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.
The court compared the defendant’s case to a 2005 case in which Polk County cops charged a man with one count of cocaine possession with intent to sell for the portion of the drug that the man actually sold to an undercover officer and a separate count of simple possession for the portion of the drug that he kept. The court in the 2005 case said it “failed to see how there can be a legal distinction between the produce leaving the peddler’s hand or in his pocket and that still on the push cart.” This time around, the court said the same analysis applied to the defendant’s case.
“[The defendant’s] act of selling a portion of his cocaine stash, all of which emanated from a single source and location, could not factually support separate possession convictions for both the quantity sold and the quantity that remained,” the court concluded. As a result, the Second Circuit scrapped the conviction on the third-degree felony cocaine possession charge and sent the case back to the trial court for resentencing.
As this case shows, a number of complicated legal issues often come up in Florida criminal cases. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug or other crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater drug crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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