What novel issues can be presented in synthetic drug cases?

New York white collar criminal defense attorney, Aaron Mysliwiec, shares how novel issues can be presented in synthetic drug cases.

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In synthetic drug cases there can be questions about scientific issues about whether or not a substance is even prohibited by the law. That is one key issue that you deal with right from the beginning. There are issues about what kind of decisions were made, knowledge of a client about whether something was illegal if even scientific evidence shows that the substance was prohibited by the law. There are frequently factual issues dealing with international kinds of situations a lot of synthetic drugs the chemicals that are used are actually transported in from China. So you may get some international issues or other kind of sophisticated issues dealing with packages. How they were transported to the US, where they ended up, what information was given to someone about the package they were going to receive. It’s complicated factual issues around those things.

And then in cases where it’s clear that someone knew that what they were dealing with was an illegal synthetic drug substance, they engaged in that conduct anyway, they’ve admitted that they engaged in that conduct, and really, what you have is a case that’s about what kind of deal or sentence can be worked out. There are still very complicated issues about how should those drugs be punished. So for example, in a federal case in addition to the law that bars trafficking in those substances there’s something called the federal sense and guidelines, which establishes a system of potential punishment in terms of just the amount of jail that someone should get for dealing with something like synthetic marijuana or bath salts.

That system can be persuasive to federal judges but what you find is that the recommended sentences for dealing those substances are not based on a series of scientific experiments or data but how dangerous those substances are. So as a defense lawyer sometimes, you can persuade a judge that someone shouldn’t be punished as severely as the government is asking for because the substance isn’t actually as dangerous as the government has made it out to be. It doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous it just means it’s not like one of the most dangerous substances that out’s there. And so the federal sentencing guidelines recommendation about how it should be treated is based on nothing or based on faulty information or misinformation about the severity of the synthetic drug.