Due to Florida’s geography and close proximity to international cities to the south, drug trafficking activity is more prevalent than in other states across the U.S. Top-ranking individuals in criminal organizations are not the only people who may find themselves charged with drug trafficking. In fact, a person does not have to be involved in the sale of illegal drugs to be charged with trafficking. Organizations often rely on members and associates who may otherwise seem like everyday people to move and sell controlled substances. Therefore, someone who may want to make money without becoming deeply entrenched in the drug trade can easily be charged with very serious trafficking charges can easily find himself or herself in need of an experienced Naples or Fort Lauderdale drug trafficking defense attorney.
Drug trafficking in Florida
Drug trafficking is a federal criminal offense; therefore, it is defined under federal law as the intentional sale, purchase, delivery, possession, or transportation of a specific amount of a controlled substance. Therefore, simply “holding onto” or possessing a certain quantity of drugs can give rise to a federal trafficking charge. The penalty a person who is convicted of drug trafficking may face depends on the controlled substance involved in the case and the quantity of the drug the person is convicted of trafficking. Therefore, penalty is greatly determined by the individual facts of each case.
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How trafficking is proven
Similar to a drug possession charge, a person cannot be convicted of drug trafficking if he or she did not knowingly possess an illegal controlled substance. Therefore, knowledge and intent comprise the first element the prosecution must prove. The prosecutor must also establish that the defendant was involved in the sale, transportation, or importation of an illegal drug to obtain a federal conviction. Trafficking requires the production of additional evidence to prove the defendant was not only in possession of drugs, but that he or she also had the intent to engage in commercial activity with the drugs. Examples may include the discovery of a scale, small plastic bags, business records, or simply the possession of large amounts of cash along with the drugs. Federal prosecutors may also introduce witness testimony from people who knew about the defendant’s involvement in trafficking or who purchased drugs from the accused.
Similar to other types of drug crimes, trafficking defendants may argue they should not be convicted due to entrapment. This often occurs in cases in which the defendant is arrested as a result of a sting operation or due to information provided by a criminal informant. Undercover officers may sometimes overstep their boundaries and coerce or otherwise behave in a manner that unjustly causes an individual to commit a crime he or she would not normally commit. If the accused is under age 21 at the time of sentencing for an offense that is not punishable by life imprisonment, he or she may qualify for youthful offender sentencing. Youthful sentencing allows Florida judges to avoid imposing the minimum mandatory sentence on young offenders who are found guilty of trafficking drugs in the state. In other cases, law enforcement may have obtained evidence of drug trafficking by conducting an unconstitutional search of the defendant’s person or property. In these cases, the evidence yielded through the illegal search must be suppressed at trial, which may help the defendant avoid conviction.
An Broward County defendant accused of trafficking who provides “substantial assistance” may also avoid being ordered to serve the minimum mandatory sentence. People who work with law enforcement to provide substantial assistance are often referred to as “snitches.” Therefore, making the decision to provide substantial assistance in exchange for reduced sentencing is not an easy decision upfront for most people. However, defendants who are almost certain they will be required to serve prison time will sometimes agree to work with police by providing information. If the accused is interested in possibly providing substantial assistance, his or her lawyer will typically request a meeting with law enforcement and the state attorney’s office. The accused party will then inform the state attorney and law enforcement of the information he or she can provide. The state attorney and law enforcement officials decide whether they are interested in working with the defendant. If so, the defendant is presented with a contract which specifies the information he or she must provide. Most contracts state the defendant’s sentence will be reduced according to amount of help he or she provides in obtaining arrests and prosecutions against others. The defendant must be certain he or she is willing to participate prior to signing the contract. If he or she fails to uphold his or her end of the bargain, his or her plea may not be changed, and the defendant will be ordered to serve the mandatory minimum sentence. Sentences may be elevated even higher if a case involves an “enhancer” such as trafficking within a certain distance of a school. A drug trafficking conviction may also subject a person to asset forfeiture which may include loss of real estate, cars, and bank accounts that are used in the furtherance of the trafficking offense. Therefore, contacting a qualified Fort Lauderdale County drug trafficking lawyer is imperative, especially for individuals who believe they may be wrongfully accused.
Penalties upon conviction in Broward County
Trafficking is punished more severely than drug possession. The offense is punishable under federal and state law; federal charges typically apply in cases that involve moving the drugs across state lines. Individuals ranging from small scale street dealers up to those who operate elaborate cartels may be charged with trafficking. Severity of sentencing typically depends on the scale of the operation in addition to the type of drug being trafficked. Marijuana trafficking charges may range from three years imprisonment up to $100,000 in fines; person who is convicted of trafficking heroin may face up to 25 years in federal prison and be required to pay$5 00,000 in fines.
Contact a criminal defense lawyer ASAP
Fort Lauderdale drug trafficking defense attorneys at Joffe Law, P.A. are available to provide a confidential, free case evaluation to people who are accused of trafficking in throughout Florida. An experienced drug trafficking attorney can help protect the accused against potentially costly constitutional rights violations during the investigative process in addition to providing skillful negotiation and representation if the case proceeds to trial. Our federal defense counsel represents clients throughout Broward County and Florida, including Fort Lauderdale, Naples, Miami, West Palm Beach and Tampa.