If you find that the defendant engaged in the activity charged in the indictment, pursuant to the authority granted to him by a qualified official of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, then you must find him not guilty under the indictment. (US v. Wright 5th Circuit, case:09- 30763)
Wright was subsequently tried and convicted on counts four and five of the indictment knowingly and intentionally attempting to possess with the intent to distribute cocaine, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He was sentenced to sixty months to serve and three years of supervised release.
Wright appealed the conviction on the charge to the jury. To prove so he had to show that it was unsubstantially correct statement of law, did not cover the charge overall and the court failed to instruct the jury did not allow him to give a valid defense.
Wright countered that he was free from prosecution under:
21 U.S.C. § 885(d). Section 885(d) provides:
Except as provided in sections 2234 and 2235 of title 18, no civil or criminal liability shall be imposed by virtue of this subchapter upon any duly authorized Federal officer lawfully engaged in the enforcement of this subchapter, or upon any duly authorized officer of any State, territory, political subdivision thereof, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States, who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances.
Wright argued that he was acting under the auspices of the EBRSO as a sworn deputy sheriff and he could enforce drug laws. The only question was whether he was acting under the color of law given to him by an EBRSO official at the time. The court gave the jury instructions if they believed he was he was entitled to a verdict of not guilty that they could find him so.
Under Section 885(D) there is no definition as to “duly authorized” officer enforcing drug laws. The law is interpreted within a state in different was through state officials, policy, rules, and procedure that oversee the duties of officers. The court recognized that state law set in action the responsibilities of peace officers.
This was confirmed by United States v. Fuller, 162 F.d 256 (4th Cir 1998) in this case the court deemed immunity did not apply to a mayor involved in illicit drug activities because, his duties did not include the enforcement of drug laws.
In United States v Reeves, 730 F.2d 1189 (8th cir.1984) judgments was affirmed against a sheriff who was distributing drugs outside his law enforcement duties. The case was returned for trial because; a jury had to decide whether he was performing his duties or, selling dope.
In Wright’s case the issue was whether Wright had the authority to conduct a drug sting. The court cited Louisiana law regarding the authority of peace officers:
Under Louisiana Revised Statute § 40:2402 governing the commission of peace officers:
(3)(a) “Peace officer” means any full-time employee of the state, a sheriff, or other public agency, whose permanent duties actually include the making of arrests, the performing of searches and seizures, or the execution of criminal warrants, and is responsible for the prevention or detection of crime or the enforcement of the penal, traffic, or highway laws of this state, but not including any elected or appointed head of a law enforcement department.
(b) “Peace officer” shall also include those sheriff’s deputies whose duties include the care, custody, and control of inmates.
The court went on to examine the duties of the Sheriff of the Parrish and his responsibilities as keeper of the jail:
The statutory provision discussing the “Sheriff keeper of [the] jail” provides:
Each sheriff shall be the keeper of the public jail of his parish, and shall by all lawful means preserve the peace and apprehend all disturbers thereof, and other public offenders.
Notwithstanding the court examined the Louisiana Statue on Prisons and Correctional Institutions:
LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 15:704. This section appears in Title 15 of the Louisiana revised statutes (“Criminal Procedure”) in Chapter 7 (“Prisons and Correctional Institutions”), Part I (“Prisons and Prisoners in General”).