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Florida Drug Trafficking Lawyer

Florida Drug Trafficking Attorney

Criminal defense lawyer for federal drug charges

Drug-related crimes are among the most severely penalized offenses. Drug trafficking is the most serious drug offense. Depending on the facts of the case, a defendant may be simultaneously charged with drug trafficking in state and federal court. Therefore, the fines and prison sentences that go along with a drug trafficking conviction can easily add up. An allegation of drug trafficking should always be taken seriously. If you or someone you know may be facing a state or federal drug trafficking charge, immediately contact a reputable, proven drug trafficking defense lawyer.

Florida & federal drug trafficking laws

State and federal laws against drug trafficking overlap significantly. Drug possession is a base offense in drug trafficking cases. To obtain a drug trafficking conviction, the prosecutor must prove the existence of a commercial element. If the prosecutor fails to establish drug trafficking, the individual may still be convicted of drug possession. Although drug possession is a lesser offense, a sentencing court may still impose hefty fines and a prison sentence. Having a knowledgeable attorney on the case as early as possible will help you achieve a more favorable outcome.

Controlled Substance Act

A controlled substance is a drug, substance, or immediate precursor that primarily affects the central nervous system and can potentially cause physical or mental dependence and addiction. The Controlled Substance Act categorizes all controlled substances that have been regulated under current federal law into five schedules. The schedules range from Schedule I to Schedule IV ranking in order of potential for dependency or addiction. State law mostly mirrors federal law by classifying drugs into schedules and using the classification as the basis for assigning penalties for drug crimes. Federal law classifies drugs as follows:

  • Schedule I drugs have no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Marijuana, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, peyote, and heroin are examples.
  • Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse that may potentially lead to severe psychological or mental dependency. Some Schedule II drugs are methamphetamine, fentanyl, Adderall, Ritalin, methadone, oxycodone, and cocaine, and combination drugs with less than 15 mg of hydrocodone per unit.
  • Schedule III drugs have moderate to low potential for abuse and low risk for dependency. Examples include drugs with less than 90 mg of codeine per dose, ketamine, testosterone, and anabolic steroids
  • Schedule IV drugs have a low potential for abuse and a low risk of dependence. Xanax, Soma, Darvocet, Daravon, Valium, Ativan, Talwin, Ambien, and Tramadol are examples.
  • Schedule V drugs have the lowest potential for abuse. These drugs contain narcotics in limited quantities. Examples include cough syrups, analgesics, and antidiarrheal medications.
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Elements of a drug trafficking charge

To obtain a conviction, a prosecutor must prove all elements of a crime. In a federal drug trafficking case, the defendant can only be convicted if:

  • the defendant had the knowledge and intent to traffick a controlled substance
  • the defendant engaged in manufacturing or distribution
  • the defendant possessed an illegal drug

Knowledge and intent

In some cases, an individual may unknowingly become involved in a drug trafficking operation. Drug organizations move large quantities of controlled substances by using passenger vehicles, box trucks, and even semis. Sometimes a drug ring may make arrangements with a business owner to conceal drugs in a commercial vehicle and allow a driver to transport the substance to its destination. If the driver is an unsuspecting employee who does not know the plan, the driver is unlikely to be convicted if law enforcement discovers the drugs and files charges.

Getting a ride with someone can potentially expose the passenger to a drug charge. In some instances, the police conduct a stop on a vehicle when the driver is transporting a friend or relative. In situations in which the police discover drugs, the police sometimes assume the passenger has some level of involvement with drug-related activity along with the driver. The passenger’s defense attorney may be able to quickly remove suspicion from the passenger by establishing the passenger’s lack of knowledge of the presence of drugs.

There can be a fine line between possession and trafficking when it comes to intent. For example, someone who purchases drugs in large quantities to support their personal drug habit may not be charged with the more severe offense of trafficking if he or she can prove a lack of intent to traffick the drugs. However, cases that involve very large quantities of drugs are especially challenging because the federal drug trafficking law allows the court to presume intent based on the possession of a large quantity of drugs.  Other factors prosecutors may use to establish intent include the presence of drug paraphernalia like baggies, a scale, or large sums of money in addition to large quantities of drugs.

Illegal drug distribution

Drug trafficking and drug distribution are often used as interchangeable terms. However, there are subtle differences between the two offenses that make a difference when it comes to sentencing.

Similar to drug trafficking, drug distribution involves the selling, importing, or transferring of an illegal substance. An individual may be charged with the intent to distribute drugs even if he or she possesses a large quantity of drugs and cash. Unlike trafficking, which is predicated on the amount of drugs the individual possesses, a distribution charge is based on the presumed movement of the drug.

Drug manufacturing and production

Federal and state law prohibits knowingly and intentionally manufacturing or producing an illegal controlled substance. Under federal law, a defendant may be convicted on a drug manufacturing charge if the prosecution proves any of the following:

  • the defendant manufactured, distributed, or dispensed a controlled substance or
  • the defendant possessed with the intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance
  • the defendant created, distributed, or dispensed a counterfeit substance or possessed a counterfeit substance with the intent
  • the defendant did any of the acts mentioned above with knowledge and intent

Knowledge and intent in drug manufacturing cases

Prosecutors in a drug manufacturing case must prove the defendant had the knowledge and intent to manufacture, produce, or cultivate an illegal drug. Courts may also presume intent if law enforcement also discovered the defendant had items that are required to manufacture the illegal drug. A defense attorney may overcome the presumption of intent by proving the defendant had a legal purpose for possessing ingredients that can be used to manufacture drugs. For example, depending on the circumstances, someone who works as a pharmacist may have a legitimate reason to have certain drugs and chemicals in their possession in large quantities.

An individual who accidentally produces an illegal substance may not be convicted for drug manufacturing under federal law. The knowledge portion of the statute requires the individual to have known at the time that he or she was producing an illegal substance. For example, someone who works in a lab and unintentionally mixes chemicals that produce an illegal drug would be unlikely to be found guilty under the federal drug manufacturing law. Similarly, a member of a drug organization may instruct someone to produce a mysterious substance. The person who manufactures the substance will not be culpable under federal law if he or she is unaware that the substance is an illegal drug.

How law enforcement investigates drug offenses

State and federal law enforcement agencies often partner together when investigating drug trafficking and related crimes. Arrests in major drug cases typically come after the police have been monitoring the illegal activity for weeks, months, or even longer than one year. Investigators take their time in gathering evidence to give prosecutors the strongest case possible.

Law enforcement agencies monitor drug organizations by conducting sting operations. Undercover agents make contact with members of drug rings by posing as people who want to buy or sell drugs, weapons, or other items that would be of interest to members of a drug organization. The detective gathers information for the law enforcement agency while becoming more deeply involved in the organization and learning about its crimes.

Once the law enforcement agency has gathered enough information, the agency will present the prosecutor with its findings, and the prosecutor will go to the court to obtain the necessary warrants. After the law enforcement agency has obtained the necessary warrants, they conduct a raid on the specified homes and commercial properties the drug operation occupies. During a raid, law enforcement agents commonly arrest people who are present. Therefore, friends, customers, and family members may be arrested for simply being in close proximity to members of a drug organization.

People who are caught up in the fray of a police investigation should immediately enlist the help of an attorney. Although it may seem like the details will work themselves out, law enforcement agencies do not always immediately eliminate people who may not be involved in a crime. This means you may remain under investigation or even be charged with a serious drug offense if you do not have a capable attorney speaking on your behalf.

Who investigates drug trafficking cases?

Drug trafficking cases often involve several investigating agencies. These agencies range from local task forces and county police departments to state and federal agencies. In federal drug trafficking cases, federal investigating agencies may include:

  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

The federal government investigates drug crimes that cross state lines or international borders. A defendant may also be prosecuted in federal court if the arresting officer is a federal agent.

Possible defenses against federal drug charges

Beyond lack of knowledge and intent, there are certain defenses a federal drug crimes attorney can argue against drug trafficking and related charges. A defendant may be acquitted of a drug charge if his or her defense attorney successfully argues any of the following:

  • entrapment
  • illegal Search and Seizure
  • duress

Entrapment in drug trafficking cases

Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement officer induces someone to engage in criminal activity the individual would not have otherwise committed. In the context of a drug trafficking case, an undercover officer cannot deliver a drug dealer a quantity of drugs and force the dealer to sell the drugs with threats of violence. Similarly, an undercover officer cannot induce a drug trafficker to transport an illegal substance by deceptively claiming the substance is not an illegal drug.

Proving an individual who has a history of engaging in drug trafficking can be challenging. However, an experienced drug trafficking defense lawyer can carefully analyze your case and build an effective case for your defense if you were entrapped by a law enforcement officer.

Illegal search and seizure

Obtaining the necessary warrants and following the correct legal procedure is critical to the prosecution’s case. Therefore, law enforcement agencies must act very carefully in gathering evidence, interviewing suspects, and conducting arrests.

If a police officer stops your vehicle while you are driving down the road, the Constitution requires the officer to have probable cause for making the stop. Similarly, in most cases, the police cannot search or seize your property without cause. Contact a drug trafficking defense attorney if you believe law enforcement may have conducted an illegal stop, search, or seizure of property. Criminal courts are not permitted to allow illegally obtained evidence to be admitted to support the prosecution’s case.

Duress as a defense against federal drug charges

It is not uncommon for drug organizations to use violence to achieve their objectives. Drug traffickers sometimes solicit innocent people to work with them. For example, someone who is a member of a drug organization may induce a romantic partner to transport drugs or drug-related money. Individuals who are forced or coerced to participate in drug trafficking may be acquitted if their attorney proves they acted under duress.

You don’t have to know the best strategy for your case. Contact a drug defense attorney, and let a legal professional develop the strongest legal strategy for your defense.

Reach a federal drug charge attorney in Florida

A drug trafficking charge can quickly change your life. Whether you suspect you are under investigation for drug-related activity or if you have been formally charged, contact an attorney. Having an attorney at your side can mean the difference between facing a criminal conviction and continuing to enjoy your freedom. Call us today for a case evaluation.

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