When you hear the term “drug dealer” certain images come to mind. You might picture a guy in a trench coat lurking in the shadows outside of a bar, or maybe a young man who runs up to a car slowly cruising a bad neighborhood.
Unfortunately, you can find subjects that meet those descriptions right here in Pensacola, Gulf Breeze, Milton, Fort Walton Beach and Destin.
But the way Florida law applies, a drug dealer can also be a college student who buys herself a bag of marijuana and gives a friend a joint. It can even be a man who gives a friend a Valium to help her with the stress of a bad divorce.
There does not have to be any cash exchanged for an action to be considered drug delivery – and drug delivery carries the same penalties as selling drugs.
It’s quite common for people who would not otherwise be considered a criminal to go to jail or even prison in cases just like the ones I’ve described. But how would the police ever learn about a casual exchange between close friends?
Here’s a typical scenario: Someone who has just left a friend’s house with a small amount of drugs – either street drugs like marijuana or a prescription pain killer – gets pulled over for speeding on their way home. For some reason, the police officer searches the car and find the drugs.
Naturally, the person is alarmed and may quite readily tell the officer who gave them the pot or pills. He may even be coerced or persuaded to help the police catch their friend in the act of distributing more drugs for fear of going to prison themselves. Then, the person who provided the drugs may be arrested and charged for delivering a drug – more serious than just possessing an illegal drug.
With marijuana, for example, possession of less than 20 grams is a misdemeanor. Giving away or selling the same amount to someone – delivering the drug – is a third-degree felony. Giving someone certain hard drugs may be a second degree felony.
Several years ago, there was a major drug sting in Pensacola where more than 50 people were arrested for buying drugs. The majority of people who were arrested for buying drugs agreed to plead guilty and were given probation, provided they had no prior convictions.
I was representing someone else in the case, but witnessed a nice, hard working, professional lady who had told police that she had purchased the drugs for her and her boyfriend. When the judge read that in the arrest report, he determined that her intent to give some of the drugs to her boyfriend constituted delivery and gave her a year and a day in prison. To her shock she was hauled out of the court room. Her lawyer should have emotionally prepared her for this outcome in light of this particular judge’s reputaton.
As an aside, many times, there is no need for the person who is pulled over and searched, or however they might come to be arrested, to cooperate with the police. Of course, drug possession is illegal and caries punishment. In most cases, a good attorney can help. Ordinarily, possession charges involving small quantities of most drugs do not result in jail time. You may get probation or even pre-trial diversion.
The fact is, someone may not consider themselves a drug dealer but they may take part in activities the law sees as drug dealing or delivery. Drug dealing is a serious crime and can carry significant consequences. If you are in facing a drug charge in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa or Walton counties, speak to an attorney before making any decisions on how to proceed.