Florida Law Steps Up Penalties for Selling Drugs Near Churches

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.

legalnewsDefendant 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.

“There is a presumption of correctness of a state court’s factual findings, unless the presumption is rebutted with clear and convincing evidence,” the court explained. “The trial court’s determination will not be superseded if reasonable minds might disagree about the factual finding.”

In this case, the court said a rational jury could have found that Defendant committed the crime within 1,000 feet of the church.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced defense lawyer. Clearwater criminal defense attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of crimes. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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