Former Major League Baseball pitcher Esteban Loaiza was sentenced to three years in prison followed by five years of probation by a California federal court judge on March 8 after pleading guilty to a felony drug possession charge. Loaiza entered into a plea agreement with U.S. attorneys in August 2018. The charge he was convicted of carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The former All-Star Game starter will also be deported to his home country of Mexico after completing his sentence.

Loaiza's legal problems began when his minivan was pulled over by San Diego County Sheriff's Department deputies for a traffic violation in February 2018. A search warrant was issued for his Imperial Beach townhouse after deputies discovered what they referred to as a sophisticated hidden compartment in the vehicle. During the ensuing search, Drug Enforcement Agency agents discovered approximately 40 pounds of a white powder that was later determined to be cocaine.

Prosecutors say that the lack of furniture and personal belongings in Loaiza's townhouse suggested that the property was being used to store drugs for later distribution. The former Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Texas Rangers star was initially charged with a raft of felony drug possession, trafficking and distribution charges.

This case reveals that while the penalties for federal drug crimes are severe, U.S. attorneys may be willing to reduce them substantially in return for a swift resolution and a successful outcome. When presented with facts like these, experienced criminal defense attorneys could encourage prosecutors to make a sentencing offer by questioning the validity of a search warrant obtained based on evidence discovered during a warrantless search.

Source: Yahoo Sports, "Former All-Star Esteban Loaiza sentenced to 3 years for felony drug possession", Cassandra Negley, March 8, 2019

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