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Key Biscayne Drug Trafficking Attorney

Expert defense lawyer for federal drug crime charges

Drug trafficking is heavily penalized under state and federal law. South Florida has become notorious for the widespread drug activity that happens in plain sight and away from the public eye. In response to the high rate of drug activity throughout the state, Florida’s legislature has enacted some of the strictest drug laws in the U.S. Not only can people who are involved in drug crimes be charged under state law, but many drug offenses are also within the federal government’s jurisdiction. Key Biscayne drug trafficking lawyer David J. Joffe represents defendants who have been accused of serious federal drug charges in South Florida

South Florida as a major drug trafficking hub

There are several characteristics that make Florida, and particularly South Florida, an attractive location for drug trafficking. First, the state’s extensive coastline offers numerous points of entry for smugglers who want to transport drugs by sea. A close proximity to South America and the island nations of the Caribbean make for a short trip from production and transit countries in the illegal drug trade. With more than one million registered boats in the state, drug organizations can inconspicuously hide drugs inside secret watercraft panels. Once inside the U.S. Florida’s infrastructure makes quick work of distributing illegal drugs throughout the Eastern United States by using interstate highways and international airports.

Even South Florida’s diversity of immigrant communities offer advantages to drug organizations. These groups often target immigrants when recruiting people to smuggle drugs and cash across international borders.

Controlled substances under state and federal law

The federal Controlled Substance Act organizes controlled substances into a schedule. In the schedule, controlled substances are categorized according to their potential for abuse, the risk of becoming addicted, and known medical uses. Florida’s statutes also include a schedule of controlled substances that mirrors the federal schedule. Each illegal controlled substance listed in the federal and state drug schedules has a minimum quantity that meets the definition of drug trafficking under state and federal law respectively.

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Drug possession law in Florida

Drug possession is an element in more severely penalized offenses like drug trafficking, and possession is also a standalone offense. Prosecutors will charge defendants with possession along with other offenses that have possession as an element. In the event that the prosecutor is unable to prove the more severe offense, the state may still convict the defendant for possession if the prosecutor proves all of the elements of possession.

A defendant may be convicted for possessing an illegal controlled substance if he or she actively or constructively possesses the illegal substance. Active possession occurs if the defendant:

  • has the illegal controlled substance in a pocket in the defendant’s clothing
  • has the illegal controlled substance in a purse, wallet, backpack, or other accessory worn on the defendant’s body
  • has the illegal controlled substance stored directly on the defendant’s body
  • has the illegal controlled substance within the defendant’s reach

Constructive possession occurs if the illegal substance is located in an area over which the defendant exercises control. Some examples of constructive possession include:

  • storing the illegal substance in an assigned locker
  • storing the illegal substance in a private storage unit
  • storing the illegal substance in a personal closet at home
  • storing the illegal substance in the trunk of the defendant’s personal vehicle

In many cases, a drug trafficking attorney can challenge whether the defendant knowingly possessed the controlled substance. A possession charge may seem simple, but the consequences can impact your freedom and your future. We recommend retaining an experienced Key Biscayne federal criminal defense lawyer who specializes in drug crimes if you have been charged with possession.

The penalty for drug trafficking varies depending on the controlled substance and other related factors. Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana is a first-degree misdemeanor, which has a maximum sentence of 11 months and 29 days in jail. The presence of an aggravating factor can enhance a misdemeanor marijuana charge to a felony offense. In contrast, possession of other illegal controlled substances like cocaine are automatically felony offenses.

Drug trafficking under Florida law

Drug traffickers are typically the parties who supply people who sell drugs. Therefore, drug traffickers are more likely to be caught in possession of a large quantity of a controlled substance. Some of the minimum quantities for drug trafficking are:

  • at least 25 pounds of cannabis or 300 plants
  • at least 25 grams of cocaine
  • at least 14 grams of amphetamine
  • at least 200 grams of methaqualone
  • at least 1 kilogram of GHB
  • at least 4 grams of oxycodone
  • at least 4 grams of fentanyl
  • at least 4 grams of hydrocodone
  • at least 1 gram of LSD

Individuals who are caught with a quantity of an illegal controlled substance that is greater than or equal to the minimum threshold may be charged and convicted for drug trafficking. Prosecutors are not required to prove the defendant was engaged in selling or physically moving the drugs.

Drug distribution in Key Biscayne

Drug distribution and trafficking may seem like they are the same offense. However, there are subtle differences between the two crimes. A trafficking offense focuses more on the quantity of an illegal drug a defendant possesses whereas distribution focuses on the movement of the drug. Prosecutors may charge a defendant for drug distribution even if he or she is not in possession of the minimum threshold quantity. Prosecutors may use the presence of signs that suggest the defendant was either in the process of selling the controlled substance or otherwise planning to sell the drug. Signs that suggest drug trafficking include, but are not limited to the presence of:

  • a scale that may be used to measure the drugs
  • small plastic bags that may be used to package the drugs for individual sale large quantities of cash located near the drugs
  • a contact list located near the drugs
  • a firearm located in close proximity to a large quantity of drugs

Some signs of drug distribution are more open to interpretation than others. Your Key Biscayne defense attorney can challenge the state’s argument that you had the intent to distribute drugs.

Drug manufacturing

Florida law defines the manufacturing of a drug as the creation or intent to create an illegal controlled substance in a quantity that is greater than one would possess for personal use. The law against manufacturing also includes cultivation of drugs and illegal raw materials that are used to produce illegal drugs. An individual may be convicted for manufacturing even if he or she was not observed to have been in the process of manufacturing illegal drugs. Prosecutors are only required to prove the defendant had the intent to manufacture an illegal substance. Owning the tools one would need to manufacture illegal drugs is generally enough for a Florida court to convict a defendant for manufacturing drugs.

Drug-free zones in Florida

Florida law identifies drug-free zones. If a defendant is accused of engaging in illegal drug-related activity in a drug-free zone, the court may enhance sentencing. Some examples of drug-free zones are:

  • primary schools
  • colleges and universities
  • daycare centers
  • senior centers
  • places of worship
  • 24-hour convenience stores
  • convenience stores that also sell groceries

State law prohibits engaging in illegal drug-related activity within 1,000 feet of a drug-free zone. Some places are only drug-free zones during certain hours. For example, Florida schools are drug-free zones between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight. Therefore, a defendant who engaged in drug-free activity near a school outside of drug-free zone hours may not be subjected to enhanced sentencing.

Illegal prescription drug activity in Florida

Several years ago, Florida was known as a place where people could go to easily purchase prescription drugs for illegal purposes. People who were addicted to opioids and those who sold prescription drugs would visit the state’s pain clinics, which were also known as “pill mills,” for easy access to otherwise tightly regulated drugs. In response, Florida’s legislature enacted stricter laws against the illegal possession and distribution of prescription drugs.

HOW PEOPLE ILLEGALLY OBTAIN PRESCRIPTION DRUGS

A change in state law may have helped curb illegal prescription drug activity. However, people naturally sought other means of getting illegal access to prescription drugs. Today, doctor shopping is one of the most common ways of getting larger quantities of prescription drugs that are tightly regulated. Doctor shopping occurs when an individual visits multiple doctors and conceals the fact that he or she has already received a prescription for a drug to which doctors limit access. Individuals who engage in doctor shopping may use fake names and other means of deception to prevent doctors from finding records of previously prescribed drugs.

Stealing prescription pads remains a popular way of ordering original quantities and getting refills of heavily regulated drugs. Once the individual has stolen the prescription pad, he or she will forge a prescription by using a fake signature. In some cases, individuals may find prescriptions that have already been filled out. The individual will engage in forgery by altering the information that is already on the prescription.

Similar to stealing prescription pads, impersonating a medical professional for the purpose of calling in a prescription over the phone is another version of prescription fraud. Instead of providing the phone number to a medical center, the fraudster will provide his or her own contact details as the callback number.

POSSESSION OF A DRUG WITHOUT A VALID PRESCRIPTION

In Florida, it is illegal to possess a controlled substance without a valid prescription that was issued by a medical practitioner in the course of a legal medical practice. Possessing a controlled substance without a valid prescription is a third degree felony, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. A person may be charged with illegal possession of a drug without a valid prescription if he or she carries prescribed medication in a container other than the original bottle. If you are legally required to take prescription medication, we recommend always carrying a copy of your prescription with you. The law carves out exceptions for:

  • medical professionals who are transporting prescription drugs for a legitimate purpose
  • pharmaceutical sales representatives
  • pharmacists
  • law enforcement officers who are in the process of transporting seized illegal drugs

There are instances in which someone may legitimately have a prescription drug in someone else’s name without having a valid prescription. For example, someone who helps care for a family member may pick up prescription drugs from the pharmacy on the family member’s behalf. A person who operates a medical transportation business may have someone else’s medication in his or her vehicle if a customer accidentally leaves his or her medication behind. Someone who has legally prescribed medication may transfer the medication to a pill storage container. In any of these instances, a Key Biscayne drug defense lawyer can provide a valid legal defense against an illegal prescription drug charge.

Mandatory minimum sentences in Florida drug trafficking cases

Florida imposes mandatory minimum sentencing in drug trafficking cases. Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines call for state judges to automatically sentence convicted defendants to a minimum prison sentence. Mandatory minimum sentences are heavily criticized because they do not allow judges to use their discretion when sentencing a convicted defendant. Some examples of mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes in Florida are:

  • three years in prison and/or a fine of $25,000 for 25 to 2,000 lbs. of marijuana
  • three years in prison and/or a fine of a fine of $50,000 for 4 to 14 grams of prescription painkillers
  • three years in prison and/or a fine of $50,000 for 14 to 28 grams of methamphetamine
  • three years in prison and/or a fine of $50,000 for 28 to 200 grams of cocaine
  • three years in prison and/or a fine of $50,000 for 1 to 5 grams of LSD

Attorney for drug trafficking cases in Key Biscayne

Joffe Law is a leading federal drug defense law firm in South Florida. We represent clients in major drug cases in Key Biscayne and surrounding areas. If you are facing a potential drug charge, contact our team to receive a case evaluation.

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