Growing up, many of us learn the ages old lesson: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Often times the title of a book or movie gives very little insight into the content of the media. Criminal laws in the State of Florida suffer from the same problem. Laws are written with titles that often mislead and dramatize the content of the law and the prohibited acts. Take for example, the burglary statute. When most people think of burglary, they picture a hooded cat burglar breaking into a house in order to steal the valuables within. In reality, the burglary statute prohibits the entry into any home or structure with the intent to commit a crime within. Imagine a young person who climbs over a fence into an abandoned rail yard to graffiti a wall. Even though that does not fit our thoughts about what a burglary is, that person could be charged and convicted of the crime.
Many of our State’s criminal statutes suffer from the same infirmity. The drug trafficking statute is one of them. When we see on the news “drug traffickers arrested,” we are conditioned to think of border-crossers ferrying huge amount of illegal drugs between states to deliver to their buyer. In reality, people can be charged with the very serious offense of drug trafficking for much less serious seeming conduct. Drug trafficking on its own is a life altering criminal offense, but can become all the more serious when certain criminal enhancements are added. If a person is charged with armed trafficking for example, the potential punishments can be multiplied. This is why if you are charged with trafficking or any criminal offense, you should not hesitate to contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer immediately.Elements of Armed Trafficking
Armed trafficking is not in and of itself a distinct criminal offense. Much like armed robbery or armed burglary it is an enhancement of an already serious criminal charge. In order to prove the charge of armed trafficking, the prosecution must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the underlying offense of trafficking was committed. Trafficking can be proven in two distinct ways. First, the prosecution can prove trafficking by showing that the illicit drug crossed state lines into Florida. If that is the case, then the amount involved does not necessarily matter. Second, and more commonly, the state can prove trafficking based on the amount of illegal drugs in the defendant’s possession.
The amount to reach a charge of trafficking depends on the specific drug at issue. For cannabis, trafficking charges start at 25 pounds of marijuana. For more serious drugs, the trafficking amounts start at much lower weights. For cocaine, trafficking can be charged for 28 grams or more of cocaine. For morphine and many other opioids, the trafficking amount starts at a ridiculously low 4 grams. As you can see, trafficking can be charged for simple possession of illicit drugs and does not necessarily mean that the defendant is a “drug trafficker.” In fact, many people charged with trafficking are in possession for personal use only.
Trafficking when charged alone is already a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in prison. Depending on the amount of drugs involved, there are potentially serious minimum mandatory penalties as well. If, while committing a trafficking offense, the defendant is proven to be in possession of a firearm, the offense is upgraded to armed trafficking. Now you might be wondering how a first degree felony could be upgraded. Well, if charged with armed trafficking, the first degree felony becomes a punishable-by-life felony. The penalties are no joke, and if you are charged with armed trafficking, you should contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer immediately.Speak to Our Lawyers Today
The attorneys at Hanlon Law have years of experience defending clients for serious criminal charges. Call us today at 727.289.0222 for a consultation.