Articles Posted in Drug Crime

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Search and seizure laws offer important protections to anyone suspected of or charged with a Florida drug crime or another crime. These laws set the ground rules for when police officers can stop a person on the street, pull over a car, or enter a home without a warrant. They also set strict limits on when the cops can search a person and his or her car and home. In a recent ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court bolstered the privacy expectations that are at the center of many of these protections. The justices limited police officers’ ability to search rental vehicles.The defendant was driving a rental car when police officers stopped him outside Pittsburgh. The woman who had rented the vehicle gave the defendant the keys to the car, even though his name wasn’t on the rental agreement, and he wasn’t authorized to drive the vehicle. State troopers searched the car’s trunk, where they found 49 bricks of heroin and some body armor. They turned that evidence over to federal authorities, who charged the defendant with various drug crimes.

A federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence should be excluded at trial because it was obtained in an unlawful search. But the Supreme Court eventually sided with the defendant.

“The mere fact that a driver in lawful possession or control of a rental car is not listed on the rental agreement will not defeat his or her otherwise reasonable expectation of privacy,” the justices explained in a unanimous decision.

A conviction for a drug crime in Florida can come with significant penalties, including substantial time behind bars. In some cases, a judge has the right to makes those penalties worse based on the circumstances of the crime or the person’s criminal history. For example, state law provides for stiffer penalties for people who are designated as “habitual offenders” based on previous felony convictions. There are a number of defenses to this designation, however. That includes challenging the actual criminal charges against you and fighting the designation itself. As a recent case out of Florida’s Second District shows, certain crimes are exempt from the habitual offender tag.A defendant was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being convicted for charges of possession of cocaine, a third-degree felony, and sale of cocaine, a second-degree felony. He was designated a habitual offender for both offenses based on his prior criminal history. Habitual offender status applies to situations in which a person has been convicted of two or more separate felonies over a certain time period. The current felony must have been committed while the person was in jail on another felony conviction or within five years of his or her release from imprisonment.

Reversing the decision on appeal, the Second District said the judge made a mistake by treating the defendant as a habitual offender for the possession charge. Florida law exempts from the habitual offender scheme criminal charges involving the purchase or possession of drugs. The court cited its own 2006 decision in a case called Coleman v. State. In that case, a criminal defendant was also given habitual offender status for cocaine possession. The Second District overturned that decision.

Continue Reading

The “double jeopardy” rule essentially provides that a person can’t be charged more than once for the same crime. It bars prosecutors from seeking to recharge a person for the same crime after being acquitted, convicted, or found not guilty. It also stops them from seeking double punishment for the same crime. The rule is an important legal protection for anyone charged with a crime in Florida. The state’s Second District Court of Appeal recently explained how the rule works in a drug case out of Polk County.A defendant was arrested and charged with three criminal offenses after he allegedly sold cocaine to an undercover police officer using a confidential informant. He had one stash of the drug that he removed from a nightstand to sell a portion to the informant, according to the court. Prosecutors charged him with delivery of cocaine (a second-degree felony), possession of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver (a second-degree felony), and possession of cocaine (a third-degree felony). He was convicted on all three charges.

The defendant later appealed the conviction, arguing that it violated the double jeopardy rule. Specifically, he claimed that he could not be charged with both cocaine possession with intent to sell and cocaine possession, generally stemming from the same incident. The Second Circuit agreed.

Continue Reading

Police often use confidential informants to bolster criminal investigations, including in drug cases. These sources may have criminal records themselves, and cops’ reliance on informants raises a variety of legal issues. That’s especially true in situations in which the person charged with a crime says the police got the wrong man, as Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals recently pointed out.A defendant was arrested and charged with numerous drug offenses after he allegedly sold hydrocodone and cocaine to an undercover St. Petersburg police officer. A confidential police informant set up the first transaction by contacting his brother. The CI and undercover officers met the brother and a person he introduced as “Dino” at a convenience store. Dino sold the officer Fioricet pills, which he said were hydrocodone. Dino contacted the officer to sell him actual hydrocodone pills two weeks later. It was another five months before the third and final transaction. The officer contacted Dino, who said he didn’t have hydrocodone but sold the officer an eight ball of cocaine instead.

The officer had some trouble finding out the defendant’s true identity. He took the plate number from the brother’s car and found police records from a traffic stop in which the defendant was in the car. He then found a photo of the defendant and identified him as “Dino.” Although the defendant claimed that the officer had found the wrong guy, he was convicted following a trial.

Continue Reading

Many criminal drug cases come down to search and seizure issues concerning how law enforcement gains evidence of the alleged crime. Generally, police officers need a warrant from a judge in order to search your home or other property. There are several exceptions to this rule, but even cases in which a search warrant has been issued can raise tricky legal issues. A recent case out of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida is a good example of how cops can establish probable cause to get a warrant in drug cases.Two defendants were charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, stemming from their alleged roles in an Orlando marijuana trafficking operation. Much of the evidence against the pair came from a series of property searches and surveillance operations conducted after Drug Enforcement Agency investigators obtained warrants from a federal judge. The defendants at trial later moved to block prosecutors from entering into the record any evidence obtained during the searches and surveillance operations. They argued that the investigators misled the judge by providing incomplete information on their warrant requests and that those requests didn’t establish the probable cause needed to justify the warrants.

The first warrant, which the DEA agents used to search a self-storage facility in Orlando, was based on information gained from a confidential source and from two undercover officers. The confidential source told agents that a South African drug dealer had been selling 200 pounds of marijuana a month to Dominican buyers in Orlando. He said the dealer had asked the source to contact the Dominicans about some $250,000 still owed for the drugs and to try to re-establish the relationship. The confidential source and two undercover agents met with Cassara and Almeida four times. They agreed to facilitate a marijuana sale to the Dominicans, according to the court. One defendant said he would load 25 pounds of marijuana in a truck and leave it for the Dominicans to pick up in exchange for leaving cash in the truck.

Continue Reading