In today's Spokesman Review we have an article about some people who were within state medical marijuana laws but are being prosecuted in federal court.
I'm not to going to get into the details of the case but I would like to point out one paragraph that highlights an issue our country has in federal courts.
The five also face a mandatory five years extra in prison if convicted of “possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.” Agents did seize eight firearms, including a black-powder rifle and a .22 that Harvey says doesn’t work, but the guns had nothing to do with the garden, he contends.
About 95% of criminal cases never go to trial in federal court. Most people accept a plea deal. Three contributing factors to this high percentage of plea deals are: (1) increased criminalization at the federal level, (2) mandatory minimum sentences, and (3) the ability of the US Attorney's Office to pile on the offenses a person is charged with.
In this case where the guns did not play a factor in the crime, the US Attorney can still press those additional charges. What would you do if you were looking at mandatory minimum sentences and a huge total of possible penalties for additional charges? Probably, like most people, you'd accept a plea deal.
By the way, when you go to trial and you're found guilty, you are told you don't receive any credit because "you put the government to the test." I always found that statement strange because the burden of proof is on the government. Why make it sound like a defendant gets punished for making the government do its job?
It will be interesting to see how this trial goes, but I do not think it will turn out well for them.
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