Alleged Cocaine Ring Bust Nets 16 Arrests

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Recent news reports have indicated that current drug problems in Colorado are not necessarily limited to marijuana or its legalization. In fact, drugs considered to be more dangerous to users have seen a spike in use in recent months across the state of Colorado, leading to a push by local and state law enforcement agencies to crack down on these dangerous substances.

According to an article in The Denver Post, 16 people are currently facing criminal charges because of their alleged involvement in a major cocaine ring in the Denver area. In a cooperative effort between local law enforcement, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Front Range Drug Task Force and the Adams County District Attorney’s Office, search warrants for the people allegedly involved in the drug ring were executed on June 9 in the following locations: Thornton, Commerce City, Lakewood, and Arvada. According to the article, the investigation into those allegedly involved in this drug ring began in September and culminated in the seizure of more than a half-pound of cocaine, $30,000 in cash, weapons, and large amounts of prescription drugs.

The 16 defendants are currently facing charges related to distributing large amounts of cocaine as well as illegal prescription drugs. Colorado law may allow some drug trafficking charges to be filed depending on the circumstances surrounding each defendant’s individual alleged involvement in the drug ring. Three defendants are currently facing additional charges that include racketeering and operating a criminal enterprise in violation of the Colorado Crime Control Act.

Understanding Drug Charges

The actual charge for possession and distribution of controlled substances can often depend on the type and amount of the controlled substance involved in the alleged crime. For instance, while recreational use of marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, possession of marijuana over the legally allowed limit is still a crime. If you have four ounces or less of marijuana or two ounces or less of related concentrate, you could be found guilty of a Level 1 Drug Misdemeanor. However, possession of more than that could result in the accused facing charges related to a Level 4 Drug Felony. There are often drastic differences between the sentencing ranges for misdemeanors and felonies, which highlights the importance of securing a criminal defense attorney with experience in handling drugs charges if you are facing them.

Sentencing for drug crimes can also be affected by aggravating circumstances. These types of circumstances can include mandatory aggravating circumstances, such as being on parole for another felony or having escaped from felony confinement. There are also discretionary aggravating circumstances that a trial court may use in order to enforce sentencing based on such aggravating circumstances.

Finding Legal Assistance

If you are facing drug charges in Colorado, you could be facing serious consequences. It is important that you secure a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to begin working with you on your case. A criminal defense attorney with experience in handling drug-related charges can help explain the charges you are facing as well as the potential consequences for them. Contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation about the circumstances of your case.

 

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(photo courtesy of Michael Srichter)

Colorado Drugged Driving and Synthetic Narcotics

PillsColorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana use is no secret. However, even though such use is legal in the state as long as users abide by the laws regulating it, there are still a number of people that cannot partake in recreational marijuana use because of other restrictions. Those restrictions include workplace bans, treatment program restrictions, and other such regulations that can prohibit some people from recreational marijuana use. Some people that may not be able to use marijuana may seek other ways to achieve a similar “high” that can not be as easily tested, such as synthetic marijuana and other synthetic narcotics.

Make no mistake, using synthetic versions of drugs – whether the natural drug is legal or illegal – is just as dangerous as using the natural drug, and in many cases may be even more dangerous. It is often difficult to ascertain what chemicals are used in synthetic drugs that mimic the feeling of using drugs like marijuana, and the unknown threats posed when using these synthetic products can be unpredictable. If you are unaware of what chemicals are in the product, then you are likely unaware of how those chemicals will react in your body. On several occasions, use of these synthetic drugs have caused death and serious injury. In other cases, use of these synthetic drugs have caused people to behave violently and unpredictably.

In Colorado, penalties surrounding the use of synthetic drug products are the same as those surrounding the use of natural drugs. This is especially true when a person chooses to use a synthetic drug and then get behind the wheel to drive. A recent article from The Associated Press that appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette discussed some of the dangers that present from use of synthetic drugs, and how such use is increasing. The article uses several examples from New York where drivers caused damage and injury due to driving while under the influence of synthetic drugs, but those drivers were able to escape criminal penalties because the drug laws in New York did not specifically prohibit the use of these substances. In New York, as well as several other states, drugs that are prohibited are found on a list. The problem of how to hold people accountable arises when people use a substance whose formula or ingredients have been altered from those on the list. In those cases, there appears to be no legal basis to hold someone accountable for driving while under the influence of a drug whose ingredients or formula do not appear on the state’s list. With the ever-changing structure and ingredients of synthetic drugs, which often use whatever chemicals might be the cheapest at the time, it is almost impossible to update the list of prohibited substances frequently enough to include newer versions of synthetic drugs.

Colorado, and a majority of other states, take a different approach when it comes to driving under the influence of synthetic drugs. These other states either have broader definitions of what qualifies as a drug that causes impairment or allow charges based on a police officer’s observation of the condition of an individual driver in determining whether or not that driver is impaired. While you may think you are avoiding punishment and detection by using synthetic drugs in Colorado, if you make the choice to drive while under the influence of such substances you are still likely to face harsh penalties when you are caught.

Facing Drug-Related Charges

If you are facing charges related to drug use or driving while under the influence of drugs, it is important that you understand the potential consequences you may be facing. It is also important that you understand your rights during the related legal process. Contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation about your case. A criminal defense attorney with experience handling drug-related charges can work with you throughout the legal process and help you work on establishing the best defense available in your circumstances.

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Colorado Springs Mayor Warns of Imminent Illegal Marijuana Grow Busts

 

legal medical marijuana - which states will legalize it nextMany recent news stories and several of our recent posts have focused on large illegal marijuana growing operations that have been raided throughout Colorado. Much of the attention has been focused on recent drug raids in the Denver area and near Pueblo. While several other communities have also made headlines as a result of drug enforcement operations conducted cooperatively between local, state, and federal officials, a recent article in the Colorado Springs Gazette notes that Colorado Springs itself has been largely untouched by these raids. However, the article states that the mayor of Colorado Springs is warning illegal marijuana growers operating within Colorado Springs that that is about to change.

The mayor of Colorado Springs has stated that, “There’s no question, in Colorado Springs we have large illegal grow operations in several hundred homes.” In fact, according to the article, Denver drug enforcement agents identified more than 175 large-scale marijuana growing operations within Colorado Springs during a presentation to the Colorado Springs City Council in April. The mayor of Colorado Springs has indicated that the impending illegal marijuana growth raids will not be targeting individuals that may be breaking the law by growing a couple of extra plants more than what is legally allowed. Instead, the raid will focus on what the mayor has referred to as organized crime cartels that are producing illegally grown marijuana that is potentially worth millions of dollars within Colorado, where marijuana sales are legal. This product is potentially worth even more in locations where the sale and/or recreational use of marijuana is still illegal. Compounding the problem are the technological advances that allow cultivators to increase the levels of THC found in marijuana grown in Colorado, providing a stronger drug with higher retail value and demand. The article notes that, in 2015, police from at least 33 other states reported intercepting marijuana and related products that originated in Colorado.

The article mentions that those investigating illegal growing operations in Colorado Springs are taking their time with such investigations. Officials want to do more than simply bust local illegal growers and traffickers, and instead want to be able to track the connections those local growers have to larger criminal operations.

Facing Drug Charges

While recreational growth and use of marijuana is legal in Colorado, there are still severe consequences for breaking the laws governing such growth and use. It is important that anyone facing drug-related charges, including those related to illegal marijuana growth, secure a criminal defense attorney with experience handling these types of charges. The Tiftickjian Law Firm has worked with numerous clients in Colorado to ensure that their individual rights are protected throughout the legal process involved with drug charges. Jay Tiftickjian has also written several books that include information about providing criminal defense against drug-related charges. If you are facing drug-related charges, contact the Tiftickjian Law Firm today to schedule a consultation. The Tiftickjian Law Firm will help explain the charges you are facing, as well as the potential consequences. Additionally, the sooner you contact an attorney, the sooner they can work with you to create a defense that is appropriate based on the circumstances of your case. Violating Colorado’s drug laws can still have a seriously damaging effect on your finances and future, and securing a criminal defense attorney to help you with such charges is the first step in dealing with them.

 

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Defense Team in 2015 Colorado State Patrol Cadet Death Seek to Suppress Defendant’s Statements

steering wheelBeing involved and injured in an accident can be an extremely stressful experience. Even if police believe that you are at fault in an accident, they must still respect your rights and follow specific procedures in order to obtain evidence for their investigation. This is part of the argument being used by the criminal defense team representing the defendant involved in the 2015 traffic death of a Colorado State Patrol cadet.

According to the defense team, the defendant made several statements that could potentially be used against him before being read his Miranda rights. Generally, statements made before being read Miranda rights can only be used against a defendant if the defendant actually takes the stand. The defense team has also argued that key facts were omitted from the warrant written for the chemical tests conducted on the defendant. According to an article from The Daily Camera, one of the key facts omitted in the warrant was that the defendant was on painkillers at the time he was questioned by an investigator. Presumably, the defense team wishes to have recordings of the questioning that led up to the warrant suppressed because of these missing details.

Understanding Laws Governing Chemical Tests

If you are suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you have already given consent to be tested for intoxication by driving on the roadways of Colorado. This is known as an “express consent” law, and is common throughout the United States. Basically, if an officer lawfully arrests you with probable cause that you have been operating a vehicle while under the influence or impaired by alcohol or drugs, you have already consented to a chemical test of your breath, urine, or blood to establish your blood alcohol content or the presence of any impairing substance to determine whether or not you are intoxicated. Refusing such tests after you have been arrested is grounds for a one-year revocation of your Colorado driver’s license for first-time offenders.

There are also time frames in which chemical tests must be given. Generally, chemical tests must be conducted within two hours of the most recent time that a person has driven. However, there are exceptions to this time frame in extraordinary circumstances. A criminal defense attorney with experience in chemical tests related to driving charges can help identify these circumstances and establish the validity of a chemical test that may have been performed.

If You Have Been Charged with a DUI

While the process for investigating a DUI can seem fairly straightforward, there are many nuances that can greatly affect the outcome of your trial. A criminal defense attorney with experience in defending clients for DUIs or other substance-related driving citations can help make sure that your rights have been protected throughout the process, and can establish a defense for you based on the circumstances of your case. If you are facing a DUI, DUI-D, DWAI, or other driving related citations, contact the Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation today. The sooner you contact a criminal defense attorney, the more time they will have to investigate the process that has led to your citation and the better prepared your defense will be when you have to go to court.

 

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Arizona Supreme Court Rules State May Prosecute Medical Marijuana Users for DUI

marijuanaRegular readers of this blog may be interested in a recent ruling of another state concerning medical marijuana and DUI. According to the Denver Post, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the state still may prosecute medical marijuana cardholders for marijuana-related impairment while driving. In doing so, the Court rejected the argument that medical marijuana cardholders should enjoy blanket immunity from DUI prosecution as a result of another Colorado statute that provided protection to those using prescribed drugs. Rather, the Court found that cardholders were free to present evidence in their defense that they did not have sufficient marijuana in their systems to be impaired.

Legal Issues Concerning Medical Marijuana Usage and DUI Abound

Both Arizona and Colorado are among the 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana use. As a result, courts in these states have regularly struggled with questions that arise when a medical marijuana user is accused of being impaired while driving. Arizona’s recently court ruling involved a state DUI law that prohibits drivers from having any amount of marijuana or a compound containing marijuana that causes them to be impaired. The Arizona ruling comes only a few years after the Michigan Supreme Court, who ruled in 2013 that medical marijuana users do not automatically break the law by driving after using marijuana. Rather, the police must show that the driver is actually “under the influence” in order to prosecute him or her for impaired driving. As opposed to Michigan’s placing the burden on police to show impairment, the Arizona ruling shifts the burden to the accused to present evidence that he or she did not have sufficient marijuana in his or her system to be impaired.

Colorado’s Impaired Driving Law

Colorado’s impaired driving laws appear to be more detailed than the Arizona law that was at issue in the recent ruling. More specifically, Colorado Revised Statutes Section 42-4-1301(1)(e) states that the mere possession of a medical marijuana license does not constitute a defense against DUI or driving with impaired abilities. However, the statute also states that the possession of a medical marijuana card by a driver does not give an officer probable cause to require the driver to give a blood sample, in the absence of any other factors indicating impairment. In 2013, the Colorado legislature amended the statute to create an inference that a driver is under the influence of one or more drugs if a drug test reveals the presence of five or more nanograms of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol per milliliter in whole blood, which is a very specific finding. Since marijuana levels present in one’s blood may fluctuate over time, even this specific requirement may present problems.

Contact a Denver DUI Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing any type of impaired driving charge, whether it involves alcohol, marijuana, or another drug, you need the assistance that only a Denver DUI defense lawyer can offer you. Contact our offices today and schedule a free appointment to see how we can assist you.

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Colorado Supreme Court Affirms Vehicular Assault Conviction

car crashThe Colorado Supreme Court has issued its decision in the case of Kenneth Leon Childress, also known as the “backseat-driving dad,” regarding his 2008 conviction for vehicular assault while under the influence of alcohol, according to the Denver Post. Reversing the 2012 state court of appeals decision that vacated Childress’ vehicular assault conviction, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, which led to Childress receiving a sentence of incarceration of more than 30 years.

The Facts Leading to the Backseat Driver’s Conviction

Eight years ago, Childress and his 17-year-old son left a party at which they both had been drinking heavily. The vehicle, which was driven by the teenager, contained Childress, who was seated in the back seat of the vehicle, and his unrestrained three-year-old son at the time of the incident that led to this court case. During this drive, Childress allegedly repeatedly slapped the teen’s head and urged him to drive faster and ignore traffic signs and signals while speeding. Inevitably, the teen collided with an oncoming vehicle and then crashed into a building. The child suffered severe injuries during the accident, such as a head injury, ruptured spleen, facial lacerations, a broken jaw, and nerve damage.

In 2008, a Jefferson County jury found that Childress was guilty of multiple charges, which included child abuse causing serious injury, vehicular assault while driving under the influence, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, among others. As a result, the trial court sentenced Childress to over 30 years in prison.

Legal Analysis of the Court’s Decision

There was no dispute in this case that Childress was not driving the vehicle that led to the crash, as he was in the back seat. However, the trial court judge instructed the jury that Childress nonetheless could be found guilty of vehicular assault while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, despite the fact that he was not driving. More specifically, Childress qualified as a complicitor in the commission of this crime, in that his actions urged his son to drive faster, which ultimately resulted in the crash that led to the child’s injuries. While the state court of appeals rejected this analysis, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision.

Contact Your Colorado Drunk Driving Lawyer Today

If you find yourself charged with vehicular assault while under the influence, or any DUI-related crime, you should immediately contact an experienced Denver DUI attorney as quickly as possible. This recent court decision makes it possible to be convicted of this crime even if you were not actually driving the vehicle, which considerably expands the reach of this law. Don’t allow yourself to be convicted of a serious crime and face years of incarceration. The Tifickjian Law Firm is at your service, ready to investigate the facts related to your case, explore various options with you, and work toward resolving your case in the best manner possible. Contact our office today and learn how we can assist you.

Travis Zeigler joins Tiftickjian’s DUI Defense Team

DUI lawyer TravisDefense attorney Travis Zeigler has litigated hundreds of DUI and criminal cases in Colorado courts, and on October 1 he joins the team at Tiftickjian Law Firm.

A Colorado native, Mr. Zeigler is admitted to practice in Colorado and The United States District Court. Over the course of Mr. Zeigler’s legal career, he has focused solely on criminal defense. Zeigler has represented hundreds of clients in and around Denver, and litigated cases ranging from minor traffic offenses, petty offenses, misdemeanors, and serious felonies.

In law school, he was a member of the Honors Program and earned Semester Honors over four semesters. Mr. Zeigler also clerked for a Chief Judge of the United States District Court. Mr. Zeigler graduated in the top ten-percent of his law school class.

“I have watched Travis in court over the past few years and have always been impressed with his demeanor and attention to detail that he puts into his cases,” says Jay Tiftickjian, the law firm’s president. The DUI attorneys at Tiftickjian Law Firm represent clients both in the metro area and also in Colorado’s mountain communities through its satellite office in Aspen.

 

Interview with Juvenile Criminal Defense Attorney Jill Ruane

We had the pleasure of speaking with Connecticut Juvenile Criminal Defense attorney Jill Ruane about her state’s legal system compared to that of Colorado. While we are primarily a DUI defense law firm, we often run into issues of mental illness and juvenile cases involving drunk driving or drug possession. It is therefore always a pleasure to discuss issues with  experts in other related fields of criminal defense.

What privileges do adults with mental illnesses get in the Connecticut adult court?  Do these privileges differ from those of minors with mental illnesses in juvenile court?

To begin, I’d like to say that juvenile court is a different legal process than adult court.  That being said, in adult court, offenders with mental illnesses have access to a fairly new program called the Supervised Divisionary Program (SDP).  This program gives adults with mental illnesses more consideration than youthful offenders with mental illnesses receive in juvenile court.  There is no similar program for youthful offenders.  Mental illness is only considered for minors if their attorney advocates for them and discloses this information during the negotiation.  Unfortunately, many prosecutors are not understanding of mental illnesses.

Can you describe the supervised divisionary program?

The SDP is legislature that was written into law a few years ago in Connecticut.  The court became concerned that there was a high concentration of nonviolent mentally ill males in jail.  With jails becoming overcrowded, the state started wondering if these people could be moved out of jail and rehabilitated in some other way.  A program was created to get mentally ill criminals court intervention in order to keep them out of jail.  The SDP mimics the accelerated rehabilitation program, which is fairly similar.

What are some requirements for the SDP?

In order to be eligible to participate in the supervised divisionary program, you have to commit an eligible crime.  People who commit very serious crimes will not be taken into consideration for the program.  The program is really geared towards poor individuals who have a mental illness and cannot afford their medication.  If individuals commit a crime because they can’t afford medication or if they use illegal substances in order to self-medicate, they probably aren’t really violent criminals.  It is their illness that makes them act out.  This generally leads to crimes such as breach of peace, stealing, and possession of illegal substances.  These offenders are generally not violent, but these crimes can carry jail time as a punishment.  As an alternative to jail time, these individuals could qualify for the supervised divisionary program.  In order to qualify, you also must submit to a CSSD evaluation and you must abide by the recommendations of the evaluation.

How is the accelerated rehabilitation program different from the supervised divisionary program? 

Some of the main problems in the accelerated rehabilitation program are addressed in the SDP.  For example, the accelerated rehabilitation program only allows people to participate if they have not committed prior crimes.  Also, you can only use the accelerated rehabilitation program once.  The SDP focuses more on a long-term process of rehabilitation by allowing criminals with a prior record to use the program’s resources more than once.  Long-term treatment options have been lacking in our society since the 1980s.  There are no longer real mental institutions that you can go to for long term care.  Instead, you are treated in short spurts by hospitals and rehabilitation centers.  This program seeks to offer a more substantial treatment plan to the mentally ill.

Why is there no equivalent to the SDP for juveniles in Connecticut?

I think that the real problem is a lack of education on the part of judges and lawyers that deal with mentally ill juveniles in Waterbury.  Criminal behavior can be explained by mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or autism.  Autism is a huge one these days, because more and more people are being diagnosed with it.  Autism explains a lot of criminal activity by minors – even violent crimes.  The problem is that it becomes the defense attorney’s job to educate the court on why the crime occurred and how it is related to mental illness, which can be difficult.  The prosecutor never has direct contact with the Waterbury juvenile.  The judge doesn’t get the chance to speak to him or her for a very long time.  This makes it difficult for them to understand that the child has a problem.  If you spend half an hour with the offender, you know that he or she needs help.  But when you just get a police report that says the minor assaulted his neighbor, you don’t see the big picture.

Does this happen to minors with mental illness across the board?

Not necessarily.  I definitely think that public defenders see this more than we see it in the private sector.  This is because poor teenagers don’t have the same access to helpful services as rich teenagers.  As a result, the poor suffer, and this leads to the problem that we had with mentally ill, nonviolent people in adult prisons.

Can you give an example of how a youthful offender with a mental illness can be misunderstood by the court?

Take the autism example again.  Let’s say that hypothetically, a teenager with autism is arrested for assaulting his sibling.  This altercation could be caused by the mental illness.  Kids with autism fear direct contact and have a hard time controlling themselves once they become angry.  So if a sibling gets mad and grabs the autistic teen’s arm, he is going to react very strongly, and possibly hurt his sibling.  But this is due to his illness, not because he is malicious.  On top of that, the illness might impact how he is viewed by a police officer.  The teen might appear to be defiant or remorseless but in reality he’s just afraid and doesn’t know how to handle the situation, as people with autism are not good with social cues.  Furthermore, some people with autism are literally unable to feel remorse.  Sometimes it’s hard for police officers or prosecutors to know if the kid has a mental illness and needs help, or if he is a smart-aleck that needs to learn a lesson.

So what needs to change in the juvenile court system in order to fix this problem?

The most important thing is that people need to be educated. This includes judges, lawyers, and police officers that deal with Waterbury juveniles.  Everyone needs to have a better understanding of mental illness so that it can be treated properly.  The legislature also has to change.  They need to create a program for poor children that don’t have the money to combat their mental illnesses.  If we intervene at a younger age, we can help solve the problem of having mentally ill adults commit crimes.