Pharmacist Denied Bail Because of Danger to Community

Author: Larry M. Simonsmeier, JD, RPh

    At the pretrial hearing, the judge determined that the court could be reasonably assured that the defendant would appear for trial. Because of the defendant?s danger to the safety of the community, however, the court denied bail and detained the pharmacist in jail pending trial. The pharmacist appealed.

The Court?s Ruling:

    The court concluded that there was convincing evidence that the pharmacist posed a danger to the safety of the community if released pending trial. He was ordered detained pending further proceedings.

The Court?s Reasoning:

    Because the defendant could receive a prison sentence of 10 years or more, federal statutes provide a rebuttable presumption that no condition of release would ensure the safety of the community or the defendant?s appearance at trial. This means that the burden shifts to the defendant to produce evidence showing that he will appear and will not pose a threat to the community.

    The court must consider a number of factors when determining whether there are conditions of release. These factors include the nature of the crime, the weight of the evidence, the person?s character, family ties, employment, financial resources, length of residence in the community, and the danger to the community that would be posed by the individual?s release.

    Despite appearing to be a small neighborhood pharmacy, the defendant?s business was the largest purchaser of OxyContin in Pennsylvania for the year. Further, the evidence showed that, even after the pharmacy was searched pursuant to a warrant, the defendant continued the illegal drug sales.

    The court noted that the seriousness of the offenses was reflected in the applicable penalties. If convicted, the defendant faced statutory maximum sentences totaling 1837 years in prison and significant fines. These facts weighed heavily against any pretrial release.

    The defendant had clear ties to the community and had the support of his family and friends. He was a lifelong resident of the county, and 38 family members testified to their belief that he would appear for trial and not pose any danger to the community. Six family members offered to pledge their homes to secure his bail.

    Even in light of this support, the court concluded that it did not outweigh the defendant?s incentive to flee or his potential danger to the community. He had the financial resources to flee. Congress, in enacting the laws in question, cautioned against relying heavily on family and community ties, particularly in cases of drug trafficking.

    The defendant argued that he could not be a danger to the community because his pharmacy had been shut down, his drug enforcement administration registration suspended, and his buyer arrested. The court was not persuaded. Now that the pharmacist had lost his ability to earn a legitimate income, he would be tempted more than ever to revert to his illegal activities. Large quantities of drugs were still unaccounted for, and the defendant was thought to have other buyers.

    Finally it was noted that, when faced with a previous investigation by the federal government, the defendant continued his illegal sales. The court was not satisfied that he would refrain from further illegal drug distribution in the future. He was ruled a flight risk and a danger to the community. Bail was denied.