The government continues to crack down on drug crimes throughout the country. Interestingly, Florida faces some of the highest rates of drug charges. Over 34% of all federal crimes in Florida are connected to allegations of a drug crime, higher than the national average of 31%. These crimes include allegations connected to fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, and other controlled substances.
Not only are people more likely to face federal drug charges in Florida than most other states, but they also face longer prison time. If convicted of federal drug trafficking, the average sentence is 78 months, but here in Florida, that same individual is more likely to get a sentence of 93 months.
Getting charged with a drug crime is a serious offense that can come with steep financial penalties as well as potential prison time. It is important to take the situation seriously and put together an effective defense strategy. Although the exact legal tactic will vary depending on the details of the allegations, some of the more common strategies include the following.
#1: No drugs were present
Drug charges only survive if drugs are present. The officers may have seen something they thought was an illegal substance, and it is not. Or the officers may not have a controlled substance to present as evidence in court. These are a few options that can be used to support the defense that the prosecution does not have evidence of any illegal drugs to build their case.
#2: Failure to follow proper protocol
State and federal law requires enforcement officers to follow proper procedures when making an arrest and building a criminal case. A failure to follow these procedures can call into question the validity of the arrest and any evidence gathered from an investigation.
A common example is that of a traffic stop. Police must have good reason to conduct a stop. If not, evidence gathered during the stop may be inadmissible.
#3: Not enough evidence
Each criminal charge has certain elements the state must establish to build their case. If the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove these elements, they are unlikely to get a conviction.
Take drug possession for an example. Generally, the state will need to have evidence to show the following:
- Illegal. The prosecution will need evidence to show that the individual had an illegal substance in their possession.
- Knowledge. They will also need to establish that the individual was aware of, or should have known, about the presence and illegal nature of the substance.
- Control. Finally, the prosecutor will need to show that the individual had control over the location and presence of the substance.
A failure to establish any of these elements means the prosecution is unlikely to move forward with their case. It is important to note that the laws guiding these charges are constantly evolving. The elements noted above could change and are meant to further the discussion, not as a definitive example.
What happens next?
These cases generally conclude with a dismissal, plea deal, or trial. Dismissals are possible if the police acted illegally or the prosecution was unable to gather enough evidence to build their case. A plea deal is a negotiation. This can lead to a reduction of charges. Florida has multiple drug diversion programs. You could consider offering participation in one of these in exchange for a lower charge and no prison time.
If these two options are not feasible, the case may go to trial.
The above defense strategies are just a few options to take into consideration when facing drug charges in Florida. Those in this situation should seek legal counsel to tailor a defense strategy to their specific case.