Articles Posted in Drug Crime

When it comes to sentencing people for crimes, federal courts can consider a range of factors, including uncharged conduct. Uncharged conduct refers to any criminal activity that the defendant may have engaged in but for which they have not been formally charged or convicted. In a recent ruling, a federal court sitting in Florida explained when and how the courts may evaluate uncharged conduct when assessing an appropriate penalty in a case in which the defendant appealed his sentence for drug crime convictions. If you are charged with a drug offense, it is smart to meet with a Clearwater drug crime defense attorney to assess your options for protecting your interests.

The Defendant’s Sentence

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with numerous drug trafficking and weapons crimes. He was convicted and sentenced to 210 months in prison. He appealed, arguing first that the court erred in assigning narcotics seized during an investigation to him as relevant conduct for his two counts of conviction for possession with intent to distribute and second, by attributing the drugs to him because they were not part of the same common scheme or plan or course of conduct as the offense of conviction.

The Implications of Uncharged Conduct in Federal Criminal Matters

Upon review, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence. In doing so, it explained that a federal court might consider uncharged conduct in determining an appropriate sentence. This includes all acts and omissions the defendant committed during the commission of the crime, when preparing for the crime, or in the course of trying to avoid detection for the crime. In this case, the court found that the evidence was sufficient to attribute drugs found during the criminal investigation to the defendant for the purpose of sentencing under the relevant-conduct guideline.

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In 2018, Congress enacted the First Step Act (the Act), which along with the Fair Sentencing Act, was a law designed to reduce the disparity between the penalties imposed on people convicted of crimes arising out of the possession and distribution of cocaine powder versus crack. Merely because a court possesses the power to reduce a sentence under the Act, however, does not mean that it is required to do so. This was demonstrated recently in a Florida case in which a defendant appealed the denial of his request for a sentence reduction under the Act. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is critical to understand your rights, and you should confer with a skillful Clearwater drug crime defense lawyer as soon as possible.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant sought a reduction of his sentence pursuant to the Act. The trial court denied his request without conducting a hearing. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court’s decision constituted an abuse of discretion. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Sentence Reductions Under the First Step Act

Federal district courts have no inherent authority to modify or reduce sentences; instead, they may only do so when it is authorized by a statute or rule. For example, the Act explicitly authorizes the district courts to modify criminal sentences in certain circumstances. Prior to the Act, Congress enacted the Fair Sentencing Act, which increased the amount of drugs that would trigger statutory penalties in an effort to reduce the disparity in sentences for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. Continue Reading ›

It is not uncommon for a person facing criminal charges to have a history of prior criminal activity. In the interest of providing all criminal defendants with a fair trial, however, the State typically must refrain from introducing evidence of prior crimes at trial. There are certain exceptions when evidence of prior bad acts is admissible, though, as discussed in a recent case in which the defendant appealed his conviction for drug charges. If you are charged with distributing narcotics or any other drug-related offense, it is prudent to speak to a knowledgeable Clearwater drug crime defense attorney to help you fight to protect your rights.

The Defendant’s Charges and Trial

It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple drug crimes. During the trial, the prosecution referenced the defendant’s alleged use of a fake identity to rent an apartment during its opening statement. The jury ultimately convicted the defendant as charged, after which the defendant moved for a mistrial on multiple grounds, including the fact that the trial court permitted the prosecution to mention crimes the defendant allegedly committed but for which he was not charged. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions, after which he appealed. On appeal, the trial court’s ruling was affirmed.

Evidence of Prior Bad Acts

Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, evidence regarding wrongs, bad acts, or other crimes that are introduced to demonstrate a person’s character for the purpose of proving that the person acted in accordance with that character on a particular occasion is inadmissible. Florida courts interpreting this exclusionary rule, however, have repeatedly held that evidence of criminal acts other than the charged offense may be admissible if it constitutes intrinsic evidence that is outside of the scope of the rule.

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When a defendant is convicted of a crime and sentenced to probation, the court has broad leeway in determining what probationary terms are appropriate. While the court’s discretion is broad, it is not unbounded, however, and any conditions of probation must be reasonably related to the crime for which the defendant was convicted, as discussed in a recent Florida case in which the defendant objected to the terms of his probation after being convicted for multiple drug crimes. If you were charged with a drug offense or any other crime in Clearwater, it is wise to meet with a knowledgeable Clearwater drug crime defense attorney to discuss your case and potential defenses.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was charged with and convicted of multiple crimes, including possession of drug paraphernalia, cannabis, and methamphetamines. He was sentenced to imprisonment for 270 days, followed by probation. The terms of his probation required him to submit to a test for sexually transmitted diseases. The defendant appealed, in part, to challenge the test.

Conditions of Probation Under Florida Law

Under Florida law, a sentencing court has broad discretion in determining what special conditions to impose for a probation sentence, but the discretion is not without bounds. Instead, for a condition to be valid, it must be reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the defendant. In other words, it must have a relationship to the crime for which the offender was convicted, it must relate to the conduct which in and of itself is criminal, and it must forbid or require conduct that is reasonably related to future criminality.

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In the Florida criminal court system, a career offender designation can result in increased jail time. There are specific criteria that must be met before a defendant can be designated a career offender, and an improper designation can result in unjust penalties.

Recently, a federal court issued an opinion clarifying what convictions count toward a defendant’s career offender status under the Florida sentencing guidelines. If you are a resident of Clearwater with a prior criminal history and are currently charged with a crime, you should meet with a seasoned Clearwater criminal defense attorney to develop a plan that will provide you with a strong chance of a good outcome under the circumstances surrounding your charges. 

Defendant’s Prior Convictions

The defendant had previously been convicted of two counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and one count of robbery. He was subsequently convicted of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. The court designated the defendant as a career offender under Florida’s sentencing guidelines and sentenced him to 120 months in prison. The defendant then appealed his sentence, arguing that he was improperly designated a career offender. On appeal, the court affirmed his sentence.

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If you are not a citizen of the United States, and you are convicted of a crime, it may result in being deported back to your home country. This is clearly a notable consequence, and lawyers are supposed to advise their clients of this if it is a possibility. If you are charged with a crime in Florida, it is crucial that you have a knowledgeable defense attorney to advise you about all the potential consequences of any course of action you may choose. United States law requires that criminal defendants facing incarceration have competent counsel. If a defendant can prove that their counsel was not competent then they may be granted a new trial.

Facts of the Case

In this appeal, the Fifth District Court of Appeal of Florida discussed the requirements for defendants facing possible deportation. The defendant in this case was charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell or deliver. With the assistance of his counsel, he agreed to a plea agreement. The defendant pled no contest to the charges. Thus, an adjudication of guilt was withheld and he was given 18 months of probation.

If you are caught with drugs, you may think that you should just plead guilty and accept the consequences. However, depending on your situation, this may not be the best idea. Sometimes, the evidence against you may have been found during an illegal search. If the police perform an improper search on you, your home, or vehicle, the evidence gathered from that search may be inadmissible in court. If the State’s whole case is based around this evidence, then the charges may be thrown out entirely. A skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney can help you decide the best strategy for your case.

The Circumstances of the Evidence

A man was charged with possession of cocaine after the police found crack cocaine in a takeout food container the man was holding. The officer testified that the defendant was standing on a street corner around 7:30 a.m. When the officer drove by in an unmarked vehicle, he stated that the defendant glanced at him with a “deer in headlights” look. Immediately after noticing the officer, he dropped the fork he was using, along with another small packet, into the container. The police officer instructed his partner to detain the defendant and then he took the container. The container held grits and a white, semi-waxy square that contained crack cocaine.

In a criminal trial, there is only certain evidence that a prosecutor is allowed to present in order to prove that the defendant is guilty. One kind of evidence that judges may exclude from trial is evidence that will prejudice the jury. In this context, that means that the jury will be predisposed to find the defendant guilty whether or not the evidence is sufficient to prove guilt. This helps protect the defendant from being found guilty due to assumptions about the kind of person the defendant is, rather than their actual actions.Some evidence that is in danger of being prejudicial may be excluded before trial. For example, a previous alleged victim of the defendant can be barred from testifying. However, when the trial is happening sometimes things will happen in the moment. During the trial, sometimes a witness may say something prejudicial before the judge stops them. What happens then?

One option is for the judge to declare a mistrial. In Florida, if there is a reasonable possibility that prejudicial testimony influenced a guilty verdict, the defendant may be granted a new trial. There are many complicated rules about which evidence is and is not allowed into a criminal trial. That is why it is so important to contact a skilled Clearwater criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you or a loved one have been charged with a crime.

Facts of the Case

Florida law generally bans prosecutors from charging a person with a new crime after he or she has already been tried on related offenses. The state’s First District Court of Appeal recently explained how that ban works in a case involving a botched drug deal.

Defendant was charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery with a firearm, and the use of a firearm during the commission of a felony following a drug deal gone wrong. He admitted to going to a house to buy marijuana and shooting one of the men inside, but Defendant said he was acting in self-defense. He said two men tried to rob him when he got to the house. The person who was shot, however, claimed that Defendant tried to steal the marijuana without paying for it and fired the weapon at the men when they chased after him.

Prosecutors eventually decided not to charge Defendant with use of a firearm during a felony. After the case went to trial, a jury found him not guilty on the armed robbery charge and deadlocked on the aggravated battery charge. Prosecutors decided to retry Defendant on the aggravated robbery charge. They also tacked on a new charge of using a firearm during the commission of a felony. Defendant asked a judge to dismiss the charge, arguing that it was part of the same criminal episode as the armed robbery charge for which he was previously found not guilty. The trial court rejected that request.

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Florida criminal law calls for enhanced punishment in cases that involve the sale of drugs within 1,000 feet of a church, school or convenience store. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently took up a case that shows some of the difficulties that can come with trying to show precisely where a transaction takes place. The decision is also a good reminder that many Florida drug cases come down to your word against that of the police officers who arrested you and the prosecutors trying to convict you. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer in your corner.Defendant was charged with selling cocaine within 1000 feet of a place of worship, stemming from an undercover police sting operation. Officers involved in the operation testified at trial that Defendant sold the drugs to an undercover officer in a moving car. The car was parked at 6th and Main streets, according to the officers, and a church was located two blocks away on the 700 block of Main. The car was moving away from the church for 19 seconds at a speed of 20-30 miles an hour at the time Defendant made the transaction, they said. Prosecutors also said that the street the car was traveling on runs into a dead end less than 1,000 feet from the church.

Defendant responded by asking the trial judge to acquit him, arguing that it was impossible for the cops to say with precision where the car was when the alleged transaction took place. The judge denied the request, concluding that a jury could reasonably conclude that Defendant was within 1,000 feet of the church. If the car was traveling at 25 miles an hour for 19 seconds after starting 240 feet from the church, it would have been 933 feet away when the transaction occurred, the judge said. Defendant was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The District Court affirmed the decision after the Defendant asked the federal court to review the case. It said it would view the facts in the light most favorable to the prosecution.

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