Court Decision Hinders Fight Against Drugs
The drug problem and the fight against it in Wetzel County is so large and varied that there is not a simple solution. One person who knows this all too well is Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught.
As the county’s prosecutor it is ultimately his job to get a conviction against drug offenders based on information provided by law enforcement investigations.
While some comments at recent meetings of the Citizens Against Prescription Drug Abuse have pointed to inadequate prosecution or police work, there is no one place to point fingers in this war, there can only be unity in the fight.
Haught says that is exactly what is happening in the law enforcement and prosecution area of this problem. While the county does not have a defined drug task force, he says they do have a commitment to spend as much time as they can working on the fight against drugs.
Haught is starting his 10th year as Wetzel County’s prosecuting attorney. According to his figures for the county, Haught has prosecuted more drug cases than in the last 50 years and sent more to prison than in the last 25 to 30 years. “Not everybody involved in drugs is going to prison, but some of them are,” he said.
Unfortunately he said the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals put a major roadblock in the journey to conviction with its decision in State of West Virginia versus Eddie Mullens that was submitted on Nov. 14, 2006, and filed Feb. 28, 2007.
The decision signed by then Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis makes it “a violation of West Virginia Constitution for police to invade the privacy and sanctity of a person’s home by employing an informant to surreptitiously use an electronic surveillance device to record matters occurring in that person’s home without first obtaining a duly authorized court order.” Then Justice Elliott “Spike” Maynard and now Chief Justice Brent D. Benjamin dissented in the opinion.
The decision curtails law enforcement’s ability to electronically monitor drug transactions.
“As a result of that decision we had to throw about 20 cases out,” lamented Haught. He says West Virginia is in the minority as only three other states have such a strict law on undercover surveillance.
The public can help law enforcement in their fight by being willing to put their name on an affidavit and search warrant. “We can’t act on anonymous tips,” said Haught. “We have to have probable cause.”
“Do you want to live your life as a coward or do you want to stand up and do something?” Haught asked those at the November meeting of the CAPDA.
Haught believes part of the blame should rest on parents, primarily those who don’t call law enforcement when their children are involved. “They think they’re protecting their children, but what they’re doing is enabling them,” he said.
“If my kid is using drugs, it’s my fault. I have failed as a parent if my kid is using drugs,” stated Haught.
Many people lament that there aren’t adequate drug rehabilitation programs available. “If you have somebody on drugs, I can get them on a program,” said Haught, who added that it may be necessary to follow a legal path to get there. “We have to get them into the system to be able to do that (send a juvenile to an out of state facility). It won’t cost their parents a dime.”
If anyone has any questions or concerns, Haught encourages them to call him at 304-455-8220.
“Law enforcement is trying to do something about this. What we really need is for people to become part of the solution-to really step forward and work on solving it,” said Haught. “What we really need here is some action.”
The next meeting of the Citizens Against Prescription Drug Abuse will be held Jan. 11, 6 p.m., in the New Martinsville City Building.