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Coral Gables Drug Trafficking Attorney

Expert federal drug defense lawyers for serious criminal charges

Both Florida and the federal government have dedicated significant portions of their legal codes to drug-related offenses. Drug trafficking is among the most severely penalized drug crimes under state and federal law. Federal drug crimes defendants may be sentenced to years in prison if convicted. Many drug-related offenses are also eligible for enhanced sentencing if aggravating circumstances are present in the defendant’s case. Always consult with a Coral Gables drug trafficking defense lawyer as soon as you suspect you’re under investigation.

Major drug crimes in South Florida

South Florida’s geography makes the region an attractive hub for drug traffickers and other criminal organizations. From the sunshine state, the island nations of the Caribbean are just a short flight or boat ride away. The countries in Central America are in relatively close proximity. Getting to the South American coast can also be done with relative ease from the Sunshine State.

Just as Florida’s location is strategically advantageous for legitimate businesses that have operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, the state’s geographic location and extensive coastline offers advantages to drug organizations. South Florida is accessible to several of the countries that are strategically important for international drug producers and traffickers. Once the illegal drugs enter the U.S. through Florida, traffickers leverage the state’s transportation infrastructure. Drug organizations use Miami’s international airport and Florida’s extensive highway system to move drugs into other major cities throughout the eastern half of the United States.

Drug trafficking offense under Florida law

Drug trafficking cases may be prosecuted in federal and state court. Because each court system operates independently, an individual who faces charges at both levels may be sentenced two times for the same offense without violating the Constitution’s double jeopardy clause. Florida law defines drug trafficking in two ways. The first definition is based on the act of knowingly selling, purchasing, manufacturing, delivering, or bringing a controlled substance into the state. The second permissible definition of drug trafficking only requires that the accused party knowingly had active or constructive possession of a controlled substance in a statutorily-specified minimum quantity. In other words, you can be convicted for drug trafficking if you merely possessed an illegal narcotic in a quantity that is large enough to trigger the trafficking statute. If you are caught with the minimum quantity of a controlled substance, the state drug trafficking law does not require prosecutors to prove you were selling, purchasing, manufacturing, or transporting the drug.

Florida drug trafficking minimum quantities

Florida’s drug trafficking laws specifically categorize different drugs according to their potential for abuse, likelihood of causing physical dependency, and documented medical purposes for which the drug is officially used. The law assigns penalties based on each drug’s category. Below are some of the minimum quantities of different substances for Florida drug trafficking cases:

  • Cocaine – 28 grams
  • Fentanyl – 4 grams
  • Oxycodone – 4 grams
  • Heroin – 4 grams
  • Morphine – 4 grams
  • Opium – 4 grams
  • Hydrocodone – 4 grams
  • Amphetamines – 14 grams
  • MDMA/Ecstasy – 10 grams
  • LSD – 1 gram
  • Methaqualone – 200 grams
  • GHB (date rape drug) – 1 kilogram

Lack of intent is typically not a defense in Florida drug trafficking cases. However, your Coral Gables drug trafficking defense lawyer may be able to challenge the charges against you based on other grounds.

Just Arrested in Coral Gables?
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.

Mandatory minimum sentences in Coral Gables drug trafficking cases

During the “War on Drugs” of the 1980s and 1990s, Florida’s legislature focused intently on imposing stiff penalties in drug-related cases and enacted mandatory minimum sentencing. Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines require sentencing courts to impose a minimum penalty if a defendant is convicted for certain felony drug-related offenses. Florida’s minimum sentencing guidelines for drug crimes have come under scrutiny because critics argue the penalties are too severe as they take away discretion from sentencing judges. Courts are unable to review evidence of the defendant’s character if the defendant has been convicted for a crime that carries a mandatory minimum sentence. In some cases, someone who engaged in drug trafficking may be convicted years after turning over a new leaf and becoming a pillar of the community.

There are some situations in which a federal defense attorney in Coral Gables may argue for a court to depart from the mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. In order to grant a downward sentencing departure, the court must find a qualifying mitigating circumstance. Some example of mitigating circumstances that support downward departure include:

  • the departure was the result of a legitimate, uncoerced plea bargain
  • the defendant was an accomplice and played a relatively minor role in the crime
  • the defendant lacked the capacity to appreciate the criminal nature of the offense
  • the defendant requires mental health treatment and is receptive to receiving treatment
  • the victim was compensated before the identity of the defendant was revealed
  • the defendant cooperated with the state to resolve the present offense or any other offense
  • the defendant should be sentenced as a youthful offender
  • the defendant was severely coerced by someone else

Your Coral Gables defense lawyer will determine whether there are grounds for a downward departure in your case. If your case qualifies for downward departure, a Florida court may grant you a reduction in sentencing.

Crimes related to drug trafficking

People who are accused of a drug trafficking charge also typically face related charges. Drug possession, manufacturing, and distribution are charges that commonly overlap in Florida drug trafficking cases. The differences between these offenses can sometimes be very subtle, depending on the facts of a defendant’s case.

CORAL GABLES DRUG POSSESSION CHARGE

Drug possession is a standalone offense, and it is an element in more severe drug offenses. If prosecutors are unable to prove all of the elements of drug trafficking, they may be able to prove the lesser charge of drug possession. Therefore, an individual who is accused of drug trafficking will also likely be charged with possession.

Florida law recognizes two different ways in which an individual may illegally possess a drug. Active possession occurs when someone tangibly has the drug on his or her body, in hand, inside clothing, or within reach. Constructive possession refers to situations in which someone may not be physically touching the drug, but he or she is aware that the drug is in his or her presence and has the ability to take control of the drug.

Depending on the substance involved, possession may be a misdemeanor or third degree felony offense. Individuals who have prior drug convictions may be sentenced more severely than first-time offenders.

DRUG MANUFACTURING OFFENSE

Florida classifies the manufacturing or cultivation of a controlled substance as a federal offense. An individual may be charged with drug manufacturing under state law if he or she does any of the following with a controlled substance:

  • produces
  • prepares
  • propagates
  • compounds
  • cultivates
  • grows
  • converts
  • processes

Similar to drug trafficking penalties, drug manufacturing charges carry mandatory minimum sentencing. Depending on the controlled substance, a defendant who is convicted on a manufacturing charge may be sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison and a $50,000 fine up to life in prison and a fine of up to $750,000 for very large quantities of drugs.

In addition to the people who manufacture or cultivate drugs, individuals who own property where drugs are manufactured or grown may also face criminal charges. Florida law prohibits owning, renting, leasing, or possessing a property for the purpose of manufacturing illicit substances. Owning, renting, leasing a place or structure with knowledge that the structure is being used for drug manufacturing is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. An individual who knowingly possesses a property for the purpose of manufacturing drugs may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and fined up to $10,000. Possessing a place, conveyance, or structure for the purpose of drug manufacturing is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine if a minor is present on the premises.  Courts may also enhance sentencing if a defendant is convicted for manufacturing a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a protected space such as:

  • a childcare facility
  • a school
  • a park
  • a public recreational facility
  • a place of worship
  • a public housing facility
  • an assisted living facility

ILLEGAL DRUG DISTRIBUTION

A drug distribution charge mainly differs from a drug trafficking charge in the defendant’s intent to sell or otherwise distribute the drugs. Drug trafficking charges are primarily based on the quantity of the drug the defendant possessed. In contrast, a distribution charge requires the state to provide evidence of the defendant’s intent to transfer the drugs to someone else. Evidence of the intent to distribute may include:

  • The presence of a scale to weigh the drugs
  • The presence of small plastic bags for packaging the drugs
  • The presence of large amounts of cash stored in a manner that suggests it came from drug transactions

If the defendant wasn’t observed engaging in drug distribution, the prosecution may charge the individual with conspiracy to distribute drugs. Individuals may be charged with conspiracy if they agree to sell drugs even if the transaction never takes place.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG CRIMES IN CORAL GABLES

Florida was once notorious for illegal prescription drugs. The state’s “pill mills” were popular among people who were looking to sell prescription drugs as well as individuals who had an addiction. In response, Florida’s legislature enacted tougher laws against prescription drug-related offenses.

In Florida, an individual can be prosecuted for possessing a prescription he or she did not receive through a legal prescription from a doctor. If convicted for illegally possessing a prescription, a defendant may be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail and fined up to $500. If the prosecution proves the defendant intended to use the prescription as part of a scheme to sell drugs, the defendant may be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined a maximum of $5,000. In addition to being charged for possessing an illegal position, the individual may also be charged for engaging in fraudulent activity to obtain the prescription.

How law enforcement in Coral Gables investigates drug trafficking

Law enforcement agencies often take months or even years to investigate large-scale drug operations. One or more officers may go undercover and pose as drug operatives with the objective of getting to know the key players in a drug operation. When the law enforcement agency gathers enough evidence, the police will generally obtain a search warrant and raid one or more properties the drug organization occupies. When a raid occurs, anyone who appears to have a connection with the drug-related activity may be arrested and eventually charged.

Sometimes, law enforcement agencies do not always follow the laws when conducting a raid and seizing evidence. In other instances, an officer may induce someone to engage in criminal activity by being deceptive. A Coral Gables drug trafficking attorney can determine the legality of the evidence the state has against you.

Contacting a Coral Gables drug trafficking defense lawyer

Drug trafficking charges should always be taken seriously. Whether you are under investigation or if you have already been charged with a drug offense, contact a Coral Gables criminal defense lawyer. Joffe Law represents individuals who are facing federal and state charges. Call our team of legal professionals today to receive a case evaluation.


FAQs Regarding Drug Trafficking

What should I do if the police ask to search my property?

If a law enforcement officer does not have a search warrant, politely decline and contact your criminal defense attorney.

Do police officers require probable cause to conduct a traffic stop and search for drugs?

Yes. If you suspect you may have experienced an illegal traffic stop, contact an attorney to discuss your case.

Is it best to accept a plea bargain?

Always speak to retain counsel and speak to your federal defense attorney before accepting a plea deal. Your lawyer can possibly negotiate a better deal on your behalf or advise you if it is better to take your case to trial.

What happens if the state is unable to prove its case?

If the state lacks sufficient evidence to prove the charges against you, the state will drop the charges, or you may be acquitted at trial. In some cases, your attorney can file a motion to have the case dismissed.

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