Drug Trafficking and Conspiracy
Since the “War on Drugs” began decades ago, both state and federal law enforcement agencies have devoted substantial resources to identifying, investigating, and prosecuting drug traffickers and drug trafficking conspiracies. The potential penalties for a drug trafficking or conspiracy conviction in state or federal court are serious, including mandatory sentences and the potential for up to a life sentence, if convicted.
If you believe you are under investigation for or have already been charged with drug trafficking or conspiracy by the State of Florida or the U.S. government, it is vitally important to take steps to protect yourself and your future. To do that, you need an experienced drug trafficking and conspiracy attorney.
As a former prosecuting attorney, Jonathan Rose is uniquely qualified to understand how drug cases are investigated and prosecuted by state and federal authorities. Attorney Rose is committed to using that knowledge and experience to vigorously defend you if you are facing state or federal drug trafficking and conspiracy charges.
Contact Jonathan Rose today by calling 407-894-4555 or filling out the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website for the advice and protection you need.
What Is the Difference between State and Federal Prosecutions?
The judicial system in the United States is not a single system; instead, we have a federal judicial system and each individual state has its own judicial system. In practice, this means that criminal conduct can be investigated and prosecuted by state and/or federal authorities. While crimes involving possession of a controlled substance are typically investigated by state law enforcement agencies and prosecuted in state courts, drug trafficking and conspiracy crimes are frequently investigated and prosecuted at the state or federal level.
Since state drug crime investigations are often bumped up to federal court, it is important to have an attorney who has experience in both state and federal defense and can handle your case through the entire legal process. When you are fighting drug trafficking and conspiracy charges, you want a sharp, knowledgeable defense attorney who knows the facts and circumstances of your case and can protect and fight for your freedom. You do not want to have to change attorneys if you find out you are being tried in federal court.
What Is Drug Trafficking?
At the federal level, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) governs most criminal offenses involving drugs. Among other things, the CSA makes it illegal to:
- Manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense a controlled substance; or
- Create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.
A “controlled substance” refers to a substance listed in one of five “schedules” listed in the CSA. Schedule I controlled substances, such as heroin, have no recognized medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule V controlled substances have a recognized medical use and a low risk of abuse. Prescription cough medication that includes a small amount of codeine is an example of a schedule V controlled substance.
At the state level, the State of Florida uses a system similar to its federal CSA counterpart to classify drugs, both prescription and illicit. Known as the Controlled Dangerous Substances schedule, the Florida system also classifies substances into five schedules based on criteria similar to that used for the CSA. Florida law makes it illegal to “sell, manufacture, or deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, a controlled substance.”
How Does the Law Define Conspiracy?
While most people are familiar with the word “conspiracy” as it is used in everyday language, the legal definition of a conspiracy is much more precise. Understanding what the state or federal government must prove to convict a defendant of conspiracy is important because many drug trafficking cases include conspiracy charges. This is done to expand the number of defendants prosecuted when the government believes there is a large drug trafficking “ring” involved.
To convict a defendant of conspiracy, the prosecution must prove two elements:
- That you knowingly entered into an agreement with at least one other party to commit the crime.
- That you took a substantial step toward, or committed an overt act, in furtherance of that agreement.
What makes conspiracy such an attractive option for the prosecution is that they are not required to prove that the underlying crime ever took place to convict a defendant of conspiracy. By way of illustration, imagine that the government believes you are part of a large-scale drug trafficking operation. You could be arrested, charged, and convicted of conspiracy to traffic drugs without the prosecution ever presenting a single piece of evidence proving that the drugs even existed.
What Are the Penalties for Drug Trafficking and Conspiracy Convictions?
The penalties for drug trafficking and conspiracy convictions vary depending on the drug(s) involved, the amount of the drug, number of prior offenses, and whether you were convicted in state or federal court. Your sentence may also be reduced if you provide “substantial assistance” to the prosecutors in identifying, arresting or convicting other people who engage in drug trafficking activities.
Under Florida law, a judge must sentence a person convicted of trafficking in 28 grams, or one ounce of cocaine, to a minimum three-year prison term, $50,000 fine, and other sanctions, including a one year driver’s license suspension. For 200 – 400 grams, you are sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of 7 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. For 400 grams to 150 kilograms, you are sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and for 150 kilograms or more of cocaine, you are sentenced to life in prison.
In Florida, if you are found guilty of conspiring with another person to engage in drug trafficking activities, your penalty is the same as if you had actually committed the related drug trafficking offense. Additionally, if you are convicted of both offenses, drug trafficking and conspiracy, Florida law allows separate sentences for the separate crimes.
Under federal law, the penalty for a first trafficking offense for many Schedule I and II controlled substances is a minimum of 5 years in prison and a fine of not more than $5 million. For larger quantities of drugs, the penalty increases to a minimum of 10 years and a fine of not more than $10 million. If someone was seriously injured in the process, the minimum sentence is 20 years.
Penalties for a federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute also vary from a minimum of 5 years in prison and a fine up to $5 million to life in prison and a fine up to $10 million, depending on the drug and amount involved. In addition, possessing a firearm “in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime” is also a punishable offence, with a penalty of no less than five years and up to life imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000.
What Are Common Defense Strategies for Drug Trafficking and Conspiracy?
When facing drug trafficking and conspiracy charges, it is crucial to have a strong defense strategy in place as soon as possible. The defense strategy used in your case will be uniquely tailored to fit the circumstances; however, there are some common strategies used in drug trafficking and conspiracy prosecutions, such as:
- Discrediting an informant. Drug trafficking and conspiracy cases often involve the use of an informant. While using an informant is legal, the informant must be “credible” and “reliable” for the government to use evidence obtained by the informant at trial. An experienced defense attorney may be able to discredit an informant which, in turn, discredits evidence obtained from the informant.
- Challenging a search. If evidence was obtained during a search and seizure, which is frequently the case in a drug trafficking case, your defense attorney may challenge the legality of the search. If the search is declared illegal, evidence obtained during the search may be inadmissible at trial.
- Claiming entrapment. Entrapment is an often-misunderstood defense. In legal terms, entrapment involves the police (or a government agent) inducing you to commit a criminal offense that you would otherwise have been unlikely to commit.
- Showing the prosecution failed to prove the required elements. Sometimes the prosecution’s case is weak, i.e., they are unable to prove the required elements of a crime. If, for example, the prosecution cannot prove the “substantial step” or “overt act” required to prove that a conspiracy existed, the defense would focus on the prosecution’s failure to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
While these are some strategies defense attorneys may use in drug trafficking and conspiracy cases, your specific defense will depend on all of the facts and surrounding circumstances of your particular case. To build a powerful defense and protect your freedom, you need an attorney who has experience successfully handling state and federal drug trafficking and conspiracy cases. Call Attorney Jonathan Rose at 407-894-4555 or submit the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website to get the legal help you need.
Get Help from an Experienced Florida Drug Trafficking and Conspiracy Attorney
If you have been charged with drug trafficking or conspiracy to traffic drugs in state or federal court, or you believe you are part of a drug trafficking investigation, it is crucial to protect your rights and your future immediately. The best way to do that is to get help from a qualified Florida drug trafficking and conspiracy defense attorney as soon as possible.
Attorney Jonathan Rose has the expertise and resources necessary to aggressively protect and defend you in state or federal court. Let Mr. Rose put his unique experience and skills to work for you.
Contact Jonathan Rose today by calling 407-894-4555 or filling out the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website to get the expert legal advice and powerful defense you need.