1,000-foot felony: Charges dropped in 2 drug cases
Two of three recent arrestees charged with selling drugs within 1,000 feet of a school–- a controversial drug war tactic–- have now seen their charges dropped.
In October, three alleged cocaine dealers snared by the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement task force picked up an extra felony charge for allegedly hawking their wares within one-fifth of a mile of a school, as Virginia state law makes it illegal to sell drugs within 1,000 feet of a school–- even if the dealer isn't targeting children as clientele and even if the dealer has no idea the school is there.
Jose Cano, 26, from Woodridge and Jorge Rosales-Garcia, 26, from Fredericksburg were arrested October 20 behind Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard in the Woodbrook Shopping Center, according to Rosales-Garcia's attorney, Jessica Smith. They were charged with possessing with the intent to distribute 4.5 ounces of cocaine within 1,000 feet of Woodbrook Elementary, a school that is not visible from the parking lot where they were busted.
The two men were in court November 19 for preliminary hearings, and the 1,000-foot charge was dropped for each, although for different reasons.
For Rosales-Garcia, the charge was nol prossed as the result of an agreement with the Commonwealth's Attorney, says Smith.
"He waived the preliminary hearing, and the school charge was dropped," says Smith, declining to say whether her client would plead guilty as part of an agreement with the prosecution.
At a preliminary hearing the same day in Albemarle General District Court, the 1,000-foot charge also was dropped against Cano.
"The judge did not find probable cause the event took place within 1,000 feet of a school," says Cano's attorney, Nick Reppucci. Cano was certified to the grand jury on the cocaine possession charge.
The third man who allegedly tried marketing illicit wares too close to a school, Carlos Wifred Garcia Sanchez, appears in Charlottesville General District Court December 10. He was arrested October 22 and charged with possessing 500 grams of cocaine on the 2200 block of Barracks Road and within 1,000 feet of UVA–- even though the only nearby sliver of UVA is a softball field popular with law students.
Critics say the law means getting charged twice for the same crime, and isn't much of a deterrent if the defendants don't know the schools are there.
“I think it looks good for politicians,” says Lynchburg attorney Joe Sanzone. “It looks like a problem is being solved.”
Sanzone defended an Amherst star quarterback whose misdemeanor pot charge turned into a felony when the prosecution determined the bust was with within 1,000 feet of a school as the crow flies, even though by public street the distance exceeded 1,000 feet.
Virginia Code 18.2-255.2 makes it a felony to sell drugs near school bus stops, libraries, and publicly owned community centers as well, and it carries a minimum of one year in jail and a maximum $100,000 fine.