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Since relocating to the upper tip of Delaware, Denene and I are currently residing in an extended stay hotel, where we’ve been since we left the Writers’ Police Academy. We will remain here until closing on the new house.

Yes, we finally found a home this week and made an offer on it, after an exhausting search. We reached an agreement with the sellers just yesterday and we now have signed documents in hand. Unfortunately, the owners are unable to vacate the home until early October. But, the property is extremely nice so it should be worth the wait. In the meantime, though, we’ll remain in the hotel.

Our room here is nice and features a mini kitchen and a large work station that accommodates our computers and other necessities.

Now that we’re here, though, I have no yard work or other home project to occupy the little spare time I have during the evening hours—the time I spent feeding the birds and watering and caring for the plants in our yard. The time that took me away from everything. It was my escape. The time to allow my mind to focus on nothing but the little creatures and flowers and blue skies and the combined scents of eucalyptus and citrus trees and roses … and the smoke from all the wildfires.

Therefore, now that I do have a bit of spare time, I’ve been able to read a bit, mostly at night using my Kindle Paperwhite. I love the device because it’s small and the backlit screen allows me to peruse the “pages” without waking Denene, who, by the way, started her new job last week. She’s still teaching microbiology and cool bioterrorism stuff, but as a professor at another university, in the department of Medical & Molecular Sciences.

Anyway, to get to the point, while reading current novels and blogs and news articles, I’ve run across the misuse of various terms and information. As a result, I decided to compile and post a bit of information to help set things straight.

I hope this helps somewhat in your quest to …

Write Believable Make-Believe

Defendant: Someone who’s been accused of a crime and is involved in a court proceeding.

Defense Attorney: A lawyer who represents a defendant throughout their criminal proceedings.

Departure: A sentence that’s outside the typical guideline range. Departures can be above or below the standard range; however, the most common departure is a downward departure, a sentence reduction solely based on the defendant’s substantial assistance to the government. For example, a defendant who spills the beans to law enforcement about the criminal activity of someone else for the sole purpose of obtaining a lesser sentence. In jailhouse/layman’s terms, “a snitch.”

Diminished Capacity: A defendant is eligible for a downward departure (reduction of sentence) if they can successfully prove they suffer from a significantly reduced mental capacity, a condition that contributed substantially to the commission of the offense of which they’re charged with committing. Merely having been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense is typically not considered grounds for diminished capacity.

* This applies to the defendant only, not the defendant’s attorney, judges, or police officers. Their sometimes reduction in mental capacities is fodder for another article.

Duress: The federal sentencing guidelines allow for a downward departure if the defendant committed the offense because of serious threats, coercion, or pressure. An example is the person who’s been forced to commit a bank robbery by crooks who’re holding his family hostage until/unless he carries out the crime. The courts could/would show leniency by granting a downward departure (or complete dismissal) based upon the fact he was under severe duress at the time of the robbery.

Extreme Conduct: Here, an upward departure from the guidelines range may be appropriate if the defendant’s conduct during the commission of a crime was unusually heinous, cruel, and/or brutal. Even degrading the victim of the crime in some way may apply and earn the defendant a longer sentence that’s typically called for within the sentencing guidelines.

Brutally maiming and murdering federal agents simply because they dared to ask questions (revenge), well, that may be a crime that warrants an upward departure from the typical sentence.

 

Felony: An offense punishable by a term of imprisonment of one year or longer.

Felony Murder: A killing that takes place during the commission of another dangerous felony, such as robbery.

To get everyone’s attention, a bank robber fires his weapon at the ceiling. A stray bullet hits a customer and she dies as a result of her injury. The robber has committed felony murder, a killing, however unintentional, that occurred during the commission of a felony. The shooter’s accomplices could also be charged with the murder even if they were not in possession of a weapon or took no part in the death of the victim.

Hate Crime Motivation: An increase of sentence if the court determines that the defendant intentionally targeted a victim because of their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability or even due to their sexual orientation.

Indictment: An indictment is the formal, written accusation of a crime. They’re issued by a grand jury and are presented to a court with the intention of prosecution of the individual named in the indictment.

Misdemeanor: A crime that’s punishable by one year of imprisonment, or less.

Obstruction of Justice: Obstruction of Justice is a very broad term that simply boils down to charging an individual for knowingly lying to law enforcement in order to change to course/outcome of a case, or lying to protect another person. The charge may also be brought against the person who destroys, hides, or alters evidence.

For more about obstruction, see When Lying Becomes A Crime: Obstruction Of Justice

Offense Level: The severity level of an offense as determined by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.

Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that determine how much or how little prison time a federal judge may impose on a defendant who has been found guilty of committing a federal crime.

To learn more about these guidelines, go here … So, You’ve Committed a Federal Offense: How Much Time Will You Serve?

Parole: The early and conditional release from prison. Should the parolee violate those conditions, he/she could be returned to prison to complete the remainder of their sentence. Parole, however, was abolished in the federal prison system in 1984. In lieu of parole, federal inmates earn good time credits based on their behavior during incarceration. Federal inmates may earn a sentence reduction of up to 54 days per year. Good time credits are often reduced when prisoners break the rules, especially when the rules broken are serious offenses—fighting, stealing, possession of contraband such as drugs, weapons, or other prohibited material.

Federal prisoners who play nice during the course of their time behind bar typically see a substantial accumulation of good time credit and will subsequently hit the streets much sooner than those who repeatedly act like idiots.

Due to earned good time credit, federal prisoners who follow the rules are typically released after serving approximately 85% of their sentence.

* Writers, please remember this one. There is no parole in the federal system. People incarcerated in federal prison after 1984 are not eligible for parole because is does not exist. I see this all the time in works of fiction.

By the way, this regularly occurring faux pas (incorrect use of parole in novels) brings to mind the dreaded “C” word … cordite. I still see this in current books. Your characters, unless in works of historical fiction, cannot smell the odor of cordite at crime scenes because the stuff is no longer manufactured. In fact, production of cordite ended at the end of WWII. Please, please, please stop using the stuff in your books.

Please read this:

Once Again – Cordite: Putting This Garbage In The Grave!

 

Jerome, a professional thief and drug addict who was no stranger to judges, cops, and attorneys, sat on a well-worn wooden bench outside a courtroom door. His attire for the day … an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and ankle chains and white rubber shower shoes. The tile beneath his feet was scratched and dented and dull.

If those walls could talk

The wall behind Jerome was painted a mint green color and had a row of individual greasy head-shaped stains above each of the benches lining the hallway, stains left behind by the men and women who’d committed crimes ranging from petty theft to killing and butchering other humans.

Jerome was nervous and scared. He was also once a dear friend of mine.

Our bond began when we were teammates on our school football squad. We were the meanest and nastiest linebackers around and together we were practically unbeatable. In fact, it wasn’t unusual at all for an opposing team to go scoreless against us, and part of that success was due to Jerome’s and my (mostly Jerome) hard hits at the middle of the line, along with our regular sackings of quarterbacks.

Back in the day, Jerome was big and muscular and could run as fast as a frightened deer. He also carried a high GPA. The guy was smart, witty, and popular. He didn’t smoke, nor did he drink alcohol, and he was quite outspoken when it came to condemning drug use. He had hopes of getting out of the projects and attending the University of North Carolina, and possibly a career in the NFL. Drugs and alcohol were not a part of that picture.

In those days, our football days, my friend was a bit vain, though. He spent a lot of time grooming in front of mirrors, storefront windows, or any other reflective surface capable of returning his image.

He carried an Afro pick in his back pocket and frequently pulled it out to work on his hair, and he was forever mopping and rubbing and slopping gobs of lotion on his arms and face until his molasses-colored skin shone like new money. His perfectly-aligned teeth gleamed like the white keys on a showroom Steinway. And, for a big, beefy and manly guy, he smelled a bit like lavender garnished with a hint of coconut.

There in the courthouse, though, Jerome appeared weak and sickly. He was rail thin and his complexion was muddy. The whites of his once bright eyes were the color of rotting lemons; their rims, and the edges of his nostrils, were damp, just on the edge of leaking trails of tears and mucus.

His hands shook, and his teeth, the remaining ones, were spattered with black pits of rot and decay. His breath smelled like a week-old animal carcass. His fingernails were bitten to the quick and his hair was dry, uncombed, had bits of lint and jail-blanket fuzz scattered throughout, and it was flat on one side like he’d been asleep for days without changing positions. He smelled like the combination of old sweat and the bottom of a dirty, wet ashtray.

THE HIGH

  • A private joy.
  • A warmth that filled my body like no other.
  • Sheer pleasure.

With a few minutes to kill before my first case was called, I took a seat beside Jerome, with my gun side away from him, of course. I asked him why he continued to use a drug that was ruining his life and could eventually kill him. His lips split into a faint grin and then he said, “Imagine the most intense orgasm you’ve ever had, then multiply it a thousand times. That’s how it feels just as the stuff starts winding it’s way through your system. Then it really starts to get good. So yeah, that’s why I do it.”

Heroin (r) south east asian (L) south west asian

He clasped his hands over his belly, stretched his gangly legs out in front of him, and he started talking, telling me about the first time he got high and about the last time he used, and he spoke about everything between. He told me about about the things he stole to support his habit and he told me about breaking into his own grandmother’s house to take a few of her most prized possessions, things he traded to his dealer in exchange for drugs.

Prostitution for Drugs

Jerome told me he performed oral sex on men out at the rest area beside the highway. They, the many, many nameless truckers and travelers, had given him ten dollars each time he entered one of the stalls to do the deed. He described the urine smell and how disgusted he was with himself when he felt the knees of his pants grow wet from contacting whatever was on the tile floor at the time. But whatever it took to get the next high was what he’d do.

Once, a man asked him for anal sex. He was desperate, so he agreed. Jerome said he was to earn twenty-dollars for enduring that painful and humiliating experience, all the while knowing the people in nearby stalls could hear what was going on. He said he’d read the graffiti on the wall above the toilet as a means to take his mind off the obese man behind him. When it was over the man pulled up his pants and left Jerome in the stall, crying. The man didn’t pay.

Jerome told me that he wasn’t gay—despised having sex with men is what he said, but he did it for the high, even though he often vomited afterward when recalling what he’d done. But the drug was more important. It was THE most important thing in his life.

Heroin Fentanyl pills

$1,000 per day habit

My high-school buddy’s habit cost him a thousand-dollars each day, seven days a week, unless he wasn’t able to produce the funds. Then he’d grow sick with the sickest feeling on earth. The hurt was deep, way down to his very core. Even his bones hurt. He’d sweat and he’d vomit … and vomit and vomit and vomit until the pain in his gut felt like someone inside was using a hundred power drills and another hundred jackhammers to assault his brain and lungs and emotions. His heart would slam against his chest wall like a sledgehammer pounding railroad stakes into hard-packed Georgia clay.

Then he’d drop to his knees in another restroom, or steal another something that would help make it all go away until the next time. And he’d do it over and over and over again.

Hydrocodone

Jerome was lucky. He was caught by a deputy sheriff who was passing by a house and saw Jerome climbing out—feet first—from a bedroom window.

He was awaiting arraignment the day I saw him sitting on the bench outside the courtroom door. A dozen or so other jail inmates occupied the nearby seats.

Jerome asked if I would call his grandmother to tell her he said he was sorry for all he’d done, and that he was starting to feel better and was ready to seek help as soon as he was back on the outside. I told him I’d tell her. Actually, I went one step further and stopped by her house to tell her in person.

Now, I said Jerome was lucky, and I say this because going to jail prevented him from using the drug he grown to so desperately depend upon. His body ached for it, yes, but he beat the sickness and lived.

Unfortunately, many have died because of that same ache.


Federal Sentencing Table

How much prison time (for various crimes) could someone receive in federal court? Here’s the breakdown.

Click here.


Drugs Are the Root of All Evil

Police Procedure and Investigation

Drugs, Not Money, Are the Root of All Evil – Chapter 11 of Police Procedure and Investigation


Oregon to reduce felony drug crimes to misdemeanors

The state of Oregon recently passed a bill to reduce some drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors—possession of small, usable (typically not enough to sell) quantities of methadone, oxycodone, heroin, MDMA, cocaine, and methamphetamine. An offender is allowed two arrests before prosecutors may up the ante and charge the suspect with a felony. Officials say the law will help addicts, and that it will help reduce the number of minorities incarcerated in jails and prisons. They say the current laws unfairly target people of color.

The bold move is also a means, officials say, to help prevent offenders/users/addicts from falling into the lifelong situation of being unable to secure decent housing, good jobs, vote (in some areas), and even an education (student loans are denied because of some drug convictions).

For those people, there is absolutely no light at the end of a lifelong tunnel. No second chances, no matter what. Many grow weary of always living at the bottom rung of the ladder without a support system of any type, working menial jobs, if they can get a job, that is, and living in crappy apartments because a background check prevented them from renting in a nicer, drug-dealer-free neighborhood. So they re-offend and back to prison they go.

Keep in mind, state law does not supersede federal law, which still squarely places the above list of illegal drugs in the felony category. Therefore, arrested for small quantities of drugs by local Oregon police = misdemeanor. Arrested by the feds, in the same location, for possession of the same quantity (any amount) = felony. However, it’s highly unlikely the FBI, ATF, or DEA are planning to kick in Daryl Dope’s front door over $12 worth of cocaine. But they could.


Drug Schedules

Schedule I

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are:

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote

Schedule II

Schedule II drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous. Some examples of Schedule II drugs are:

Combination products with less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone per dosage unit (Vicodin), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, hydromorphone (Dilaudid), meperidine (Demerol), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl, Dexedrine, Adderall, and Ritalin

Schedule III

Schedule III drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Schedule III drugs abuse potential is less than Schedule I and Schedule II drugs but more than Schedule IV. Some examples of Schedule III drugs are:

Products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit (Tylenol with codeine), ketamine, anabolic steroids, testosterone

Schedule IV

Schedule IV drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with a low potential for abuse and low risk of dependence. Some examples of Schedule IV drugs are:

Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Darvocet, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, Tramadol

Schedule V

Schedule V drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with lower potential for abuse than Schedule IV and consist of preparations containing limited quantities of certain narcotics. Schedule V drugs are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic purposes. Some examples of Schedule V drugs are: cough preparations with less than 200 milligrams of codeine or per 100 milliliters (Robitussin AC), Lomotil, Motofen, Lyrica, Parepectolin.


Felony arrest warrant served/executed by me after a stop and frisk led to guns, drugs, and cash.