Brittney Griner is home but why we should not have an issue with her arrest. It was legal ..even in this country!
WNBA all-star, Brittney Griner, is home after spending nearly 10 months in a Russian jail. A Russian court actually sentenced her to 9 years in prison for her illegal possession of marijuana. While many agued that her sentence was harsh, the laws everywhere are different especially when it comes to the United States and Russia. This is the chance you take when you travel abroad with contraband and should serve as a strong reminder to anyone considering it!
Legal experts referred to the Griner’s Russian court proceeding as a “show trial” but in reality, Griner had few, if any defenses to this crime—even if it had occurred in this country!
Griner pled guilty to the drug charge apparently to expedite her release but had she proceeded to trial, she would have likely been convicted anyway. Pleading guilty often provides mitigation for a reduced sentence as the accused has accepted responsibility and saved the government the time and expense of a trial. It is unknown, however, if this was a good legal strategy given her 9 year prison sentence. Pleading
The airport search of Griner’s luggage was legal….even in the US
Griner was stopped at the airport and not the even the U.S. justice system provides the right against illegal search and seizure for most airport searches. In many illegal narcotic cases, a motion to Suppress evidence based on a person’s constitutional right against illegal search and seizure is the best defense tool!
To have a “search” under the meaning of the 4th Amendment, a person must have “reasonable expectation of privacy”. The expectation of privacy, however, differs depending on the situation. Commercial passengers, like Brittney Griner also have less of an expectation of privacy. Passengers must surrender certain constitutional rights to exercise the right to ride on an airplane or any commercial means of transportation.
For security purposes, the U.S. government has a “compelling interest” to perform administrative searches of individuals that may otherwise be unconstitutional in other settings, such as a person’s home, place of business or in their personal vehicle.
With that said, a government is able to perform administrative searches of law-abiding citizens and other passengers which would otherwise be deemed unconstitutional any place else in the country. Under federal law, all passengers must submit to a search of their belongings and their person. In addition, all commercial passengers are subject to “for cause searches”.
Marijuana and Drugs in Russia
Unlike the U.S., Russia has some of the toughest narcotic laws in the world. Russia imprisons more people per capita for drug crimes than the rest of Europe. In addition, marijuana remains illegal for recreational and medical purposes, unlike the U.S. States, where is has been widely decriminalized and in some cases legalized as in states like New Jersey.
While there is no indication of the exact amount that Griner had allegedly in possession at the time of her arrest, Russian law indicates that less than six (6) grams of marijuana is punishable by fifteen (15) days of detention. At this point, Griner has been in custody since February 17th, so it appears that the amount she allegedly had in her possession was well over that amount.
Six (6) grams or more of marijuana (cannabis) is considered a large amount and more than a hundred (100) grams is considered “and exceptional large amount”. Anything over six (6) grams in Russia can result in a long prison sentence. While anything less than six (6) grams is more or less a fine and a short-term jail sentence. Russia does not permit medical marijuana and it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon.
Did the US make a good deal?
The short answer is no. Russia, however, had substantial leverage over the US given Griner’s celebrity status and sports media support. The Biden administration was under pressure to get her home. While retired Marine Paul Whelan remains in Russia, after 4 years in prison, there was less pressure put on his release. This isn’t right but it is reality. It was a lopsided trade as Viktor is a notorious convicted arms dealer but it was the only way to get Griner out. Bout was serving a 25-year sentence for selling millions of dollars in weapons that said were to be used against Americans.
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