Conspiracy & Trafficking Charges in Tampa Bay
In Tampa Bay Florida, drug trafficking charges are punishable by up to life in prison with up to 15 years of minimum mandatory time, and a criminal defense lawyer in Clearwater knows that federal time in the Middle District of Florida is often even worse. All drug trafficking and drug trafficking conspiracies are first degree felonies (at the State of Florida level) punishable up to thirty years in prison. Huge fines are also attached to any drug trafficking and drug conspiracy conviction.
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If you have been arrested, charged, or investigated for Conspiracy & Trafficking in Pinellas county, an experienced attorney with a proven record of success can be your strongest asset. As your legal representative, Robert Hambrick will focus on protecting your rights at every stage, from investigation through trial. If you're under investigation from local Tampa Bay law enforcement, from the FBI or from a Grand Jury investigation you need to hire the best Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney for your needs.
You could find yourslf arrested on a trafficking charge in a number of ways. Mere possession of drugs without a proper prescription carries a trafficking charge. Each drug carries a different minimum mandatory prison sentence. It's the weight of the drug that determines whether the amount is mere possession or something much worse and much more destructive for your future - a criminal trafficking charge.
Even a relatively small amount of actual weight of a drug may bring a trafficking case that comes with a mandatory minimum sentence. This is often the case with oxycodone. Someone may forge a Doctor's prescription for twenty pills which unfortunately carries with it a three year mandatory prison sentence in Florida, because the weight of those pills is deemed a trafficking amount. It doesn't matter that most of the pills may not in fact be the drug but filler, becaue under Florida law the filler is counted as part of the weight because the weight is formulated as the entire "mixture thereof" unlike the Federal cases in which the mixture is no longer counted as part of the overall weight.
The weights rather than the complexity of the case guide whether prosecutors and law enforcement pursue a trafficking case. If a Defendant possesses over 28 grams of cocaine, he will be charged with Trafficking in Cocaine. But if the weight is only slightly less at 27 grams, then the charged offense will be mere possession something your Clearwater criminal defense lawyer should argue to the judge before you plea to any charge.
As you can see the weight in every drug case becomes the most important factor in determing what will happen. Almost all drugs like cocaine, oxycodone, methamphetamine and all prescription drugs are deemed trafficking as oppossed to mere possession only by weight. However, Cannabis (marijuana) is an exception to the gerneral rule that weight is conclusive in that possession of greater than 300 cannabis plants no matter what the of the plants weight constitutes a Trafficking in Cannabis charge.
ARE FLORIDA'S TRAFFICKING DRUG LAWS UNCONSTITUTIONAL?
The Supreme Court of Florida is reviewing the constitutionality of Florida's Drug Laws after Federal Judge Scriven declared them to be unconstitutional because knowledge was not an essential element of the offense unlike every other state in America. Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Hambrick has been keeping up with the latest developments and here is an excerpt from my Blog on the status of Florida's Drug laws especially in Tampa Bay:
So far not one of the Judges in Florida's 6th Circuit (encompassing Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco Counties as well as Tampa, Clearwater & St. Petersburg) has thrown out any drug cases based on Federal District Judge Scriven's recent well reasoned Federal decision in the Shelton case which declared Florida's Drug Laws unconstitutional.
However, Circuit Courts in Miami have dismissed some cases and not others. More recently the Circuit Court for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit in Manatee County dismissed 46 cases based on Scriven's decision that Fla. Stat. section 893.13 was unconstitutional.
The State of course immediately appealed. On September 28th, the Second District Court of Appeal entered an order certifying that the issue requires immediate resolution by the Florida Supreme Court.
On October 12th, the Florida Supreme Court accepted jurisdiction in the case in State v. Adkins, No. SC11-1878. The Florida Supreme Court ordered the parties to file their initial briefs and answer briefs quickly with oral argument was held at the Florida Supreme Court on the sixth of December.
Clearly, the Florida Supreme Court expects to resolve the split within the Florida Districts quickly, but will it be fast enough to help my unfortunate clients and those falsely arrested on these charges?
Significant Drug Trafficking & Conspiracy Cases Handled by Robert Hambrick:
1. At Trial Tampa Federal Court, Federal Conspiracy to Traffic in Cocaine with potential life imprisonment. Defendant caught with 3.5 tons (yes, tons) of cocaine with an estimated street value of $1 billion. After a six week Trial by Jury, the verdict for Robert Hambrick's client, a citizen of Lithuania: Not Guilty. Hambrick recieves letter of thanks and praise from the Ambassador of Lithuania. (View Letter from the Ambassador)
2. At Trial Tampa Federal Court, Federal Conspiracy to Manufacture Marijuana at multiple Marijuana Grow Houses with potential 20 years of incarceration: All Charges against Robert Hambrick's client Dissmissed after Motion from the Defense, the Government having failed to prove it's case. (Tampa Tribune Article)
HOW COMPLEX DRUG CONSPIRACY & TRAFFICKING CASES PROCEED THRU THE STATE OF FLORIDA CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN PINELLAS & HILLSBOROUGH:
Timing is crucial for the criminal defense of these crimes, if you hire Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Robert Hambrick his goal will be to intervene with the prosecutors before formal trafficking and conspiracy charges are filed resulting in having the charges reduced to mere possession, dismissed or nolle prossed. The firt objective in these cases must always be to avoid a mandatory minimum prison term and then if possible to have the charge dismissed. In Tampa Bay & PInellas this is how your drug conspiracy or trafficking cases are handled, see, How cases proceed in Pinellas andTampa Bay):
1. In the Tampa Bay and Pinellas drug conspiracy or trafficking cases are typically investigated by Tampa Bay law enforcement after a search warrant was obtained or a vehicle stopped or without a search warrant because the law enforcement officer testifies that he observed probable cause to believe that there were drugs at a paticuar place. If there is sufficient probable cause for Tampa Bay law enforcement to believe that a drug conspiracy or trafficking crime has taken place in Tampa Bay or Pinellas an arrest is made if not then the case is moved forward with an arrest warrant. Often law enforcement may seek to have the Defendant cooperate to reduce the charges, but it's important to seek the advice of an attorney to be certain that the officers can be trusted and are actually capable of helping a Defendant and have lived up to their obligations in the past.
2. Law Enforcement Officers bring the drug conspiracy or trafficking case to the attention of the Pinellas or Hillsborough State Attorney's Office for review . This is a crucial point within the framework of the chain of events leading to criminal prosecution. By Florida law the prosecutor assigned to the case must take oral testimony before the State Attorney's Office will formally file felony criminal charges. Testimony from Tampa Bay officers or deputies as to the facts and circumstances of the case will be sufficient to move the case forward if the victim is unavailable to testify.
3. The Tampa or PInellas State Attorney's Office makes a filing decision based on the facts presented which will inculde evidence of unlawful possession of a trafficking amount of drugs and a conspiracy which is defined by Florida Law as an agreement between two or more people to further to an unlawful act, in this case the trafficking of drugs. Any and all evidence available of great or negligable weight all of it untested by a Clearwater Crime Defense lawyer, is presented at what is known as an 'invest' which is usually conducted at the police headquarters of the investigating Tampa Bay police department or sheriff's office.
See WHAT TO DO WHEN OFFICERS ASK OR DEMAND TO SEARCH YOU OR YOUR PROPERTY
9. Finally, when the evidentiary motions are disposed of, the Pinellas or Hillsborough Court will calander what is known as a Pretrial at which time the Defendant must choose to either plea or set the case for Trial. This process may take a few months to six months or longer to complete as drug conspiracy or trafficking case are extremely complex.
CONSPIRACY AND TRAFFICKING CASES IN THE FEDERAL SYSTEM
These Federal Drug conspiracy and trafficking cases are extremely complex, time consumming and threaten to place you or a loved one in prison for a significant amont of time. It's not unusual for these cases to be at the very highest levels of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines creating a situation where a Federal Jury Trial may be necessay as neither the Prosecutor nor the Judge will have much discretion at sentencing so you need to find a Pinellas Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. SEE HOW COMPLEX DRUG CASES INVOLVING CONSPIRACY AND TRAFFICKING PROCEED THRU THE FEDERAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA TO THE FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT IN TAMPA
1. These are often known as victimless crimes, but under the Federal Rules there is a presumption that anyone charged with these crimes is a threat to the community as well as a likely flight risk. This means that a Fedeal Magistrate is unlikely to allow someone to have a bond. In these cases Defendants often languish in Federal Detention until their trials can be heard.
2. Law Enforcement Officers bring federal conspiracy and trafficking drug cases to the attention of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa for review often while the investigation is still in progress.
3. Once significant criminal acts have occurred the U.S. Attorney takes the case to a federal grand jury for an indictment on specific quality and quantities of drugs. This is a crucial point within the framework of the chain of events leading to eventual federal criminal prosecution. The best time for a Defendant to cut a deal if he is ever going to do is before the grand jury returns an indictment. Once the indictment is returned the Governent is unlikely to make any worthy offers acceptable for a plea of guility.
4. Once an indictment is handed down the case is assigned to specific federal judges. An effective Tampa Bay Federal Defense Attorney will already know the attributes of the District Judge, the federal Magistrate and the federal prosecutor assigned to the case.
5. The First hearing is known as an Arraignment in which the Federal Judge, known as a Magistrate, will make certain that the Defendant has an attorney and understands the nature of the federal charges against him. Because there is very limited discovery in federal cases this may be a good opportunity to place the Government Agent on the stand to describe the probable cause for the Court. It's important for every defendant charged with any criminal misconduct not to make any statements about the offense at the arraignment as anything you say can be used against you and is being recorded for future use for that purpose.
8. Federal cases are set for trial quickly within weeks all of the evidentiary motions are disposed and the trial will be set unless the Defendant pleas guilty to the charges.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO CONSPIRE - WHEN IS THERE AN AGREEMENT TO COMMIT TRAFFICKING OFFENSES
Courts will look at all of the activities of the defendant and the co-defendants to find out whether there was an agreement to do unlawful conduct between them. Florida courts have upheld conspiracy convictions as a criminal agreement betwen defendants where defendants are involved in a series of meetings, arrangements and negotiations to sell or buy illegal drugs that lead to such sale or purchase. Pino v. State, 573 So.2d 151, 152 (Fla. 3d DCA 1991).
But where the Defendant's involvement in the criminal enterprise appears to be minimal at best, with no pre-arrangements nor meetings with the other defendants, Florida courts been inclined to dismiss such conspiracy charges. In order to establish that there has been a conspiracy, the Defendant's participation in the conspiracy must be established. To do this the state must prove ‘an express or implied agreement or understanding between two or more persons to commit a criminal offense,’ and an intention to commit that offense.” Sheriff v. State, 780 So.2d 920, 921 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001). “Direct proof of the agreement is not necessary; it may be inferred from the circumstances.” Arguelles v. State, 842 So.2d 939 at 944.
You can see that the very nature of drug conspiracy and trafficking cases requires help from a knowledgeabale Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer who is well versed in the complexities of the ever changing Florida law.
Substantial Assistance & co-operation to reduce charges or jail time in drug conspiracy or trafficking cases in Tampa Bay:
It is possible in Florida State Courts as well as Federally for someone who has been charged with trafficking to gain what is known as 'substantial assistance' by helping authoritites find the source of drugs which lead to further arrests. Florida Statutes state as follows: "The state attorney may move the sentencing court to reduce or suspend the sentence of any person who is convicted of a violation of this section and who provides substantial assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any of that person's accomplices, accessories, coconspirators, or principals or of any other person engaged in trafficking in controlled substances. The arresting agency shall be given an opportunity to be heard in aggravation or mitigation in reference to any such motion. Upon good cause shown, the motion may be filed and heard in camera. The judge hearing the motion may reduce or suspend the sentence if the judge finds that the defendant rendered such substantial assistance." This statute empowers the presiding judge upon a motion by the prosecuting attorney to reduce or suspend a sentence where a Defendant has given valuable information to the authorities.
In Federal Court the presiding Judge does not even have juridiction to reduce a sentence after a conviction for drug trafficking unless and until the United States Attorney's Office files a 5K motion (or a Rule 35 Motion up to one year after sentencing). The motion must articulate the value of the Defendant's help and then the Federal Judge determines how many levels to reduce the guideline computation based on the truthfulness and quality of the Defendant's substantial assistance. Whatever you do the most important first step is to find the best Clearwater Criminal Drug Defense Attorney for your needs.
Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Robert Hambrick's Blog: Your Best Legal Help Advice & Counsel -- A Guide to Crime Investigation & Evidence Evaluation Arrest Dismissal or Trial: From a Seasoned Pinellas & Tampa Bay Defense Lawyer. Keep up with the latest developments in drug conspiracy and trafficking cases.
FINDING THE BEST CRIMINAL LAW ATTORNEY IN TAMPA BAY FOR YOUR TRAFFICKING AND CONSPIRACY DRUG CASE Robert Hambrick handles cases in the Clearwater area involving: Distribution or conspiracy to transport, Drug possession / delivery, Felony drug crimes charges, Grand jury investigations, Intent to distribute, Possession of a controlled substance, prescription drug possession, Marijuana, cocaine, meth, LSD, heroin and more.