Raquel Wright, a 36 year old school teacher at Oslo Middle School in Indian River County, Florida was arrested this week for Trafficking in Oxycodone. Given her status as a school teacher, it is presumed that she does not have any prior criminal history.
While her case is pending, a judge ordered that Wright be released on a $150,000 bond. Before posting this bond, Wright should have retained a lawyer to file a motion to reduce bond. On a school teacher’ salary, a $150,000 bond may be a bit excessive, even though the crime alleged is a serious felony.
However, bond is not Wright’s main problem. As a criminal defense attorney, I think Wright’s case presents a number of interesting questions whose answers may help her case. First, how did the police come to get involved with her? According to news reports, cops set up a sting operation after Wright agreed to sell them pills over the phone.
Was she snitched on by a confidential informant? Did the police violate the law when they investigated her? If a snitch was used, was that person cooperating with police to save themselves from their own case? Did police entrap Wright?
Once she was arrested, did Wright give a statement to police? If so, did they advise her of her right to remain silent and her right to an attorney before questioning? If not, any and all statements made by Wright may be thrown out by a judge.
How much did the pills weigh? According to news reports, Wright tried to sell 70 pills to investigators. Depending on the weight of the individual pills, Wright is likely facing either a 3 year minimum mandatory sentence.
Like many other states, Florida has mandatory minimum prison sentences for trafficking in prescription medication, including Oxycodone. The following chart explains the minimum mandatory sentences for Trafficking in Oxycodone here in Florida:
As you can see, the more quantity involved, the stiffer the penalty. When most people think of “trafficking,” they think of Miami Vice style air drops into the Everglades or high speed cigarette boats speeding through the Caribbean with a load of narcotics hidden in secret compartments. In reality, trafficking in narcotics is nothing more than possession of a lot of drugs. The more you have, the worse it is. There is nothing fancy or sinister about it.
Investigators will also want to know where Wright obtained her pills, if they were obtained illegally. Odds are that Wright, like every other person in this State, has a valid prescription, likely doctor shops, and obtains her pills from pain clinics. I am equally certain that Wright has a major drug addiction problem of her own and is likely selling pills to sustain her addiction.
Truthfully, this case is yet another example of the criminal consequences to addiction. While cops are eager to label her a criminal, odds are she is a patient doing what any human would do who is addicted to a chemical substance they cannot afford.
Why are we filling our prisons with drug addicts? Especially first time offenders?
If you think minimum mandatory sentences deter drug addicts from selling to sustain themselves, then you have an encyclopedic ignorance of drug addiction and the power it has to enslave human beings.
Rather than spend tens of thousands of dollars prosecuting and then incarcerating first time drug addict dealers like Wright, our society would be served better by giving her treatment and getting her into recovery.
The couch potatoes and arm chair warriors of the world may say this is being soft on crime, but in truth, sending them away is being soft on our community.
Not only does incarceration do nothing to solve the problem, but it makes it worse because Wright will not become a convicted felon incapable of landing a decent job upon release from prison.
Guess what that means? Wright becomes yet another liability that all of us have to pay for.
I don’t know about you, but I would rather invest my tax dollars in getting her on the right path and putting her in recovery so that one day in the future she can become an independent person, free of addiction, who continues to purchase consumer goods in our economy, pay her taxes, and contribute to our community, rather than take away from it.
While I in no way condone Wright’s actions, the time has come for our society to shake free of its arcane notions of incarceration and start instituting solutions that result in cost savings both to the quality of our community and the quantity of its fiscal resources.