Articles Posted in Narcotics Trafficking

Some people arrested in Pensacola on drug charges may avoid jail time my opting for Drug Court.
Thankfully, the criminal justice system recognizes that crimes related to drugs and alcohol are oftentimes rooted in the disease of addiction and offers a respite in a program called Drug Court. If successfully completed, Drug Court helps offenders avoid jail time and, in some cases, can keep a felony conviction off their record.

Eligibility for post-adjudicatory drug courts is set out in Florida Statute § 948.08 and varies widely, as these drug courts operate at the county and circuit level throughout Florida. We owe the genesis of our Drug Court Program to the Honorable John T. Parnham, a retired Escambia County Circuit Judge, who helped begin and set up Pensacola’s drug court program based on other models in use around the country.

This article is designed only to give you a basic outline of how drug court is used in Northwest Florida and Escambia County or Pensacola. Please see the statute for a more complete explanation of how “drug court program” actually works or give our office a call and we’ll be happy to assist you.

Like anyone doing their job, law enforcement officers should be treated with kindness and courtesy. They put their lives on the line every day in the name of public safety. The role police officers play in our society deserves a high degree of respect.

However federal and state law enforcement officers, which include Pensacola Police Officers, Escambia Sheriff’s Deputies, and other law enforcement officials operate under certain limitations enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s 4th amendment protections, other federal and state laws and court cases interpreting those laws of how they can search your person and your property — and that includes your car!

Fourth Amendment Protections Applies to Your Car

Spice, promoted as a synthetic marijuana, is illegal in Florida, Alabama and under Federal laws. It wasn’t that long ago when this product was available in convenience stores and elsewhere. This product was also labeled “K2,” “herbal incense” or “potpourri.”

An act to ban the use and distribution of the drug was proposed by the US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa as the David Mitchell Rozga Act. It was approved into legislation by the United States Congress in June 2011.

On July 10, 2012, President Barack Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 into law. It banned synthetic compounds commonly found in synthetic marijuana, placing them under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.

The Florida State Supreme Court, on July 12, 2012, in a 5-2 ruling, in State v. Adkins upheld a 2002 law which puts the burden of proof on defendants to prove that the citizen defendant did not have knowledge what was in the container or package, etc. they were carrying contained illicit narcotics. Florida is the only state in the country that does not require the prosecution prove that defendant citizen knew the substances they were carrying were illegal.

The Florida Supreme Court held that by the legislature enacting Florida Statute §893.101, the Legislature eliminated from the definitions of the offenses in chapter 893, Florida’s Drug Statute, the element that a person must have knowledge of the illicit nature of the controlled substance. The legislature created the affirmative defense of lack of such knowledge.
This means that a defendant charged with the crime must prove he or she had no knowledge the substance was a narcotic.

The Court held that the statutory provisions do not violate any requirement of due process articulated by the Florida Supreme Court or the Supreme Court. “In the unusual circumstance where a person possesses a controlled substance inadvertently, establishing the affirmative defense available under section 893.101 will preclude the conviction of the defendant” the Florida Supreme Court stated.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision is in response to a Federal Middle District of Court’s judges opinion ruled the entire Florida law was unconstitutional, calling it a significant departure from the notion that Defendant citizens are innocent until proven guilty.

Prosecutors must still prove that a defendant knew the drug was in their possession. “In the unusual circumstance where a person possesses a controlled substance inadvertently, establishing the affirmative defense available under (the law) will preclude the conviction of the defendant,” Justice Canady wrote for the majority.

Albiet in the miniority of possession and drug cases, there are people that do not know what they are carrying on behalf of someone else contains nacartics. And if they are arrested, who is likely to come forth and tell law enforcement, “yes, those were my drugs, arrest me, you’ve got the wrong person?” What makes this holding particularly disturbing is Florida Minimmum Mandatory sentencing scheme for quanties of drugs for which the person had no intent to sell.
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In the State of Florida, Pensacola all the way down to Miami, the mere possession of certain controlled substances , even in very small amounts can carry trafficking minimum mandatory prison sentences. This brief articles addresses the tremendously horrendous penalties associated with the simple possession a class of narcotic drugs, hydrocodone. These includes well known, generic and inexpensive mid to mild pain killers Lortabs, Percocet, Darvocet. The possession of these drugs in Florida state court is far more serious that in any federal court through out the entire county. At the end of the second part of this brief article minimum mandatories for possession of other drugs, such as cocaine, are discussed.

The reasons why possession of hydrocodone, a.k.a. Lortab, Percocet, Darvocet, etc., is because several years ago the Florida Legislature amended Chapter 893, the drug statute in Florida, and enhanced the possession of hydrocodone from a schedule III drug to a Schedule II drug. What happens in the cases of Class II drugs is that not only the inert “illegal” ingredient of the drug will be factored into the equation of the weight of the drug but the “filler” or other compounds or ingredients mixed in with the inert or narcotic ingredient will be added into the total weight of the pill. So, for example, in Lortabs, or hydrocodone, which consists primarily of acetaminophen, the same ingredient that makes up Tylenol, an over the counter pain medication, will be used in the total weight calculation.

What this means is that possession of more than six tablets of Lortab is a three year minimum prison sentence, possession of thirty of these pills is a fifteen-year minimum mandatory and possession of a 100 of Lortabs without prescription is a twenty-five year minimum mandatory! These mandatories do not apply to only those who sell, deliver or give Lortabs or hydrocone to other people. The mere possession of these quantities is trafficking!! So, for example, the friend who gives a buddy six Lortab 10s not only is “trafficking” because the friend had an acute injury and is in pain, will also be guilty of a three year minimum mandatory by merely possessing the drug!

The legislature has made mere possession of one of the most widely used mild-mid level pain killers, hydrocodone or Lortabs, a mandatory prison sentence if you have only six tablets! I recently had a personal injury case I handled where the pain doctor in Pensacola regularly prescribes 120 of the pills on a monthly basis to some of his pain patients who suffered a back injury in a car wreck. The patient, a young man in his 30s, didn’t like the way they made him feel so he gave them to a co-worker friend of his who was obese and had painful arthritis in his knees and hips. This law means the fellow in pain would be looking at 25 years in prison if arrested by merely possessing these drugs! Hard to believe but true!

The policy behind the legislature moving hydrocodone to a Class II drug from a Class III drug is Class II drugs are more addictive in nature that Class III. For example, cocaine is Class II drug. Diet pills are Class III or Class IV drugs and the “mixture of other substances” and not added to the controlled substance and are not counted in the total weight calculation.

Travesties are occurring around Florida when first time offenders are arrested with a small number of these drugs and receive long minimum mandatory prison sentences. The only way the law is going to change is for the legislature to reclassify hydrocodone to a Class III drug. But being realistic, how many politicians, politics being what they are, are going to want to sponsor a bill making possession of a narcotic drug less severe? Some will one day, when one of their constituents, or one of their loved ones or family members gets ensnared by this terrible law.

See Pensacola Criminal Defense Attorney Jim Jenkins Website for any further information about these types of drug related crimes or others.
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