the rollout of new efforts that aid former inmates in reentering the work force.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities . . . During Second Chance Month, I am using my authority under the Constitution to uphold those values by pardoning and commuting the sentences of fellow Americans.” ~President Joe Biden

In addition to the clemency announcements, the White House detailed a multistep effort as part of Second Chance Month to reduce recidivism and make employment more accessible for those who have previously served time.

According to a White House press release, the departments of Justice and Labor are announcing a $145 million investment in job skills training and individual employment plans for inmates in Bureau of Prisons facilities.

The Small Business Administration will make changes to reduce barriers for those with criminal records to receive loans, and the Office of Personnel Management is adjusting its rules to make it easier for formerly incarcerated individuals to work in the federal government.

Finally, the Education Department will select dozens of schools to expand its Second Chance Pell Initiative, a program first established in 2015 that provides Pell Grants to incarcerated individuals so they can take college courses.

My opinion? I’m thrilled that the Biden Administration acknowledges the importance of Second Chance Month. This Administration is affirming their support for removing the unnecessary barriers that prevent those with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society. I advocate for those who have paid their debt to society. And I believe the approximately 70 million Americans with criminal records—that’s one in three people—are more than their worst choices.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA Supreme Court Rules Against Edmonds Gun Storage Law

Gun Laws - FindLaw

In Bass v. City of Edmonds, the Washington Supreme Court struck down an Edmonds gun storage ordinance in a court order reaffirming state law that local governments can’t impose their own firearms regulations.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

After robust debate following a mass shooting at the nearby Marysville Pilchuck High School, the Edmonds City Council adopted an ordinance requiring residents to safely store their firearms when not in use. Ordinance 4120, codified as Edmonds City Code (ECC) chapter 5.26. The ordinance contains two operative provisions. Under the “storage provision,”

“It shall be a civil infraction for any person to store or keep any firearm in any premises unless such weapon is secured by a locking device, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inaccessible or unusable to any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user.”

“Notwithstanding the foregoing, for purposes of this section, such weapon shall be deemed lawfully stored or lawfully kept if carried by or under the control of tthe owner or other lawfully authorized user.”

ECC 5.26.020. Under the “unauthorized access” provision,

“It shall be a civil infraction if any person knows or reasonably should know that a minor, an at-risk person, or a prohibited person is likely to gain access to a firearm belonging to or under the control of that person, and a minor, an at-risk person, or a prohibited person obtains the firearm.”

Violation of either provision carries a civil fine of as much as $10,000 if an at-risk person or child gained access to an unsecured gun.

At around the same time, Washington voters enacted Initiative 1639. This initiative, among many other things, criminalizes unsafe storage of firearms but in more limited circumstances than Edmonds’ ordinance. Unlike the City of Edmonds ordinance, the voter  initiative – later codified as RCW 9.41.360 – specifically did not mandate how or where a firearm must be stored.

The legality of the Edmonds’ ordinance was challenged and eventually made its way to the WA Supreme Court.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

First, the Court found that the plaintiffs had legal standing to challenge the ordinance.

Next, the Court turned to the issue of whether existing statute under RCW 9.41.290 preempts this ordinance. The statute reads the following, in part:

“The state of Washington hereby fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state, including the registration, licensing, possession, purchase, sale, acquisition, transfer, discharge, and transportation of firearms, or any other element relating to firearms or parts thereof, including ammunition and reloader components. Cities, towns, and counties or other municipalities may enact only those laws and ordinances relating to firearms that are specifically authorized by state law, as in RCW 9.41.300, and are consistent with this chapter.”  ~RCW 9.41.290

Ultimately, the court ruled that Washington state law RCW 9.41.290  “fully occupies and preempts the entire field of firearms regulation within the boundaries of the state.”

Thursday’s ruling was a victory for gun rights organizations, such as the National Rifle Association and the Bellevue-based Second Amendment Foundation, both of which participated in the legal challenge.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a firearm offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New Washington State Patrol Trooper Class the ‘Most Diverse’ in the Agency’s History

Governor Murphy Sign Laws In An Effort To Try And Boost Racial Diversity  Among New Jersey Police Departments | New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law  Blog

King5 News reports that the latest class of graduates from the Washington State Patrol Academy (WSP) is the agency’s most diverse.

Of the 44 cadets sworn into service Wednesday, 43% come from populations considered historically underrepresented. Two of the new troopers are women, six are Hispanic, four are Asian, two are Black, and five identified themselves as representing two or more of those groups.

However, it’s reported that the agency still does not reflect the diversity of the state’s population. Not counting the recent graduating class, 90% of WSP’s commissioned officers are male, and 85% are white. That lack of diversity prompted state legislators to pass a law requiring oversight of the agency’s minority hiring practices.

WSP spokesperson Chris Loftis said the agency’s recent class is proof WSP was working on the issue before legislative action.

“We’re really seeing the fruits of our labor,” said Loftis. “It’s targeted recruitment, it’s community engagement, but it’s also increasing the allure and respect for law enforcement.”

My opinion? This is good news. And arrives on other reporting that it’s difficult to hire cadets from diverse backgrounds:

“This is a profession in particular over the course of the last many years that has struggled with regards to community acceptance to some degree as a profession, which has made it a lot more difficult to recruit folks within the diverse communities.” ~WSP Chief John Batiste.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA State Patrol Lacks Diversity, Seeks Active Recruitment of Minority Officers

Police Officers Explain Why Diversity in Law Enforcement Matters | Rasmussen University

King5 journalist PJ Randhawa reports that diversity in the Washington State Patrol (WSP) has been lacking for years. A new state law is putting pressure on the agency to attract and retain cadets of color.

WSP data shows the majority of state troopers are white men. Department of Justice and state data found diversity in the state patrol has declined. Compared with 2003, the patrol now employs fewer Black, Asian and Native American troopers.

A new state law looks to change the narrative. In March, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that puts pressure on WSP to attract and retain cadets of color. The measure will cost the state patrol $1.3 million. It includes the commission of an independent study into retention and recruitment efforts in addition to setting agency benchmarks and providing legislative oversight of WSP’s progress.

THE PROBLEM IS SYSTEMIC AND BEGINS AT RECRUITING

A 2021 state study into WSP’s retention and recruitment practices showed cadets of color were failing the agency’s psychological evaluation at a higher rate than their white counterparts. And there’s a lot at stake – if you flunk the psychological evaluation, you’re out.

According to data compiled in the report, 36% of white candidates didn’t pass WSP’s psychological evaluation compared to 44% of Latinx candidates, 67% of Asian candidates and 60% of Black candidates who didn’t pass the psychological examination.

Dr. Daniel Clark, WSP’s longtime psychologist, was the man responsible for administering the tests. Clark faced criticism from lawmakers after that 2021 state report showed candidates of color were rejected from the patrol at high rates. The report found, “Every focus group and multiple key executives reported concerns of bias in the psychological evaluation process.”

Clark kept his job. He’s been reassigned at the state patrol and now deals with counseling and training.

THE WSP’S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY

Last year, WSP announced they had signed onto the 30×30 pledge, a nationwide effort within police departments to increase representation in all ranks and promote gender equity. According to the WSP, “The ultimate goal of the 30×30 Initiative is to reach 30 percent of women in police recruit classes by 2030 and to ensure policing agencies are truly representative of the jurisdiction the agency serves. While 30×30 focuses on advancing women in policing, these principles are applicable to all demographic diversity, not just gender.”

According to a statement provided by WSP, high vacancy rates across all law enforcement agencies have increased competition for candidates of color. They say they continue to modify their hiring and training practices to eliminate any unintended barriers for candidates of color.

My opinion? I agree with recent studies showing that diversity in law enforcement may improve policing. Compared to white officers, Black and Hispanic officers made far fewer stops and arrests — and used force less often — especially against Black civilians. Also, female officers used less force than their male counterparts. Apparently, de-escalation tactics and a decrease in unnecessary pullovers benefits everyone.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Fentanyl-Filled Pills Seized by US law Enforcement up 4,850%

Fentanyl-related overdoses increase across Georgia, the DPH reports - 41NBC News | WMGT-DT

Great article by Erin McCormick discusses how  a new study found that more than two million counterfeit pills were confiscated in the last quarter of 2021 alone.

And over the past four years, the number of counterfeit pills containing fentanyl that have been seized by US law enforcement jumped by 4,850%. The new study shows an alarming surge in the deadly drug is putting people at increasing risk for accidental overdose.

Using a first-of-its-kind, real-time analysis of federal data, the study found that more than 2m fake pills were seized by officials in the last quarter of 2021 alone. This was a drastic increase up from 42,000 in the first quarter of 2018. Researchers also found that the number of individual seizures involving fentanyl pills increased by 834%.

The study’s authors say this reflects the huge supply of these pills. Apparently, criminal drug networks manufacture the pills to look like legitimate pharmaceutical tablets sold on the streets.

“These look just like prescription pills. That’s the scary part. One pill that contains fentanyl literally can kill you.” ~Study’s lead author, Joseph Palamar, professor of population health at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

The study comes at a time when the number of overdose deaths in the US has exploded to more than 100,000 a year due to the huge amounts of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids saturating the nation’s drug supply. Fentanyl is as much as 100 times more potent than morphine and, as Palamar notes, one small baggie of the stuff can contain enough of the drug to kill hundreds of people.

In a two-month period in 2021, the US Drug Enforcement Agency announced it had arrested 810 drug traffickers across the United States and seized enough fentanyl-filled pills to kill more than 700,000 Americans.

Researchers said the number of drug seizures is a reflection of the huge amount of fentanyl on the streets and warned of the dangers it can pose to unknowing members of the public, particularly young people who may be unwittingly buying fentanyl-tainted pills online or from friends.

“Pills can disguise the risk,” said study coauthor Dr Daniel Ciccarone, a professor specializing in addiction medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “A pill can be taken by a college student who is trying to stay up all night to study for an exam and doesn’t know whether his buddy is selling him real Adderall or fake Adderall. A pill can be taken by a kid who goes to a club and thinks he’ll have more fun if he takes the party drug MDMA – and instead he gets fentanyl.”

Ciccarone and Palamar said people should avoid any pill that isn’t prescribed by their own doctor – including medicines given to them by friends or bought over social media or on the street. At the very least, users of illicit drugs should consider testing them with fentanyl detection strips, available through many health departments and needle exchange groups, they said.

“The street pill is now much more dangerous than it was for earlier generations,” said Cicarrone. “That is the problem.”

The study’s innovative methodology analyzed real-time federal data on the drugs being seized by law enforcement on streets and at border crossings around the nation, in what researchers hope can become an early warning system for spotting new drug dangers on the market and even heading off overdose deaths.

“An increase in illicit pills containing fentanyl points to a new and increasingly dangerous period in the United States,” said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study. “Pills are often taken or snorted by people who are more naive to drug use, and who have lower tolerances. When a pill is contaminated with fentanyl, as is now often the case, poisoning can easily occur.”

Young people have been particularly hard hit by recent drug overdose deaths. An earlier analysis showed youth under 24 account for the fastest rise in drug deaths, with 7,337 youth dying in 2020 alone.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a drug offense of any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.