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Fort Worth criminal defense lawyer for hate crimesAs increased awareness of racial discrimination has circulated across the country, many are left wondering whether the words and actions that they are seeing in news reports are considered hate crimes or other types of criminal offenses. Many racial attacks that have occurred over the last several months have been targeted at Asian-Americans, and in many cases, this violence has been in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with some people falsely blaming Asians for the origin and spread of the virus. In fact, just a few weeks ago, a video was released of a violent attack in an Asian-owned beauty store in Houston. Some may be wondering whether violent crimes of this nature qualify as hate crimes.

Texas Hate Crime Laws Explained

Texas legislators took a strong stand against racial discrimination in 2001 after James Byrd, Jr. was violently killed by white supremacists in 1998. In response to the Black man’s death, previous state senator and now Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis pushed for sentencing enhancements for those found guilty of committing a hate crime. In other words, those who commit a hate crime will face increased jail time when compared to other crimes of that same magnitude. In order for an action to be considered a hate crime, one must prove that the person “acted out of bias towards the victim’s perceived color, race, religion, disability, national origin, gender, age, and/or sexual preference.

While proving that someone’s actions classify as a hate crime may seem like an easy task, this is more challenging than it often appears. According to ProPublica’s 2010-2015 analysis, there were 981 potential hate crime cases, and only five, or 0.5 percent, led to specific hate crime convictions. The reason it is so difficult? One must prove the intent of the person behind the crime. Pointing out that the statements or actions were discriminatory is often not enough to be convicted of a hate crime. Hate crime cases require the prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the intent behind the person’s actions was motivated by the victim’s protected status. 

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Dallas, TX DWI defense lawyer for breathalyzer testsWhen a police officer pulls someone over, they will often be looking to determine whether the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If an officer suspects that you are driving while intoxicated (DWI), he or she may ask you to submit to a few tests to determine your level of intoxication. But as a Texas driver, are you required to submit to such testing?

Types of Sobriety Tests

There are several different types of tests that police officers may ask a driver to take, including preliminary blood alcohol tests and field sobriety tests that are meant to gauge the driver’s balance, reaction time, and ability to drive safely. These tests may include:

  1. Nystagmus: This is often the first field sobriety test that officers will use, since it does not require the driver to get out of the vehicle or use any devices. The officer will place a pen in between the driver’s eyes, asking him or her to follow the pen with their eyes. This measures the driver’s ability to focus and follow directions.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney domestic abuse

Domestic violence has been a long-standing epidemic for American women and men, especially for Texans. In the past decade, awareness regarding sexual harassment and assault in the workplace has led to major changes when it comes to employee training and discipline, including for those in positions of power. One Texas legislator, in particular, has made it her priority not to just make these changes in the workplace, but also to help those who are victims in their own homes. In 2018 alone, there were 212,885 victims of family violence in Texas, not including the number of victims who go unreported. While 71.6 percent of these victims were female, men are also victims of domestic violence, but they often let this crime against them fly under the radar. Those guilty of domestic violence should undoubtedly be held accountable for their actions, but if you are facing false accusations, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help.

Proposed Bill Calls for Advocacy

Hairstylists, barbers, and cosmetologists work in an environment where their customers come to them with an intimate request--help me with my appearance--and are comfortable chatting about the details of their lives. While clients may only see these individuals every few weeks or months, they build a trusting relationship with them in which they update them on what is currently going on in their life. State Representative Ana Hernandez recognized the intimate role of these professionals; not only do they hear about their clients’ lives from an outside perspective, but they also get a close look at their clients’ bodies or faces while working on them. 

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Denton County criminal defense attorney human trafficking

Since the Biden administration came into power just two months ago, immigration policies have changed from the previous administration’s “build a wall” mentality. Trump declared a state of emergency at the border at the beginning of 2019 to impose stricter immigration policies and reduce the influx of illegal immigration and crime along the Texas-Mexico border. One of President Biden’s first actions in office was to end this policy and cut the famous Trump administration’s border wall funding. Since then, Texas has seen a sharp increase in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border. Many believe that human traffickers are helping migrants cross the border, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott intends on getting to the bottom of things.

Increasing Security to Protect Children

This past week, Gov. Abbott referred to the recent influx of unaccompanied minors along the Texas-Mexico border as a “humanitarian crisis.” These migrant numbers have increased so much that the Dallas convention center is being converted into a temporary shelter for these children. The converted convention center housing thousands of migrant children will allow these young kids and teens to socialize and exercise after experiencing incredible trauma. The governor requested access for the Texas Department of Public Safety officers to the children so that they can interview the kids about their experiences and try to identify human traffickers. Gov. Abbott is adamant in obtaining this information so that “America can combat these human traffickers and prevent other children from being victimized.” 

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Fort Worth criminal defense attorney drug trafficking

Drug trafficking is never a one-man operation. In some cases, the drug sales may be moving locally across various hands while in others the drug trafficking operation can span across the globe. A federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Texas indicted eight individuals for their illicit involvement in an international drug trafficking conspiracy. Only one of the people involved is actually from Texas despite the case happening in a Texas court. So why is the case taking place in the Lone Star State and what are the charges being made?

Texas As Home Base

Eight individuals, including 40-year-old Carlos Villaurrutia of McAllen, Texas, were charged with conspiracies to manufacture and distribute cocaine, commit money laundering, commit wire fraud, commit export violations, and commit federal registration violations involving an aircraft. According to the indictment, these eight people have been involved in approximately $350 million in alleged criminal offenses over the past five years. 

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Collin County criminal defense attorney sexual assault

No matter how much time has passed after a crime has been committed, new evidence can surface and bring the case back into the limelight. In some cases, improved technology can reveal a person’s true role in the crime, while in others, a larger budget can allow law enforcement to conduct a deeper dive into the evidence. Female sexual assault victims from Fort Worth may be on the brink of getting the justice that they deserve after movements were made this past week. But what if they have the wrong person? As the years go by, it can become increasingly difficult to remember your exact whereabouts and activity on the night the crime was committed, making your defense less and less foolproof.

Justice in Fort Worth

This past week, an alleged serial rapist was arrested for attacking women in 2010 and 2011 after detectives found a DNA match linking him to the crimes. Pedro Samarrippas has also been connected to another 2011 Fort Worth case, and detectives have room to believe that he may have more victims spread throughout Fort Worth. Samarrippas was arrested in late February on two warrants for sexual assault. These have remained cold cases until Texas Rangers recently received a grant that allowed them to conduct comparisons of unknown DNA through a database known as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). This database helped them link the unknown DNA to Samarrippas. These two sexual assault cases, in addition to another sexual assault that occurred in McAllen, Texas in 2002, all contained unknown matching DNA samples that led detectives to Samarrippas.  

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Collin County criminal defense attorney fraud

Although Texas is not often highlighted in the news for its snowstorms, the recent deadly snowstorms throughout the state placed the Lone Star State at the top of the news cycle. Many news outlets reported how a shortage of natural gas left Texans without power in the midst of freezing temperatures and non-stop snow. Coined “Winter Storm Uri,” the Texas snowstorm resulted in numerous tragedies, including one mother’s devastating story of losing her own mother and three children in a fire that was being used to keep them warm during the power outages. With conditions like these, one would think that the state would rally together, but unfortunately, the panic-induced conditions have led to reports of alleged white collar crimes.

Warnings from the FTC

You have likely received numerous unknown calls over the years in which the person on the other line pretends to be informing you of overdue charges, identity theft, and more. Typically, you can pick up on the recorded, robotic voice or notice that the information they are asking you for is financially related. But what about those times when you are caught off guard, such as during a statewide, devastating snowstorm? Last week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a warning about scammers targeting those without power due to the weather conditions. According to the warning, scammers often use these conditions to their advantage, knowing that you may have had your electricity, heat, or water turned off and pose as your utility company. The person on the other line may apologize for your loss of power and offer you a reimbursement for your most recent payment, first asking for your bank account information. You may also receive an email stating that there is an error in their system and that they need your personal information before turning on your gas again. You can also receive false threats that your utilities will be turned off if money is not sent over immediately. All of these scare tactics, especially in the midst of a statewide emergency, can be convincing enough to leave many desperate Texans with empty bank accounts.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney murder

The U.S. court system is meant to provide every person with a fair trial—everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty—but what happens when that system fails? What if the judge and jury’s verdict is not reflective of the truth? One Texas woman, and many others in the criminal justice system, have experienced this firsthand. She was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, and later suffered the consequences. For those who find themselves in this exact situation, is there a solution to save them from facing unwarranted penalties for criminal charges in Texas?

Rosa Jimenez Is Set Free

Rosa Jimenez spent the past 18 years behind bars for a crime she allegedly did not commit. After leaving her home in Mexico City for a better life in Austin at the age of 17, Jimenez found work as a babysitter to a 21-month-old child. The child choked on a wad of paper towels and died while in Jimenez’s care. Anyone who has a child knows that children put anything and everything in their mouth, leaving them at constant risk of choking hazards. Though Jimenez claims the child died accidentally, she was charged with murder and sentenced to 99 years imprisonment. She was not an inexperienced caregiver, as Jimenez is a mother of two, yet this accident left her life bound behind prison bars.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney weapons charges

Over the past 10 years, the state of Texas has seen seven mass shootings, which in the aftermath of the tragedy led to conversations from lawmakers about the state’s gun laws. In August 2019, the state was devastated by back-to-back shootings in El Paso and Odessa, the likes of which left 30 people dead and dozens more injured. According to reports from the Poynter Institute, over 3,000 people are killed with a gun each year in Texas. Citizens are divided over how gun control should be handled in the state, with 40-50 percent of University of Texas poll participants stating that they want stricter gun control throughout the state. With requests like these, one may be concerned that weapons charges may become more stringent yet Governor Greg Abbott begs to differ.

A Second Amendment Sanctuary

Over the past several weeks, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have met with state lawmakers and publicly expressed their willingness to consider at least one gun control proposal which could make it more challenging for Texans to buy firearms. Yet Gov. Abbott’s words during the first 2021 legislative session reveals different priorities. According to the governor, he believes that the state needs to “erect a complete barrier against any government official anywhere from treading on gun rights in Texas.” He did not mention last year’s deadly mass shootings in El Paso and Odessa, but following those tragedies, Gov. Abbott raised concerns about Texas laws that allow private gun sales between strangers without proper background checks. Additionally, he recommended several ideas on how to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not possess them, including banning “straw purchases.” These currently legal purchases allow someone to purchase a gun for another person. In regards to stranger-to-stranger sales, Gov. Abbott did not push for mandatory background checks, but rather suggested ways that the legislature could make it “easy, affordable, and beneficial for a private seller of firearms to voluntarily use background checks when selling firearms to strangers.” 

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Tarrant County criminal defense attorney drug possession

Policing and the criminal justice system has been under intense scrutiny over the past year. With tapes being released showing police brutality and mass gatherings protesting law enforcement tactics, many government officials have been forced to rethink how public safety is being reinforced. A recent article released by Chron reveals that a number of Texas counties are not prosecuting minor crimes. For some, this may seem like a red flag for a lack of public safety, while others may see this as a nod in the right direction for the criminal justice system.

Crimes That Will Not Get You Prosecuted

With the overcrowding of prisons and the high cost of the current criminal justice system, some Texas district attorneys are changing county policies in an attempt to reduce the jail population.  Chron reporting reveals four locations that have taken a more modern, laissez-faire approach to criminal justice and policing:

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Collin County criminal defense attorney

Mental illnesses are undoubtedly an epidemic that has plagued the United States for hundreds of years. Awareness surrounding mental health has surged over the past few decades, recognizing the devastating impact that a mental illness can have on one’s life. According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. The relationship between mental health and criminality has been under discussion as mass shootings are often attributed to the guilty party’s mental state. So, what happens if someone commits a crime and has a severe mental illness? On the opposing side, is mental illness being used as an excuse to keep people out of prison?

Incompetency to Stand Trial

Texas law recognizes that not everyone is of the proper mental state to stand trial. If the defendant’s attorney raises the question of incompetency to the court, there will be legal procedures followed to verify whether or not the claim has substance and avoid the possibility of incompetency being used as an excuse to avoid harsher criminal penalties. The court will begin by asking for evidence that incompetency is a factor in the case. If some form of evidence can be presented, the court will appoint their own experts to examine the defendant and report to the court on the competency or incompetency of the defendant. The person facing criminal charges can also be examined by an expert of his or her choice to verify the results found by the court-appointed professional.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney DWI

Since before the time you were legally able to get behind the wheel, you have likely been warned about the dangers of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Not only do drunk drivers place themselves at risk of injury, but they also put other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians in harm’s way. Intoxication levels are measured through one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and in Texas, one’s BAC must be below 0.08 percent to be considered under the legal limit. But what happens to those who injure another party because they decided to get behind the wheel drunk? Is the blame solely on their decision to drink, or can other parties be held responsible as well?

Holiday Party Gone Wrong

Unfortunately, drunk driving incidents increase throughout the holiday season. This is often attributed to tipsy party guests making the decision to get behind the wheel rather than staying the night or calling a friend for a ride home. This instance hit close to home for a number of families this past Christmas Eve. Teenage brothers from Lewisville became victims to a drunk driver while walking home with friends on Dec. 24, 2020. Hayden, 18, and Grayson, 12, were struck by an out-of-control vehicle. Grayson made it out alive with serious injuries, but Hayden died at the scene. The driver was arrested on charges of intoxication manslaughter and intoxication assault. Depending on the details of the drunk driver’s night, there may have been additional parties to blame.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney child neglect

You may think that there is a clear line between child neglect and a more laissez-faire approach to parenting. When you imagine parents being charged with neglect and abandonment, you picture a child at home alone for days, struggling to care for himself or herself. The parents that you might picture in your head are risking their child’s safety to sustain their substance addiction. While this is, unfortunately, a common reality for those facing child neglect charges in Texas, others may be facing such charges based on their hands-off approach to caring for their child. Also known as “free-range parenting,” there is debate about whether or not this relaxed parenting style makes children more independent or places kids in harm’s way.

Free-Range Parenting Explained

In 2018, Utah passed a law that addressed different parenting styles and set a line for what is considered free-range parenting and what is considered neglect and abandonment. In the age of smartphones, parents have constant contact with their children, either through text message updates or actually tracking their child’s location. Many argue that this is a blessing and allows parents to fully protect their children in a way that was unavailable to previous generations. Others, however, believe that this constant contact and watchfulness can stunt kids’ individuality and ability to navigate the world on their own. Advocate Lenore Skenazy started the movement almost a decade ago after she allowed her 9-year-old son to ride the New York City subway by himself. Since then, Utah passed the country’s first law to legalize this form of parenting to give children the freedom to do things on their own, with their parents’ permission. This includes activities such as exploring a playground, riding a bike to school, or allowing your child to remain home alone at a young age without a parent’s supervision. Some view this type of parenting as a nod to “the olden days” while others see it as the failure to protect your child. Texas does not have such a law in place, leaving some of these more radically viewed parental decisions up to the court’s discretion.

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Fort Worth criminal defense attorney weapons charges

Weapon laws have been under scrutiny for the past decade, as mass shootings have increased in the United States. Those on the left-wing feel as if guns should be more severely regulated, if allowed at all, whereas those on the right-wing feel strongly about maintaining their Second Amendment rights, arguing that they feel safer with a gun in their hands. Texas is regarded as one of the more conservative states in the country, and the state’s gun rights follow suit. Despite having more relaxed gun laws, the state still has regulations on how weapons can be sold and who is able to purchase them. Because of these regulations, one man’s hobby landed him two years in prison.

An Illegal Sale Leads to Disaster

Marcus Braziel was sentenced to two years behind bars in a Lubbock, TX courtroom at the beginning of the new year. Inside the courtroom, Sharon Griffith showed a picture of her son, a man who was killed at a mass shooting in Midland and Odessa in August 2019. Though Braziel was not the man who shot Griffith’s son, the gunman used an assault rifle that was sold to him by Braziel back in 2016. Braziel admitted to dealing and manufacturing firearms without a license in addition to filing false tax returns.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney drug trafficking

Young, college-age kids are notorious for pushing the envelope. Whether that involves going against their parents’ wishes, drinking underage, or trying illegal substances, one defiant action can quickly lead to a series of poor decisions. Drinking under the age of 21 can also result in a driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge depending on the circumstances, and trying a single drug can often result in a life riddled by drug crimes. Those involved in drug rings recognize young adults’ willingness to try drugs and the likelihood of them getting hooked on these substances. With this in mind, many will target college-age kids to create regular customers of their products, many of which are not the drug that they think they are.

UT Students at Risk

In early December, authorities busted a drug trafficking operation that targeted the University of Texas (UT) students. At least 13 people were charged in connection with the scheme, including current and former UT students. Authorities reported that the drug ring sold counterfeit prescription drugs, claimed to be Adderall and Xanax, to students that were laced with methamphetamine and fentanyl. Adderall and Xanax are regulated and legitimate prescription medications that many students will purchase in the hopes that they will improve their studying and focus before major assignments or exams. Purchasing these drugs without a prescription is a crime in and of itself, but finding out that the regulated, FDA-approved medication is laced with dangerous substances was not what the students signed up for.

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Collin County criminal defense attorney sex crimes

For the past two academic semesters, students across the country have alternated between in-person and virtual learning formats in an attempt to keep students and their families safe from contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. Each state was presented with the ability to dictate their educational systems’ future for the fall semester, some returning to the classroom, others remaining fully remote, and even more states selecting a hybrid platform. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath required all schools in the state to open their doors to those who would like to return to the classroom while also being prepared for remote teaching for students who opt to remain at home.

These unprecedented changes to Texas classrooms have made things more challenging for teachers, students, and their families. Additionally, the dual academic options have made regulating students’ progress and teachers’ work increasingly difficult. As is the unfortunate case each year, inappropriate teacher-student relationships can continue to occur during this unique academic year. Teachers and students have an even greater virtual connection than ever before, making it easier for such relationships—and false accusations—to flourish. 

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Collin County criminal defense attorney assault

Since the conclusion of voting for the 2020 presidential election in early November, many Americans have questioned the validity of the results. The majority of suspicions come from conservative voters, and as Texas is dubbed a red state, many Texas legislators have voiced their doubts. This past Monday, the Electoral College affirmed former Vice President Joe Biden’s triumph in the 2020 election, but the 38 electors from the state of Texas provided their votes for President Donald Trump and encouraged swing state legislatures to appoint their own electors. Texas lawmakers are not the only ones taking charge in regards to voter fraud allegations, as one ex-cop took matters into his own hands.

Former Houston Police Captain Arrested

This past Tuesday, a former Houston police captain was arrested for allegedly running an air-conditioner repairman off the road and threatening him at gunpoint. In response to an unsubstantiated voter-fraud conspiracy theory, suspect Mark Anthony Aguirre was involved in a project to find evidence of voter fraud in Harris County. Aguirre was paid $266,400 by activist Steven Hotze, leader of the group Liberty Center for God and Country, to help the group investigate voter fraud in the county. According to Aguirre, he threatened a man who he believed was in charge of a slew of forged election ballots. At this time, there is no evidence that the man who Aguirre threatened was involved in a fraud scheme of any kind. 

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Collin County criminal defense attorney homicide

It is no secret that violent crime is more prevalent in urban areas, and Dallas is no exception. After seven fatal shootings occurred in the city in mid-November, Gov. Greg Abbott saw an urgent need for additional protection for Dallas residents. The city has surpassed its homicide count from 2019, with 220 homicides recorded in this year alone. In order to keep this number from rising as the year comes to a close, Governor Abbott has sent state police into the city for added protection. This is not the first time the governor has opted for these additional measures, and due to past experiences, not all Dallas residents agree with the governor’s tactic for combating crime. 

Operation D-Town

In June 2019, Dallas saw a similar spike in murders and violent crimes, and in response, Gov. Abbott deployed the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) into the city to assist the Dallas Police Department in their policing efforts. According to reports from Dallas police, the targeted areas saw a significant drop in violent crimes just two months into the operation. Even with the reduction in crime, a number of residents and community officials claimed that DPS did more harm than good.

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Fort Worth criminal defense attorney

As the last few months of 2020 begin to come to a close, everyone’s sights are set on 2021. This year has been historic, to say the least, with an international pandemic, racial protests across the United States, and a presidential election all happening in a matter of 12 months. With an eventful year like this one, it is no wonder that everyone is looking forward, Texas lawmakers included. The 87th Texas Legislature will not begin their next session until January; however, state lawmakers are already filing their legislative proposals for 2021, some of which touch on criminal law.

Looking Ahead With New Laws

On just the first day in which Texas lawmakers were able to file legislation, over 450 bills were filed in the House and Senate. According to reports from the Texas Tribune, an anticipated 1,000+ bills will be submitted during the legislative session, but only a few will be seen by the governor’s eyes. This session will be especially tough for lawmakers as COVID-19 leaves billions of dollars of shortfalls in its wake. Despite this, Texas legislators have forged ahead by proposing the following notable bills:

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Collin County criminal defense attorney

According to the Fourth Amendment, Americans have the right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. In other words, if an officer shows up at your home without a search warrant, or pulls you over and asks to take a look in your car, you are legally allowed to deny the search until a proper search warrant is present. A recent Texas case, however, may put the limits of this protection in question for those individuals who are facing criminal charges.  

Stopped for Speeding, Arrested for Drugs

In early November, two Austin residents were pulled over for a routine traffic stop after they were allegedly found speeding on US HWY 87. According to reports from local station San Angelo LIVE, couple Andrew Garlinghouse and Lee French-Todd provided their driver’s licenses to the police officer upon request. After noting Garlinghouse was acting “suspicious and very nervous” during the traffic stop, the officer was denied his request to search the vehicle. The law enforcement officer suspected additional criminal activity going on due to Garlinghouse’s refusal and visible discomfort, so he called a K-9 unit to the scene to check the vehicle for illicit drugs. During the search, the officer recovered several bags of methamphetamine, small baggies, a scale, Adderall, and Xanax from the couple’s vehicle. The two individuals were then arrested on multiple drug charges.

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