Over the past 30 years or so, I've handled over 300 drug trafficking cases throughout Florida — with the majority in Miami-Dade county.
"You may be an nice guy and all that, and this may be your first arrest...but there's nothing the Judge can do"
Put in simple terms, and much like Federal drug trafficking cases, being charged with a drug trafficking cases in State court means you're exposed to a mandatory minimum sentence. This means that the judge in your case has no real discretion: you may be an nice guy and all that, and this may be your first arrest...but there's nothing he can do. The judge has to sentence you to the statutory mandatory minimum sentence; be it 3 years, 7 years or 15 years.
Let's take a closer look at the mandatory minimum drug sentences in Florida.
Amount-driven, Mandatory-Minimum penalties
First, like in Federal court, the penalties and the prison time are dependent on the amount of drugs involved. Consider the following:
25 lbs. (or 300 plants) — 300 lbs. (or 2,000 plants) = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
2,000 lbs. (or 2,000 plants) — 10,000 lbs. (or 10,000 plants) = 7 years mandatory minimum prison time
10,000 lbs. or more = 15 years mandatory minimum prison time
28 grams — 200 grams = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
200 grams — 400 grams = 7 years mandatory minimum prison time
400 grams — 150 kilos = 15 years mandatory minimum prison time
More than 150 kilos = Life in prison without parole
4 grams — 14 grams = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
14 grams — 28 grams = 5 years mandatory minimum prison time
28 grams — 30 kilograms = 25 year mandatory minimum prison time
1 gram or more, but less than 5 grams = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
5 grams or more, but less than 7 grams = 7 years mandatory minimum prison time
7 grams or more = 15 years mandatory minimum prison time
MDMA/ "Ecstasy" Trafficking
10 grams or more, but less than 200 grams = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams = 7 years mandatory minimum prison time
400 grams or more = 15 years mandatory minimum prison time
14 grams — 28 grams = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
28 grams — 200 grams = 7 years mandatory minimum prison time
200 grams or more = 15 years mandatory minimum prison time
Hydrocodone (Vicodin) Trafficking
14 grams — 28 grams = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
29 grams — 49 grams = 7 years mandatory minimum prison time
50 grams — 200 grams = 15 years mandatory minimum prison time
200 grams — 30 kilos = 25 years mandatory minimum prison time
Oxycodone (Oxycontin) Trafficking
7 grams — 14 grams = 3 years mandatory minimum prison time
14 grams — 25 grams = 7 years mandatory minimum prison time
15 grams — 100 grams = 15 years mandatory minimum prison time
100 grams — 30 kilos = 25 years mandatory minimum prison time
Besides being contingent on the amounts of a particular drug, note that the mandatory minimum "thresholds," (the amount you need to trigger the application of a mandatory minimum), are lower for drugs that are more likely to cause chemical dependence.
One other note: there are mandatory minimum fines associated with each offense that run the gamut from $50,000 to a staggering $750,000 (for trafficking in excess of 100 grams of oxycodone).
It's been my experience, in Miami-Dade county at least, that these fines are rarely enforced.
It goes without saying, however, that most clients would have gladly paid a hefty fine in return for a waiver of the mandatory minimum sentence.
So, the question is how does one get a waiver of the mandatory minimum?
How to get a "Mandatory Minimum" sentence "waived?"
You can't get a waiver of a mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking from a judge. Remember: he or she can't help you — they have to follow the law and the Florida legislature made sure that he or she has no discretion.
The only person who can "waive" or "break" the mandatory minimum, is the Assistant State Attorney assigned to prosecute your (or your loved one's) case or, more accurately, the Assistant State Attorney's immediate supervisor.
And, in these cases (and in all mandatory minimum cases), perhaps "the best defense is a good offense." The more work that's done on a trafficking case, the better. I have always taken full advantage of Florida's liberal discovery process — taking careful and painstaking depositions of the narcotics officers, pulling their disciplinary histories and drug dog training logs, employing an experienced private investigator, enlisting experts such as toxicologists, and filing pretrial motions as appropriate.
Some defenses that just might work...
Consider the following defenses and the case results where they were successfully raised:
Motion to Inspect and to Re-weigh the Evidence
If you will recall, drug mandatory minimum sentences are amount driven. In some cases, the difference between possession with intent to possess or distribute (for example) marijuana comes down to a few pounds.
Such was the case in State of Florida v. A.I., F09007386 before the Honorable Nushin Sayfie. On March 3, 2009, A.I. was arrested and charged for trafficking in marijuana after police conducted a search of his premises and discovered a fully functioning, "subterranean marijuana grow lab."
According to Hialeah narcotics officers, the amount of marijuana was "75 pounds."
On October 1, 2009, our defense expert toxicologist conducted a re-weighing of the “75 lbs.” of marijuana held in evidence in this case. The expert's report showed an amazing fifty three (53) pound discrepancy between the marijuana seized on March 3, 2009, and the marijuana that was re-weighed on October 1, 2009. According to the report, “the weight of the contraband, without packaging, was 22.30 pounds."
After reviewing the expert's report, the State Attorney agreed to a waiver of the three year mandatory minimum sentence.
Motion to Suppress Stop
The Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless searches and seizures, unless supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion. That means you don't have to agree to a search of your house, your car, or your body. The rule is if a warrantless search is conducted absent probable cause or reasonable suspicion, and without consent, the evidence seized as a result of the stop may be excluded.
In State of Florida v. D.C., F1301478, D.C. was riding his bicycle during the early evening of June 25, 2013, when he was waived over and stopped by police. Despite the fact that he had no reasonable suspicion or probable cause to do so, the officer asked D.C.: “do you mind if I search you?" D.C. responded: “Yes.” Apparently believing that he had obtained consent, the officer conducted a search of D.C.'s person. The search revealed morphine tablets weighing an estimated 7.8 grams, and that weight subjected D.C. to a three (3) year mandatory-minimum sentence for trafficking.
In a motion to suppress the stop, we argued that the officer’s testimony that D.C. answered “yes” when asked “do you mind if I search you” tended to establish that D.C.. did not give consent to the search. Because consent must be “unequivocally given and not merely deference to the apparent authority of the police,” Thompson v. State, 55 So.2d 970, 971 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1990), the judge granted our motion and excluded the morphine tabs.
D.C. went home that afternoon.
Motion to Dismiss for Police Misconduct
Every now and again, the police conduct is so egregious that a Motion to Dismiss may be the client's best available remedy to rid himself or herself of the dreaded "min/ man" — or to get the case tossed altogether.
In State of Florida v. A.M., F08024874, for example, the State of Florida filed a three (3) count felony Information charging the defendant with one count of Armed Marijuana Trafficking in violation of §8 93.135(1)(A), one count of Possession of Cannabis with Intent to Sell in violation of § 893.12(1)(A)(2), and one count of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon, in violation of § 790.23(1).
In the discovery process, we noticed that something was amiss with a Miranda Rights Waiver Form the State maintained had been authored by A.M. The defense motioned the Court for the entry of an Order allowing a forensic document examiner to examine the Rights Waiver Form. The examination revealed that A.M.'s signature had been forged by the lead investigator.
In dismissing the case, the judge found that the actions of the lead detective “so offended decency or a sense of justice that the judicial power may not be exercised to obtain a conviction.” State v. Taylor, 784 So.2d 1164, 1167 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2001), citing Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165, 173 (1952) and Malinski v. New York, 324 U.S. 401, 416—417 (1945).
The above defenses and many others may be available to you. Which is why it's critically important to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to develop an effective defense strategies and hold the State Attorney's Office to their burden of proving the crime of Drug Trafficking beyond and to the exclusion of any reasonable doubt.
There is hope
If you or a loved one is arrested and charged with Drug Trafficking, please call our 24-hour telephone number 305-461-1066 to set up an appointment and free consultation so we can assess your particular case and provide you with the best legal advice on how to proceed. Your meeting with me will be strictly confidential and subject to the attorney-client privilege.
I want to hear your side of the story.
State and Federal Criminal Defense Attorney
55 Merrick Way ~ Suite 212
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
305-461-1066 (24 Hours)
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