United States v. J.C.

James Morris Balagia

Practice Area:Criminal Defense

Outcome:Client received Federal probation

Description:Client contacted our office after being charged in Federal Court, Western District of Texas, with possession of 350 grams of powder cocaine during a traffic stop in San Antonio, Texas. Upon receiving discovery from the government, a review of the police report alleged that during a routine traffic stop for an illegal lane movement the cocaine was located in open sight in the vehicle. A closer review made it apparent that the traffic stop arrest was a ruse after a set up buy arranged by federal agents working with a confidential informant (C.I.). The client arrived at a fast food parking lot to meet the C.I. but the C.I. never showed up. The parking lot was under federal surveillance at the time and when the client left the parking lot the agents followed him. The agents had an SAPD traffic unit on stand by and that officer made the traffic stop almost immediately after the client left the parking lot and entered the highway. This is a classic set up that is arranged in a number of drug delivery cases by federal and state drug agents. It is also nearly impossible to win at trial since the traffic cop will testify that he observed a traffic violation and subsequent drug seizure. The evidence most likely will not be suppressed and the client could be facing additional sentencing time for failing to accept responsibility in court. Typically a plea bargain is arranged with the federal prosecutor and the defendant receives a reduction in the sentencing range in exchange for not making the government take the case to trial. In this case the client had never been arrested before and was not involved in a drug distribution ring. The client did not “cooperate” and “snitch” on anyone as the client had drug and alcohol issues and was doing a “one time” sale for financial reasons. My client was facing a sentence of between 30 to 37 months in a federal prison. We entered a Plea of Guilty in order to gain the sentencing reduction points and prepared for a sentencing hearing. We needed to show the court who the client was outside of the criminal behavior that the case involved. We got family members, friends, co-workers and employers to write letters on behalf of the client. These letters told the client’s story in a personal and up close manner. They covered the past twenty years and talked about the son, father, husband, friend and neighbor that my client had been prior to this incident. The federal judge took an interest in the person he was sentencing and realized that this was my client’s first arrest. The judge carefully read each letter and saw that he had someone special in his courtroom. The judge looked into the clean past and exemplary behavior of the client. The judge saw a hard working family man who had made a grave error while abusing substances. And the judge decided that society would be better served by placing my client on five years probation instead of placing him in prison. The judge had the heart of a lion and wisdom like Solomon. It was a great feeling to walk out of the courtroom next to my client surrounded by his family. I have no doubt that with my client will be successful with the support of his family, friends and employer. He is aware that he has a lot riding on his shoulders, including the trust that the judge has placed in him with the courtroom decision he rendered in this case.

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