Under Florida law, any criminal charge for drug trafficking comes with serious penalties including mandatory-minimum prison sentences. A conviction for drug trafficking does not necessarily require proof that the person accused is a “drug dealer” or actually distributed drugs to anyone.
Instead, most drug trafficking crimes involve proof of possession of certain qualities of the drugs. In other words, the weight of the drugs will determine both the statutory maximum sentence and the minimum mandatory sentence.
Under Florida law, the term “drug trafficking” is defined as the intentional to sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, possession, or transportation into Florida of a "trafficking amount" of controlled substances.
In addition to minimum mandatory prison sentences, a conviction for drug trafficking comes with steep fines and lengthy terms of probation. If the defendant's property is linked to the crime, individuals charged with drug trafficking offenses might also face civil penalties such as the forfeiture of assets including money, vehicles or a home.
If you were charged with drug trafficking in Palm Beach County, FL, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. Our drug crimes attorneys in Fort Lauderdale represent clients at the first appearance and through all stages of the case. The first step in these cases is getting the bond amount set as low as possible and getting the Nebia hold lifted. We aggressively fight to protect our client by filing every viable motion and presenting every piece of mitigating evidence available in the case.
We represent clients charged with money laundering and drug trafficking in Palm Beach County, FL. Many of our clients are accused of smuggling drugs through interstate highways, cargo freight, private boats and small planes. We are familiar with the tactics used by the West Palm Beach Police Department, members of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Interdiction Unit through highway traffic interdiction, parcel inspections, and airport enforcement.
Contact us about a recent drug trafficking bust and sting operations by undercover narcotics officers and their confidential informants. We are experienced in fighting these cases. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (561) 283-3259 today.
The most common types of charges for drug trafficking prosecuted in Palm Beach County, FL, include the following:
Under Florida law, certain minimum threshold quantities are needed to support a felony charge of trafficking. Higher quantities trigger more serious increased in the minimum-mandatory sentence. Those quantity thresholds include:
Under Florida Statute 893.135, the law provides for minimum mandatory prison sentences and fines for drug trafficking which depend on the quantities of drugs possessed. When a minimum mandatory sentence is imposed, the trial court will sentence the defendant to no less than that term in prison even if the sentencing guidelines are far below the minimum mandatory sentence.
In many of these cases, shortly after the arrest and sometimes before the arrest, law enforcement officers will try and convince the person accused of the crime to provide “Substantial Assistance” by setting up others involved in the drug trade. By providing substantial assistance the defendant might avoid the minimum-mandatory sentence that would otherwise be required after a conviction.
Under Florida law, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office is authorized to ask the court to reduce or suspend a sentence for any person convicted of drug trafficking when the person provides substantial assistance. Substantial assistance can include the identification, arrest, or conviction of another person engaged in drug trafficking or other serious crimes.
In these cases, the defendant will enter into a "Substantial Assistance Contract" that requires the defendant to help law enforcement officers in setting up a specific number of other people involved in drug trafficking within a certain amount of time. If the defendant is unable or unwilling to complete the required conditions, then the prosecutor will refuse to ask the court to reduce or suspend the sentence.
The most common defense raised in drug trafficking cases include:
An Illegal Search and Seizure under the Fourth Amendment
If a law enforcement officer exceeds the scope of their authority, then the criminal defense attorney can file a “Motion to Suppress” the evidence. These motions are heard by the judge before trial. An illegal search and seizure can occur when the law enforcement officer conducts a search without a valid search warrant or forces the defendant into “consenting” to a search when the consent is not “free and voluntary.” These illegal searches often involve a seizure of evidence from the person, home or vehicle.
Also, if a person is arrested without probable cause, then evidence seized as a result of that search might be suppressed. Even if a search warrant is obtained, any flaw in the search warrant might lead to the suppression of evidence before trial. If the evidence is suppressed, then the entire charges might be dismissed.
The Entrapment Defense in Florida
In many drug prosecutions, the defendant will allege that the crime was actually manufactured by a law enforcement officer or a confidential informant working on behalf of law enforcement. As discussed above, many people facing their own charges will enter into substantial assistance contracts to set up their friends and neighbors. These confidential informants work with little supervision and have been known to frame innocent people.
Even short of planting evidence, the confidential informant might use unduly suggestive techniques to get another person to commit a crime. If the person accused is not already predisposed to commit the crime when the opportunity presents itself, then the entrapment defense can be used for either mitigation, before trial as a matter of law, or at trial as an affirmative defense.
Many entrapment defenses involve a showing that the informant made threats or persistent enticements causing the defendant to act contrary to a law abiding predisposition.
Drug Trafficking in Palm Beach County, FL- Visit the website of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to learn more about drug trends in drug trafficking cases. Learn more about how the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Interdiction Unit investigates drug trafficking crimes. The website also provides information on recent drug busts in Palm Beach County and throughout South Florida. Also find more information on statistics in drug cases showing a 23 percent increase in arrests in the first three months of 2013 compared to 2011. Recent statistics also show an increase in the number of treatment facility admissions over the past few years.
Federal Drug Trafficking Penalties - Visit the website of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to learn more information about federal drugs penalties for Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V drugs for a first offense or a second offense. You can also download a chart on penalties for Marijuana, Hashish and Hashish Oil.
UNODC on the Drug Trafficking - Visit the website of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to learn more about facts related to drug trafficking, the illicit trade involving the sale, distribution, manufacture and cultivation of substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Find information on the legal framework and how UNODC helps bodies implement obligations under the international drug control treaties.
Bagley, Bruce. "Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in the Americas." Woodrow Wilson Center Update of the Americas (2012) - This scholarly article explores the major trends that have characterized the evolution of illicit drug trafficking and organized crime (organized criminal networks) in the Americas over the last quarter of a century. The essay explains why the United States remains the largest single consumer market for illicit drugs on the planet. Find information on the vulnerabilities of large criminal trafficking organizations that bring drugs into the United States and the real impact of marijuana legalization on drug trafficking and organized crime in Florida and throughout the United States.
If you are accused of trafficking drugs in Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach County, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Meltzer & Bell, P.A.. The attorney can help you understand the charges pending against you, potential defenses, and ways to avoid the harsh penalties that often come with a conviction.
Our drug trafficking attorneys in Fort Lauderdale represent clients charged with drug crimes and money laundering in Palm Beach County, FL. We know the techniques law enforcement officers with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Interdiction Unit, the West Palm Beach Police Department, and members of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force.
Many of these operations involve investigations of crimes in highway traffic interdiction, parcel inspections, and airport enforcement. Although many of our cases involve accusations of smuggling drugs through interstate highways, we also represent clients charged with crimes related to small planes, cargo freight, and even private boats.
Call us for a free consultation to discuss your case. Call (561) 283-3259 today.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, October 25, 2016.