Florida is considered one of the stricter states for drug offenses. Many drug charges can be prosecuted as felony or a misdemeanor. Different factors affect how drug crimes are prosecuted but, in general, the larger the amount of an illicit substance involved in the charge, the more likely the defendant will be charged with a felony. If large amounts of certain drugs are involved, possession can sometimes be charged as a felony. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney may be helpful in assisting you through these processes. The attorneys at Apfelbaum Law may be able to assist you with your criminal matter.
Drug Trafficking is the intentional purchase, sale, manufacture, delivery, possession, or transportation of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS) in excess of certain statutory limits, which vary depending on the particular CDS. Drug trafficking is often prosecuted as a felony. Sentences range from a minimum of three years in prison and a fine of $50,000, to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Even if you aren’t selling the CDS, if you have more than the limit you can still be charged with trafficking.
Often, drug felonies carry mandatory sentences under Florida and Federal law. Depending on the drug and the amount involved in the alleged crime, a mandatory sentence can be as much as 25 years plus a six-figure fine. Because of the harsh potential punishments, it’s important to seek the help of a qualified Florida drug crimes attorney.
Defenses to Drug Trafficking Charges
Your criminal defense attorney will discuss your defense options with you. The right strategy will depend on your specific circumstances and the details of the case. Here are some common strategies that you and your lawyer might consider:
Under the U.S. Constitution, you have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures of your person and property. This means the actions of law enforcement are restricted, so they can’t just search any person or private property—like a home, business, or vehicle—in the hopes of finding illegal substances.
If law enforcement abused their constitutional authority in securing evidence against you, that evidence has been obtained illegally and should be subject to suppression by the court. If you and your Florida criminal attorney decide to challenge the constitutionality of law enforcement’s actions, your lawyer will file a motion to suppress the illegally obtained evidence. Without this illegally obtained evidence, the State may no longer be able to prosecute your case.
Law enforcement officers sometimes conduct sting operations or use confidential informants. There are specific rules they need to follow in these situations. Sometimes, the police go too far and coerce a person into committing a crime they wouldn’t have otherwise. The legal term for this is entrapment. An experienced, qualified criminal attorney may give you the best chance to access this or other available defenses.
Most instances, a person younger than 21 may be eligible to receive a lighter sentence. Youthful offender sentencing is available for crimes that are not punishable by life, for individuals who have not reached the age of 21 at the time of their sentencing. This option may be available only once in a person’s lifetime.
If a defendant qualifies, and the judge agrees to sentence the person as a youthful offender, the judge may disregard the minimum mandatory sentence for trafficking illegal drugs in Florida. It’s important to remember that deciding to sentence someone as a youthful offender is entirely up to the judge.
In some situations, a defendant may be able to have their sentence reduced by providing “substantial assistance” to law enforcement. Substantial assistance means working for law enforcement as a confidential informant or “snitch” to help the police arrest others. While there may be personal fears, many defendants don’t want to help the authorities arrest their friends, family, or acquaintances. Unfortunately, it is sometimes the only way to guarantee the defendant won’t go to prison.
When a defendant decides to provide substantial assistance to law enforcement, their lawyer will arrange a meeting for the client to talk to the police and “proffer” the information they have. Law enforcement and the office of the state attorney will then decide whether or not they’re interested in making a deal.
If they are interested, the defendant will be given a substantial assistance agreement, or contract, to sign. This document should explain in detail what is expected of the defendant. Usually, it will specify a certain sentence if a defendant aids the police with a certain amount of arrests or prosecutions, and the more the defendant provides, the lighter the sentence.
If you need assistance with your drug felony case, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida.