Does Utah Law Address Drug Trafficking?
Yes, drug trafficking can include a number of drug offenses, like cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, possession, transportation, and sale. If someone is manufacturing, or cultivating a drug, and then distributing to different communities for sale, it is a culmination of two, or three drug offenses combined. This would be what is considered drug trafficking, and what also makes the distinction in that is if it is a larger criminal operation, and has ties to the community.
Therefore, we are talking about the larger drug trafficking charges, which are more or less used, and can result in federal criminal charges. There are interstate connections in transporting illegal substances from state to state as well. You would have more of a drug trafficking charge, and prosecuted under federal statutes, when engaging in a criminal enterprise such as this. That is where we make the distinction between possession, distribution, and drug trafficking.
What Are The Differences Between Possession, Sale, Distribution Or Intent To Distribute Unlawful Drugs?
Possession is a broad term under our state law, and many people think that the statute incudes possession, or use. When we talk about possession, we think individual ownership, or injecting when it comes to using, inhaling, and swallowing, things like that. In those circumstances, we have possession, then we have using, and people may be charged for either one. I see many cases where they are charged with a DUI, and it comes back with methamphetamine in their blood. Sometimes, the prosecution will say I am going to charge them with the use of amphetamine, which is a serious charge, more so, than an actual DUI charge. People do not get that concept. I wanted to clarify that a bit, and it does not necessarily mean that the prosecution has to show they individually possessed, or used, but if the prosecution can show they duly participated with other people in the possession, or knowledge of this drug, or controlled substance, they can be charged with possession too.
Just with that knowledge of another person in the hotel room, or someone was using, and they knew what it was, even though they are not using, or did they possess the drug, but they had knowledge that it was there. I have witnessed cases where they tried to do that. Possession does not always mean that it is on your body, or you were using. The statute language is broad, and encompasses many behaviors, and knowledge of where the substance, or the venue where the drug activity occurred. This would lead a reasonable person to believe they would have known about the use, or possession. I just wanted to clear that up a bit.
Distribution is pretty straightforward. When you think about controlled substances, like medications, they are administered by a doctor, and dispensed by a pharmacy. To distribute means if you are dispensing, or delivering, and you do not have a license to do so. For example, suppose they have a significant injury, and the pain clinic provides them with pills, more than they need. Sometimes, we will see people who will try to sell off the extra pills, and that is considered distributing narcotics, because they are delivering those pills to someone else, and they do not have that license, or the qualification to do that. That is a dangerous thing.
Of course, when we think about distribution, and delivery, we think about picking the drug up from the airport, and passing it in the suburbs, and giving them to the local dealers.
Can Police Conduct A Warrantless Search If They Suspect Drugs On A Property Or In A Vehicle?
Yes, police have the right to conduct a warrantless search. We see that on many occasions when it comes to someone’s car. There has to be probable cause though. Therefore, if the officer does not have a warrant, there has to be probable cause that there may be drugs, or illegal controlled substances in the home, or car. We see possession of marijuana cases the most. An officer will stop someone for a traffic violation for a burnt out taillight. The driver will roll down the window, the officer will clearly report, “I smell marijuana, or burnt marijuana”, that alone, in my opinion is enough probable cause for them to have the driver step out of the car, and search based on that smell.
Other officers will call in a K-9 Unit if they are not too far away, but that is where we see it most in these traffic cases. Other occasions are in apartment complexes or hotel rooms where people are smoking, or using controlled substances that draws the attention of other residents. Then officers can go in if there are complaints. If you open the door, and they smell the odor of chemicals, or marijuana, that will give them probable cause to search. Other than that, they would need a warrant, but if they can meet that legal standard, they can articulate what they smelled, or observed.
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