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Supreme Court of the United States Holds Using Cellular Telephones to Arrange Misdemeanor Drug Purchases Does Not Constitute Facilitation

Posted On: September 3, 2009 by Marc Neff

A case decided in the Supreme Court of the United States this past summer has held the use of cellular telephones between buyer and seller, to make misdemeanor drug purchases, does not constitute facilitating under United States statue; facilitation would otherwise constitute a felony. Federal Investigators suspected a man of trafficking and/or dealing drugs, and subsequently obtained a warrant to issue a wiretap on his cellular phone. While monitoring the wiretap, Investigators observed six phone calls between the man and a customer, some made by the man and some initiated by the customer. The six phone calls related to two transactions, each for one gram of cocaine. The sale of the cocaine is treated as a felony under United States statute; however the purchase of such minor quantities constitutes misdemeanor offenses.

Nevertheless, the buyer was arrested and charged with six felonies, one count for each phone call which took place between buyer and seller. The Government charged the buyer under 21 U.S.C. §843(b), a section of the Controlled Substances Act which makes it illegal to use any communication facility in facilitating felony distribution and other drug crimes. The Government argued that the communication between buyer and seller via cell phone facilitated the seller in his efforts to distribute controlled substances.

The Court held the Government’s interpretation of the statute was too broad, reversing the buyer’s felony convictions from the lower courts. The Court determined that the facilitation statue was not intended to increase the penalties of misdemeanor purchasers, rather to increase penalties of traffickers involved in the sale, purchase and distribution of larger quantities. The Court reasoned that in modern society, cellular telephones are prevalent and unfortunately are also used in making drug purchases. The use of a cellular phone in making a misdemeanor purchase does not facilitate the seller in making the sale, rather it creates a buyer-seller relationship which otherwise would not have existed. Punishing a purchaser under the felony statute, for making a purchase otherwise constituted as a misdemeanor, was not Congress’ intent in legislating the Controlled Substance Act.

Drug Possession

Possession of a controlled substance is a crime which carries many harsh penalties. Depending on the quantity of controlled substance you are found to possess, you may even be charged with intent to deliver or drug trafficking. Such charges carry even greater penalties. Larger quantities mandate longer minimum sentences as well.

Drug offenses are serious matters which involve serious penalties. If you have been charged with a drug offense, there are many defenses which may be available. Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately, so that your situation can be assessed and a defense to your charges can be developed.

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Posted in: Drug Crimes