If you’re facing a drug trafficking charge in Florida, you’re dealing with a very serious criminal accusation. As you likely know, long prison sentences are mandatory by law. But, that doesn’t mean that you have to go to prison if you handle your case correctly.
Here’s a guide on Florida’s drug trafficking laws and what you should do next:
Table of Contents
What Qualifies as Drug Trafficking in Florida?
Most people assume drug trafficking crimes involve large quantities of illegal drugs transported across international borders. Or, people think that they must be caught in the act of selling drugs.
However, it doesn’t always need to be so extreme. In fact, almost all trafficking charges stem from simply possessing a high quantity of illegal substances.
Florida Statutes Section 893.135 states drug trafficking occurs if a person knowingly does the following with large quantities of illegal substances:
- Brings into the state;
- Or is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of illegal substances.
The severity of drug trafficking charges is determined by the type of controlled substance and the quantity in the offender’s possession. For example, if someone is caught delivering 500 grams of cocaine, they’ll likely face far more severe penalties than someone who is accused of selling 25 pounds of marijuana.
How Do You Beat a Drug Trafficking Charge in Florida?
Drug trafficking offenses change lives. The penalties inflict significant long-term consequences on those convicted and their families. Taking action immediately with the help of a drug trafficking attorney is critical.
Know Your Rights
- By knowing your rights, you can avoid revealing any incriminating information.
- You have the right to remain silent.
- You don’t need to answer all questions given by an officer. You can remain silent and request to speak to an attorney.
- Officers are not authorized to search you unlawfully. Officers cannot search your property without ‘probable cause’ to believe you’ve committed an offense.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney Immediately
Hire a reputable and professional criminal defense attorney who has experience fighting drug trafficking charges. Do not hire a young lawyer who has never handled these types of cases before. You need someone who can pick up the phone and make things happen.
The sooner that we can get involved in the case, the more that we can do to help. We can take steps from the very beginning to plan your defense.
Sean McQuaid is a top-rated criminal defense attorney with experience handling drug trafficking charges. As the president at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms, he has the connections and reputation to fight on your behalf. In his career, he has handled countless serious trafficking cases successfully.
Anyone facing drug trafficking charges should contact us today for a free consultation. We encourage you to listen to our plan and see if it is a right fit for you.
Collect and Protect Evidence
Evidence will be crucial in your defense. Do not leave things to chance. Gather all possible evidence immediately. Evidence regularly gets destroyed or lost, leaving defendants with no chance to prove their innocence.
Evidence is likely to vary with each case, but it may include things like receipts proving you were elsewhere at the time or having the alleged drugs tested for proof they were actually illegal substances.
Your criminal defense attorney will guide and assist you with this step.
What if I’m a First Time Offender for Drug Trafficking?
Charges for first-time offenders are still extremely severe and should be taken very seriously. However, there is likely to be more leniency if you can prove you’re taking action for your behavior. Almost all of our clients are first time offenders. We can put together a plan of action to try and avoid prison as long as you are willing to put in the work to help yourself.
What Do I Do if My Child Has Been Arrested With Drug Trafficking?
Young people get caught up in drug trafficking cases even if they never sold a drug. The mere possession of a controlled substance can be enough for a conviction.
Drug addiction and associating with the wrong type of people are the two biggest reasons why kids wind up in these situations.
If your child can show they’re taking care of their behavior by going to drug rehab or counseling, then you may be able to win some leniency from a judge. We encourage people to get clean and sober and take negative urine screens. We also encourage people to either get jobs or finish school. The key is to show the judge and the prosecutor that there is hope for you if they give you a second chance.
How Can a Drug Trafficking Charge Be Dismissed?
Once all evidence has been collected, you and your drug trafficking attorney will build a defense.
Your attorney will help you prepare in advance to deal with this and be there to step in and take charge in court.
In court, the prosecutor must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you committed the drug trafficking offense.
There are many avenues to defend drug trafficking charges, even for those who may have actually been in possession of said substances. For example:
Possible Defenses to a Drug Trafficking Charge
Cannot Reach the Burden of Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Prosecutors must prove that you knowingly possessed the illegal drugs. This isn’t always as easy as summed. Even if there were drugs found in your car, for example, did you really know it was there?
If, for example, if a car has multiple people in it, you may be unaware someone hid a bag of cocaine under your seat. If you can create doubt that the drugs didn’t belong to you, the case may be dismissed.
Unlawful or Illegal Search
If an officer searched you unlawfully, even if they found illegal drugs, then your case may be dismissed. Police officers must have probable cause to believe you’re committing a crime.
Faulty Lab Equipment
In some cases, an attorney may argue there is insufficient proof that the substance is actually an illegal drug.
The police will usually send a substance to testing, but there have been cases where testing equipment malfunctions or the sample gets mislabeled. This is a rare but previously seen defense.
I actually once had a case where a man was taking diet supplements. It came in a powder and he had it in an unlabeled container. The police stopped him for something unrelated and searched his car. The police tested the powder and it came back as amphetamine. I called the prosecutor before the lab results came back and begged him to wait. The lab confirmed my position that it was totally legal to possess. If I hadn’t called, he would have been charged with trafficking and taken to court.
Police in Florida often use confidential informants (CI) to locate drug trafficking offenders.
Under the Sixth Amendment, however, you have the right to confront your accuser. This may motivate the prosecution into giving you a deal in exchange. CIs are unreliable and a great way to attack the strength of a case. If you can put pressure on a CI, the case almost always crumbles.
If you were pressured into committing a crime by the police or a confidential informant, then you may be able to claim ‘entrapment’. Your criminal defense lawyer can claim that although you committed the crime, you had a justification as to why. This happens more than you think. CIs will beg people for drugs and even harass them. I’ve seen it over and over.
Your attorney may be able to fight to change the charge to a lesser charge, with a far less severe penalty. For example, if the court modifies the charge from drug trafficking to possession, then the penalty may go from prison to probation.
In some cases, you may be able to offer law enforcement valuable information in exchange for lesser penalties. This defense will require you and your attorney to talk to an investigator about another case the police are interested in. Do not take this strategy on without the support of a criminal defense attorney.
Penalties for Drug Trafficking in Florida
Florida has mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking crimes. These include:
Marijuana Trafficking Penalties
- 25-1,999lbs is punished by 3-years in prison and $25,00 in fines.
- 2,000-9,999lbs is punished by 7-years in prison and $50,000 in fines.
- 10,000 or more is punished by at least 15-years in prison and $200,000 in fines.
- If the charges involve the possession of a firearm, then there is a chance of life imprisonment.
Opium Trafficking Penalties
- 4-13 grams is punished by 3-years in prison and $25,000 in fines.
- 14-27 grams is punished by 15-years in prison and $100,000 fines.
- 28 or more grams is punished by at least 25-years in prison and $500,000 in fines.
Cocaine Trafficking Penalties
- 28-199 grams is punished by 3-years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- 200-399 grams is punished by 7-years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
- 400 grams to 15kg is punished by at least 15-years in prison and $250,000 fines.
Heroin Trafficking Penalties
- 4-13 grams is punished by 3-years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- 14-27 grams is punished by 15-years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
- 28 grams – 30 kg is punished by 25-years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Prescription Drug Trafficking Penalties
Prescription drug penalties vary but could see an individual spent several years in jail with large fines.
Common Illegal Substances:
Many different drugs are involved in drug trafficking cases, from cannabis to prescription drugs. Common examples include:
- Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
- MDMA/XTC (Ecstasy)
- Methamphetamine (also known as crystal meth or simply meth)
- OxyContin or Oxycodone
- Phencyclidine (PCP)
- Psilocybin (mushrooms)
Hire a Drug Trafficking Attorney in Pinellas County, Florida
If you’ve been arrested for a drug trafficking offense in Florida, then our criminal defense attorneys can help. We specialize in charges in Pinellas County so that we know everyone and what to expect.
Sean McQuaid is a top-rated criminal defense attorney in Pinellas County. He is the president at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms with the reputation and connections to make things happen.
With decades of experience helping people like you, we believe there is no better place to help you fight a drug crime charge.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300