Sometimes good citizens run into trouble with the law. That appears to be what happened to a Memphis police officer who was sentenced recently to four years in prison following his arrest on drug charges. The officer was arrested in the course of an FBI sting operation. What must make the whole affair more painful for the officer is that he was betrayed by an old friend who was being used by federal authorities as an informant.

In December of last year, the officer in his squad car accompanied the informant, who was driving another vehicle, from a local shopping center to a parking garage downtown. The officer believed that two duffel bags in the informant’s vehicle contained 200 pounds of marijuana. Later that month, the arrest was made at the same shopping center just after the informant sold the officer 20 prescription pain pills.

The officer pleaded guilty to an attempt to possess hydrocodone with intent to distribute. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of up to six years, but the officer’s attorney argued for a more lenient sentence on the grounds that the officer had only wanted to purchase two pounds of marijuana and some painkillers to give to his wife, who is afflicted with chronic pain from nerve damage. The attorney pointed out that the officer had no intent to distribute the drugs to the public. The officer had never been charged with a crime in the past, and several character witnesses supported him at the sentencing hearing.

When a person is arrested on drug charges a number of defenses are available. Often the search and seizure that led to the arrest can be challenged on constitutional grounds. If the search was conducted following issuance of a search warrant, defense counsel can investigate whether probable cause existed for the issuance of the warrant. And if, like the officer in this case, the accused otherwise has a spotless record and did not intend to sell the drugs, defense counsel can argue for a lighter sentence or referral to a drug diversion program.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, “Former Memphis police officer sentenced to four years on drug charge,” Kevin McKenzie, Oct. 31, 2012