The general public often perceives drug trafficking as an offense that is premised on the act of selling, distributing, or marketing illegal substances, but drug trafficking laws are broader than many realize. In the state of Florida, those who possess a significant amount of a given substance may be found criminally liable for drug trafficking and subjected to a minimum mandatory sentence, even if there is no evidence that they intended to distribute the substance to others.
Let’s take a closer look.
Possession and Mandatory Minimum Sentences
In Florida, you can be found guilty of drug trafficking if you merely possess certain illegal substances (i.e., marijuana, cocaine, morphine, heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, etc.) in sufficiently high quantities.
For example, if you are found in possession of at least 28 grams of cocaine, then the court will abide by the presumption that your possession is not actually intended for personal use, but instead for trafficking — selling and distributing to others.
Drug trafficking is always a first-degree felony, but sentencing will vary depending on the amount of the illegal substance that is in your possession. These sentencing ranges are applied in tiers. For heroin:
Lowest tier: you will be exposed to a mandatory minimum sentence of three years, with a maximum of 30 years imprisonment.
Next tier: you will be exposed to a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years, with a maximum of 30 years imprisonment.
Maximum tier: you will be exposed to a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years, with a maximum of 30 years imprisonment.
Sentencing also varies depending on the substance at-issue. Cocaine features a more severe “maximum” tier for sentencing. If you are in possession of over 150 kilograms of cocaine, then the offense is punishable by life imprisonment.
Some Defenses to Trafficking
There are a number of defenses to drug trafficking and possession, including illegal search and seizure and the existence of a valid prescription.
Other defenses include:
Temporary possession is a complete defense to drug trafficking. For example, if you are asked to watch over a package of drugs by a friend — who returns five minutes later and retakes possession — then that would likely constitute temporary possession of the illegal substances at-issue. Temporary possession cannot be used to justify the imposition of criminal liability, as the defendant did not establish complete control over the drugs.
Lack of Knowledge
If you were not aware that the substances in your possession were illegal drugs, then you cannot be held liable for drug trafficking. For example, if you are in possession of eight grams of oxycodone, then you could be held liable for drug trafficking in Florida — you could counter the prosecution’s arguments, however, by establishing that you believed (mistakenly) that you had an active prescription for the oxycodone.
Contact the Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys at Fowler Law Group for a Free Consultation
Here at Fowler Law Group, we are a boutique Florida criminal defense firm with a focus on thorough, results-oriented legal representation.
Our team of Sarasota criminal defense attorneys has extensive experience advocating on behalf of those who have been charged with drug possession and trafficking, and over the years, have gained significant insight into the tactics employed by prosecutors. We understand how to effectively navigate the complexity of such prosecutions and secure a favorable result for our clients.
Unlike many other firms, we have a long track record of litigating cases all the way through to conclusion. This willingness to litigate gives us a substantial advantage when negotiating with prosecutors — in many cases, we are able to negotiate an early resolution for our client without having to risk the uncertainty and expense of trial.