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Drug trafficking charged


An Atmore man remained behind bars this week, under a half-million dollar bond and facing mandatory prison time, after narcotics officers from three agencies raided his home last week and found more than a kilo of marijuana, packaged for sale.

Derek James Staples, 28, was arrested on two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge after agents from the Atmore Police Department, Poarch Creek Police Department and Escambia County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant at his 157 Harris Street home on Tuesday, March 14.

According to Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks, the officers entered the home and found more than 2.2 pounds of marijuana, divided into small plastic bags, and a pistol.

“That’s a pretty good amount of marijuana,” Brooks said. “We had been conducting an investigation, and enough probable cause was established for a search warrant.”

According to Section 13A-21-231 of Alabama Criminal Code, any person who “knowingly sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, in excess of one kilo or 2.2 pounds of any part of the plant of the genus Cannabis … is guilty of a felony, which felony shall be known as ‘trafficking in cannabis’.”

To determine whether or not a quantity of marijuana meets the minimum to justify a trafficking charge, state law allows that the weight shall include “the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of the plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or resin including the completely defoliated mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil, or cake, or the completely sterilized samples of seeds of the plant which are incapable of germination.”

Staples was taken to the Escambia County Detention Center, where he was processed on charges of drug trafficking, being a certain person forbidden to possess a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia.

State law requires that a person convicted of a trafficking charge that involves more than a kilo of pot but less than 100 pounds, “shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of three calendar years and to pay a fine of $25,000.”

Possession of the handgun could lead to even more mandatory time, if Staples is convicted of the trafficking charge.

According to state law, “any person who has possession of a firearm during the commission of any act proscribed by this section shall be punished by a term of imprisonment of five calendar years which shall be in addition to, and not in lieu of, the punishment otherwise provided, and a fine of $25,000;  the court shall not suspend the five-year additional sentence of the person or give the person a probationary sentence.”