Another cannabis dismissal for attorney Michael E. Cindrich. This case arose when our client was detained by security at a private airport in Oakland, California. Our client had been waiting to board a flight to Los Angeles when a K9 indicated a positive alert on a box he had in his possession. A search of the box revealed 15 mason jars filled with a total of 7,245 grams of cannabis oil. Law enforcement also discovered $16,480 in cash on our client’s person and in his backpack. Our client informed officers that jars were being transported from a collective in Alameda County to a locally licensed collective Southern California. A written authorization to transport the product was provided to law enforcement. Not knowing what to do under the circumstances, the officers did what they normally do – they arrested our client for felony transportation and possession for sale charges.
Fortunately for our client, our Firm was immediately retained on the case. Because the alleged offense occurred late August 2016, and Proposition 64 was on the ballot in November, the parties agreed to delay the case until after the vote. During the delay, Michael Cindrich began providing the prosecution with documents related to our client’s medical cannabis collective defense. Even after reviewing these documents, and learning about the legitimacy of the collective, the prosecutor assigned to the case still refused to dismiss the charges. The best offer given was for our client to plead guilty to a felony, and they would agree not to require any custody time. Once Proposition 64 passed in November, all charges were reduced to misdemeanors, but still the Alameda District Attorney’s Office would not dismiss the case.
The Alameda DA’s office structure highlights one of the same problems that are present in many DA’s offices throughout the state. In criminal cases, different prosecutors handle the case at different stages. There is an arraignment DA, a pre-preliminary hearing DA, a preliminary hearing DA, a post-preliminary hearing DA, and a trial DA. Each prosecutor has a responsibility during each phase, and there is generally minimal concern for what the next prosecutor will face. Until the case reaches the trial DA, there is little incentive to dismiss a case that cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial. In many cases, the prosecutors do not take the time to analyze the defense since they aren’t the person who will have to appear in front of a jury to argue the case. Being a former prosecutor, Michael Cindrich is very familiar with prosecutorial policies, and handled this case accordingly. During a settlement conference in March, he gave the DA’s office one last chance to dismiss the case pretrial. Not surprising, the office refused, so Mr. Cindrich did something that is known as “pulling the time waiver.” All defendants have a right to have their cases brought to trial within a statutory period of time. Because most attorneys and defendants generally want sufficient time to review discovery and negotiate the case, a time waiver is usually entered, which waives the right to a speedy trial. If a defendant would like to move things along, he or she may withdraw the time waiver. In a misdemeanor case, this means that the case must be brought to trial within 30 days. When Mr. Cindrich pulled the time waiver, he was forcing the prosecutor and court to operate on a strict timeline that could ultimately result in a dismissal of the case if not adhered to. In a crowded court system, this can be a great tool to force your case to be addressed.
The last pretrial conference was scheduled the day before trial was set to begin. Mr. Cindrich took an early morning flight from San Diego and arrived at the court with time to spare. Cindrich finally had the opportunity to meet wth the DA who had been assigned the case for trial. In a back room, the discussion between attorneys began. Cindrich laid out the defense, the paperwork, the witnesses, and the law. Our client was serving an important function transporting product from a manufacturer to a licensed dispensary. This is such an important role that the state of CA decided to require a “distributor” under the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act. That’s essentially what our client was doing – acting as a middle-man, finding product in one part of the state and providing it to a licensed businesses in another. Cindrich informed the prosecutor that the operator of the licensed dispensary was going to appear at trial and testify that the shipment of oil was intended for his shop and his patients.
In an act that our office has grown accustomed to, the prosecutor indicated that he would dismiss the case. This was the prosecutor who would have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, and it was clear that he wanted no part of challenging this defense. For our firm, this is business as usual defending clients charged with cannabis-related offenses. Another day, another court, another cannabis dismissal for the Law Offices of Michael E. Cindrich APC.
Check back soon for updates regarding the return of the cannabis oil and cash that was seized. Click here to learn more about our medical cannabis representation.