Friday, October 31, 2008

Marijuana Mercy

Score one for the little guy. If, by ‘little guy,’ you mean someone caught hauling 94 pounds of marijuana.

Tammy Levesque seemingly hasn’t caught a lot of breaks in her life. She’s a 33-year-old single mom and a high school dropout, basically unemployed since 2005. She had been trying to save money to fulfill her dream of opening a beauty parlor in Madawaska, Maine.

Unfortunately, her money came from earning $2,000 a trip for transporting pot in her pickup truck from Maine down the Eastern Seaboard to North Carolina. The cops busted her. She pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute, and agreed the government would seize some of her assets through forfeiture. Then, prosecutors overreached and demanded she cough up $3 million. Typical prosecutor math: number of trips Levesque made times the estimated amount of pot carried times the estimated dealer’s price of $2,000 a pound.

Nuh-uh. On Thursday, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals determined the $3 million asset forfeiture was an excessive fine in violation of the Eighth Amendment. That’s right: the same amendment the Supreme Court uses to cap corporate liability payments has now been used to cap a drug courier’s payments. The 1st Circuit reasoned that “ruinous monetary punishments” that would effectively deprive a defendant of a future ability to earn a living are excessive.

That means that Ms. Levesque might still have a shot at making a go at that beauty parlor once she’s released next year from the Alderson minimum security facility in West Virginia.

No comments: