A Cincinnati man faces eight years in prison following his conviction in Warren County Common Pleas Court on drug trafficking charges. A jury found that Allen Honeycutt was part of a drug distribution ring that supplied marijuana to students in two Warren County school districts. (H/T Cincinnati Enquirer)
The Warren County Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement alleging that Allen Honeycutt and his co-conspirators “made hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars trafficking drugs” to students in the Mason and Kings school districts. A jury convicted him on charges of trafficking, possession of marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, possession of criminal tools, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity. The judge sentenced him to serve eight years in prison and pay fines totaling $17,500.
Investigators presented evidence that Honeycutt had a role in three indoor growing operations that produced high-grade marijuana that the organization sold throughout southwest. Officers seized 600 marijuana plants, more than $100,000 in cash, and several hundred grams of harvested marijuana. The marijuana was worth an estimated $2.9 million.
Students involved in the distribution of the drugs have also faced criminal charges. One of the students is currently in juvenile detention.
The stiff sentence in this case illustrates the benefits of obtaining experienced defense counsel as soon as possible. An attorney with experience in drug trafficking cases can help people accused of drug crimes minimize or avoid the consequences of conviction through constitutional challenges to, for example, the circumstances of an arrest, execution of a search warrant, or traffic stop of a motor vehicle. If the facts of your case show that conviction of a state or federal offense is a likely outcome, the defense attorney can do everything possible to find sentencing alternatives that will keep the defendant out of state or federal prison. This can often be accomplished through negotiation with the prosecution toward a mutually acceptable guilty plea, or through a well prepared and persuasive presentation to the court at a sentencing hearing.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported that a routine traffic stop in Mason this weekend resulted in felony drug charges for possession of marijuana.
Marijuana Seized by Highway Patrol in Mason for Felony Drug Charges.
The Patrol reported that a trooper pulled over a 1997 Ford Thunderbird on Saturday afternoon for a speed violation. The detected a strong odor of marijuana from the vehicle’s passenger compartment. A search of the vehicle revealed a Ziploc baggie under the driver’s seat containing about 226 grams of marijuana with a street value of about $375.
The driver, Clifford Justin Abner, 29, was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, a fifth-degree felony. If convicted, he faces up to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine.
This case illustrates how a routine traffic stop and what appears like a simple felony drug possession case can, in fact, be very complicated. The case raises a number of significant Fourth Amendment issues.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. Two issues in this case are immediately apparent:
- Did the officer have probable cause for the initial stop of the vehicle? In general, if an officer witnesses a traffic violation, the officer may make a traffic stop. Speeding is sufficient. However, further investigation could reveal that the trooper did not really have sufficient information to justify the stop, or could have been unlawfully targeting certain drivers for enforcement.
- Was the search of the vehicle legal? Courts have been relatively lenient in permitting officers to search vehicles when there is probable cause to believe that contraband is present. This is referred to as the “automobile exception.” However, simply the smell of marijuana may not be sufficient to justify a stop if the driver does not appear to be impaired. And recent supreme Court decisions have restricted law enforcement discretion in a number of significant ways when dealing with cars.
The important lesson is that what appears to be a routine criminal case – whether felony drug possession, trafficking, or something else, may not be routine at all. For this reason, anyone facing criminal charges should remember to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who may be able to spot issues that others miss.