If you have been arrested for cocaine trafficking in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or any other area of Pinellas County, you need to consult with an experienced drug trafficking attorney in St. Petersburg as soon as possible. Trafficking charges can be brought despite the lack of any allegation that you were a “drug dealer” or that you planned to sell the drug to another person. An attorney with Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan understands how serious these charges are and will seek the best possible outcome for your unique situation.
What Is Cocaine Trafficking?
Florida Statute section 893.125(1) defines cocaine trafficking as the sale, manufacture, delivery, or possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine or a mixture that includes cocaine. The mandatory minimum sentence depends on the weight of the cocaine or cocaine mixture that the prosecution was able to prove that you were in possession of. Below, we’ve provided the mandatory minimum sentence (imprisonment and fine) for various amounts of cocaine:
- 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams: 3 years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine
- 200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams: 7 years imprisonment and a $100,000 fine
- 400 grams or more, but less than 150 kilograms: 15 years and a $250,000 fine
- 150 kilograms or more: Life imprisonment
If more than one person has access to cocaine in a particular place, such as an apartment that multiple roommates share, the prosecution will need to demonstrate constructive possession. This means the prosecution must prove that (1) the cocaine was present, (2) that you knew the substance at issue was cocaine, and (3) that you had dominion and control over the cocaine.
Do the Penalties Differ If the Cocaine Has Been Cut?
Cocaine is often adulterated or “cut” with some type of other drug, filler, or substitute. Substances like laundry detergent and baking soda are commonly used to get more doses of cocaine from a batch, while substitutes like lidocaine are used to produce similar effects to cocaine at a lower cost. Crack cocaine is made by dissolving powder cocaine in water and then mixing it with baking soda or ammonia.
Unfortunately, under Florida law, the purity of the drug you’re charged with possessing is irrelevant. In other words, the weight of the controlled substance is the total weight of the mixture, including the controlled substance and any other substances included in the mixture. For example, if you were to mix 14 grams of pure cocaine with 16 grams of baking soda, you would be subject to the same minimum mandatory sentencing penalties as an individual who possessed 30 grams of pure cocaine.
What Factors Can Cause Drug Trafficking Charges to be Enhanced?
It’s fairly uncommon to be charged with cocaine trafficking alone as the nature of drug operations inherently gives rise to additional charges. Some of the most common crimes charged in addition to charges of drug trafficking include money laundering, drug manufacturing, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. But, what causes a felony of the second or third degree to transform into a felony of the first degree?
The answer is actually a combination of factors, including whether or not you had an intent to sell or deliver the substance, whether or not a minor was involved in the sale, and whether or not this sale took place within 1,000 feet of one of the following properties:
- secondary schools between the hours of 6:00 am and midnight;
- post-secondary facilities;
- state, county, or municipal parks or facilities;
- places of worship;
- religious organizations;
- assisted living facilities; and
- public housing facilities.
Florida law also gives the prosecution the discretion to seek harsher penalties on defendants with multiple prior convictions. For example, a conviction of a felony of a third degree could mean a period of incarceration of up to ten years for a defendant with two or more prior felony convictions in Florida under the Habitual Felony Offender statute.
How Can You Fight a Drug Trafficking Charge?
The best way to effectively fight a drug trafficking charge for any controlled substance is to get in touch with a criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg from Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan. The laws surrounding drug trafficking prosecutions in the State of Florida are extremely complex, and the circumstances of each case are entirely unique. Our team of former state prosecutors and seasoned criminal defense attorneys is not only experienced in maneuvering these drug trafficking laws but will craft a defense that is specifically tailored to the facts and evidence of the prosecution.
Depending on the facts of your cocaine trafficking case, we may be able to employ any of the following common defenses:
- Knowledge Defense: The prosecution cannot prove that you had knowledge of the presence of the cocaine.
- Chemical Testing Defense: The roadside “presumptive” testing is found to be unreliable, and later chemical testing reveals that the substance is not actually cocaine.
- Weight Defense: The simple possession of cocaine did not rise to the level of trafficking.
- Entrapment Defense: Confidential informants or undercover agents persuaded you to commit a crime in which you otherwise would not have been involved.
When you partner with a defense attorney in St. Petersburg, we’ll evaluate all of the options that exist for defending your case and select the course of action that sees you can circumvent or avoid the minimum mandatory prison sentence you may be facing.
For a free consultation with a drug crimes attorney in St. Petersburg, please contact Russo, Pelletier & Sullivan today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.