A federal judge in California handed down a 15-year prison sentence on July 8 to a 48-year-old Colton man. The man, who is alleged to be a member of a Los Angeles criminal gang, was convicted on three felony firearm and drug charges following a bench trial in March that lasted for just one day. The custodial sentence will be followed by supervised release for a period of five years. The judge who passed sentence was also the judge who found the man guilty of possessing a gun while trafficking drugs, drug possession with the intent to distribute, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The sequence of events that led to the sentencing began in February when Los Angeles Police Department officers pulled the man's Chevrolet Tahoe SUV over for erratic driving in Angelino Heights. According to an LAPD report, the man gave officers permission to search his vehicle without a warrant.
This turned out to be a foolish decision as officers allegedly discovered a black garbage bag in the SUV that contained more than 13 pounds of methamphetamine. The drugs were wrapped in foil and looked like burritos according to police. The judge commented that the packaging made it clear that the drugs were intended for sale. If sold on the street, the methamphetamine could have been worth as much as $40,000. Police also claim to have found approximately $800 in cash and a loaded handgun in the man's vehicle.
When individuals suspected of committing serious drug crimes give police permission to search their cars or homes, they make it very difficult for their lawyers to later argue that any incriminating evidence found should be ruled inadmissible. This is why experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise their clients to not allow police to conduct searches without a warrant.