St. Petersburg is the fifth-most populated city in Florida. According to the Tampa Bay Times, a Coast Guard patrol boat made four seizures of over 1.7 metric tons of cocaine in St. Petersburg in April 2017. Movies and television sometimes make it seem like only drug kingpins and career criminals commit drug trafficking. However, you can be accused of drug trafficking simply by possessing a certain quantity of drugs. A cocaine trafficking conviction in Florida is based on having at least a certain minimum weight of cocaine. There are different penalties based on the drug's weight when a trafficking conviction is obtained, and usually the court has no discretion to reduce the mandatory minimum prison sentence that will be imposed upon a conviction. It is critical to retain a knowledgeable St. Petersburg cocaine trafficking lawyer to defend you.Cocaine Trafficking
If you are charged with cocaine trafficking, you face the possibility of imprisonment. In addition to the possibility of prison time, fines, and social stigma, there is also the possibility of the governmental seizure of a home, cash, or vehicle that police believe is connected to the crime. The threshold weight for cocaine trafficking is 28 grams. If you possess, buy, or sell this amount of cocaine, you can be charged with trafficking. When you possess less than this amount, you may be charged with other drug crimes.
Under Florida Statute section 893.135, the mandatory minimum penalties are as follows. For 28-200 grams, you face the possibility of a three-year mandatory minimum sentence and a $50,000 fine. For 200-400 grams, you face the possibility of a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence and a $100,000 fine. For 400 grams-150 kg, you face the possibility of a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence and a $250,000 fine. If you are charged with trafficking more than 150 kg of cocaine, you can be charged with a first-degree felony and face the possibility of life in prison with no eligibility for parole or other discretionary early release, with very limited exceptions.
There are several different defenses that a cocaine trafficking attorney in St. Petersburg may be able to use against these charges. One major defense is to argue that the drugs involved were found due to an unreasonable search and seizure, which is prohibited under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. Whenever police officers exceed their authority to obtain evidence of cocaine trafficking, such as by searching without a warrant or probable cause, it amounts to an illegal search and seizure. In such cases, you may be able to get the evidence suppressed. Without evidence of cocaine, the prosecutor may not be able to pursue the charges against you.
Another possible defense is entrapment. This defense can be raised when the police coerce you to commit a crime that you would not have committed otherwise. The defendant will bear the burden of proving entrapment if it applies, but it can result in a dismissal of charges or acquittal if it is successful.
Less commonly used but possible is substantial assistance. When substantial assistance is provided by a defendant to law enforcement, the judge is allowed to sentence a defendant to less than the mandatory minimum prison sentence required by statute. Essentially, if you provide substantial assistance, you will be considered a confidential informant.
In many cases, defendants are reluctant to help law enforcement, but it is one way of making sure to avoid a long prison sentence. It is very important to work with an experienced St. Petersburg cocaine trafficking attorney if you are interested in providing substantial assistance after being charged with cocaine trafficking. Generally, you will need to sign a substantial assistance agreement that specifies a particular lower sentence and enter a plea, and you will only get that lower sentence if you actually assist with a certain number of arrests or prosecutions. If you do not live up to your end of the deal, you are subject to the mandatory minimum sentence, and the plea cannot be withdrawn.Contact a Skilled Cocaine Trafficking Lawyer in St. Petersburg
If you are charged with drug trafficking, you should consult our experienced criminal defense firm. Our founder, Will Hanlon, has been providing criminal defense representation since 1994. We are committed to defending the rights of the accused. Call Hanlon Law at 727.897.5413 or use our online form to schedule an appointment.