Nearly Two Decades Years Of Criminal Defense Experience In Clearwater

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Getting Answers To Your Drug Crimes Questions

When the consequences of a conviction for drug crimes can have lasting consequences, you need all the information you can get to earn the outcome you deserve in your case. At the Finkelstein Firm, P.A., in Clearwater, I can build a defense that you can depend on in your case. My name is Jenna Finkelstein, and I can also answer any questions you may have about your case. Below are a few of the most common ones I hear.

What is sentencing entrapment?

Sentencing entrapment is most commonly seen in drug cases. The situation usually involves a series of staged buys by law enforcement. If an undercover officer or their agent requests a certain amount of drugs from a seller and the seller does not come through, then the officer may ask for additional drugs. If the original proposed sale is less than a trafficking amount and the officer turns it down, requesting more, this may be sentencing entrapment. The seller then finds more drugs, sells the trafficking amount to the officer or their agent, and is subsequently arrested for trafficking. If it can be proved that the officer encouraged or enticed the individual to sell a trafficking amount of drugs when the original intent was to sell less, then sentencing entrapment may be argued.

What are the minimum mandatory sentences for trafficking charges?

Minimum mandatory sentences are driven by the type of drug and the amount. For example, marijuana charges (depending on the volume) can have a minimum of three years in prison and $25,000 in fines, whereas fentanyl charges can have a minimum of seven years in prison and $50,000 in fines.

Can I get arrested for picking up a prescription for someone else?

Pharmacies are finally beginning to pay more attention to who they release prescriptions to. In some situations, individuals may need to pick up prescriptions for sick family members. Technically, if you have someone else’s medication in your possession, then you can be charged with unlawful possession. With that being said, these types of arrests are rare. If there is an innocent explanation for your possession and a valid reason, then you can almost certainly avoid prosecution. If you have any concerns about this type of drug possession, call my office today and I can advise you on how to safely get prescriptions to your loved ones in need through the use of a valid legal document designating you as a health care surrogate or representative.

Will my charge be heard in federal court?

The federal government is interested in drug cases involving the sale, purchase or delivery of drugs across state lines. Typically, these cases involve large amounts of drugs. Contact my office immediately for a consultation if you are under investigation by any federal agency. Do not offer statements in writing, over the phone or in person. Exercise your right to remain silent, and hire a lawyer immediately.

What is a proffer?

There are situations in which proffers may be appropriate in an effort to mitigate or eliminate prosecution. A proffer is an offer of information to the prosecuting agency in return for a reduced sentence. Generally, there are two scenarios in which a proffer is appropriate in drug cases. If you have been charged with trafficking and have a drug problem, offering information about yourself and your drug history may encourage a reduced sentence. Because trafficking cases carry minimum mandatory sentences, the risk is great with a conviction. These laws were passed to target drug traffickers, but drug users often suffer the harsh consequences, too, by merely possessing or selling to feed a habit. Offering information to support the position that you are, in fact, a user and not a dealer can sometimes encourage the prosecuting agency to consider more lenient sentences.

Proffers are also used to gain information from individuals who can bring down bigger dealers. Law enforcement agencies are very interested in utilizing intelligence from people who know the big players. Sometimes, the small players can work as confidential informants, assisting law enforcement in the community with drug buys.

If you have been arrested for a trafficking charge, contact my office about your options. Never try to arrange a proffer without the assistance of an attorney. I will always explore all options for your trafficking charges and never force you to do something you do not want to do. Working as a confidential informant can be a dangerous venture, and you need to know your rights.

Can I get drug treatment?

Drug treatment is available to some criminal defendants, especially those who have never sought treatment. There are some situations in which I will encourage my clients to begin treatment after their arrest and prior to negotiations. This can prove to be a helpful negotiating tool.

What is a confidential informant?

A confidential informant (CI) is an individual who is working under law enforcement to assist with other arrests. Some are paid and some are simply working in hopes of a lesser sentence. Never agree to work as a CI without consulting an attorney first.

Should I work as a CI to reduce my charges?

Working as a CI can be dangerous. With that being said, law enforcement officers go to great lengths to protect the identities and safety of their informants. In some cases, this is a viable option for sentence mitigation.

Should I cooperate with law enforcement?

Never talk to law enforcement officers about charges that are pending against you without consulting a lawyer first. If you have been contacted regarding an investigation, whether it is concerning you, a family member or a friend, it is best to seek the advice and assistance of an attorney prior to offering assistance.

Will my charges score me out to prison?

Your drug charges may score you out to prison time or may carry certain mandatory minimum prison sentences by statute. Your score sheet will be calculated based on your current charges and prior criminal record.

I had a prescription – can my charge be dismissed?

Oftentimes people are arrested for possessing prescription medication. This may happen if you have pills on your person with no prescription bottle. If you cannot prove that you have a prescription at the time of your arrest, you may offer this information to the state attorney’s office. The state usually requires the actual prescription as proof. As a drug crimes defense lawyer, I can obtain this information from your medical doctor and provide proof to the state to obtain a dismissal.

Should I go to trial?

The decision to go to trial is a serious one that requires the advice of a skilled criminal defense trial attorney. All your options should be discussed, including negotiations, pretrial motions, potential witness testimony and defenses. Your lawyer should discuss the maximum and minimum penalties with you as well. Trial is always an option with an aggressive and skilled criminal defense trial attorney. Make sure you explore your lawyer’s qualifications and experience with jury trials before trusting them with your life.

Do I have a defense?

There are many defenses against drug charges. Actual innocence, lack of knowledge, lack of possession, mistaken identity and entrapment are just some defenses that can be explored.

Can I be arrested for possessing a pipe?

Yes. You can be arrested for possession of paraphernalia if an officer finds a pipe in your possession. However, for the charge to stand, there must be some evidence that the pipe or any other paraphernalia (such as a spoon or needle) is illegal drug paraphernalia. In other words, the paraphernalia is usually tested for the presence of some illegal substance or residue. You may also be charged with possession of the substance that is contained on the paraphernalia. This usually happens when enough residue is sent for testing at a lab. Oftentimes, the companion possession charge can be negotiated so that you are only charged with the paraphernalia. If there is no drug present, you likely have an argument for a dismissal.

Will I lose my license if I am convicted of a drug charge?

Yes. The state of Florida is very tough on drug convictions. You will lose your license for two years if you are convicted of any drug possession charge. You may be eligible for a hardship license after a period of time. Always speak to your attorney about your eligibility to participate in a diversion program. If you are not eligible for a diversion program, then ask whether you are eligible for a withhold of adjudication.

What is drug trafficking?

Drug trafficking has little to do with whether you are selling, purchasing or delivering an illegal drug. Simple possession of an illegal drug can lead to criminal drug trafficking charges if the weight of the substance falls into certain statutory limits.

What are the penalties for trafficking drugs in Florida?

You may be charged with trafficking if you possess, sell, deliver or purchase illegal drugs, including prescription drugs if it is determined that the amount is over a certain weight limit. The type of drug and the amount determines the range of possible penalties and whether you are facing the severe minimum mandatory prison sentences required upon conviction in Florida. Some of the more common trafficking charges are outlined below.

  • Trafficking marijuana:
    • 25 pounds, less than 2,000 pounds, or 300 to less than 2,000 cannabis plants – minimum mandatory prison sentence of three years and a $25,000 fine
    • 2,000 pounds to less than 10,000 pounds or 2,000 to less than 10,000 cannabis plants – minimum mandatory prison sentence of seven years and a $50,000 fine
    • 10,000 pounds or more or 10,000 plants or more – minimum mandatory prison sentence of 15 years and a $200,000 fine
  • Trafficking oxycodone, morphine, heroin, opium, hydrocodone, hydromorphone:
    • 4 grams to 14 grams – minimum mandatory prison sentence three years and a $25,000 fine
    • 14 grams to 28 grams – minimum mandatory prison sentence of seven years and a $50,000 fine
    • 28 grams to 30 kilograms – minimum mandatory prison sentence of 15 years and a $200,000 fine
    • 30 kilograms or more – mandatory life in prison
  • Trafficking cocaine
    • 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams – minimum mandatory prison sentence of three years and a $50,000 fine
    • 200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams – minimum mandatory prison sentence of seven years and a $100,000 fine
    • 400 grams or more, but less than 150 kilograms – minimum mandatory prison sentence of 15 years and a $250,000 fine
    • 150 kilograms or more – mandatory life in prison
  • Trafficking methamphetamine:
    • 14 grams to 28 grams – minimum mandatory prison sentence of three years and a $50,000 fine
    • 28 grams to 200 grams – minimum mandatory prison sentence of seven years and a $100,000 fine
    • 200 grams or more – minimum mandatory prison sentence of 15 years and a $250,000 fine

Can I be arrested for trafficking if I have a prescription?

Yes and no. If you have lawfully obtained the prescription and the medication that you possess is, in fact, the same prescription drug that you were prescribed, then you should not be prosecuted. If you are arrested for this type of drug possession and have proof that you are prescribed the medication, then it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible so that they can provide the prosecuting agency with that proof to avoid the filing of formal charges. However, if you have been arrested for a drug that does not match your prescription and the total weight of that medication is over a certain amount, then you can and likely will be charged with trafficking.

What is doctor shopping?

Doctor shopping is also known as withholding information from a practitioner. The common scenario is when a person goes to more than one doctor for the same prescription within a small window of time. Florida legislatures passed a law that created a database, called the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), requiring doctors and pharmacists to report to the database when certain controlled substances are dispensed, thus enabling those who prescribe or dispense certain drugs to monitor the individuals who are receiving the drugs. This sharing of information among doctors can lead to an arrest if it is determined that you are going to more than one doctor for your prescriptions.

Can I be arrested if someone leaves their drugs in my car and I didn’t know about it?

Can you be arrested? Sure. Will the state be able to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt? Unlikely. Knowledge is a key element to possession. The prosecuting authority must show that you knew about the drugs and had the ability to access or control the drug. Mere proximity or closeness to the drug is not enough. This is commonly referred to as constructive possession.

Can I do a treatment program?

Depends. If this is your first arrest, your chances of convincing the state attorney and/or the judge that you should be given the chance to get help are great, especially if you have never had help in the past. If you have entered into programs in the past and they were unsuccessful, then your chances decrease. Additionally, if you have a bad record and are facing mandatory prison due to your points, a treatment program is a difficult pitch. It is extremely important to hire an attorney who is experienced in handling drug cases and has a history of arguing departure hearings successfully.

What is drug court?

Drug court is a separate court designated for certain (usually first-time offenders) felony drug offenders. An individual is typically offered a diversion program coupled with frequent hearings in front of the judge to measure progress and compliance. Upon successful completion, charges are dismissed. In the alternative, you may be given the opportunity to receive a withhold of adjudication instead of a diversion program with similar requirements. Drug court is a viable option for someone who is serious about getting help.

Will I be drug tested in court?

Not necessarily, but possible. Anytime you walk into a courtroom you should be prepared for all possibilities. I have seen judges order drug tests on the spot, order breath tests in the courtroom and send individuals for urinalysis immediately following court.

Are all drug crimes a felony?

No. There are drug charges that are categorized as misdemeanors. Common misdemeanor drug charges are possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams), possession of paraphernalia, and other Schedule V drugs that have low potential for abuse compared with Schedule I through IV drugs.

Get The Representation You Need Against Your Drug Charges

If you are facing charges for a drug crime and have more questions or are ready to build your defense strategy, contact me today. Call 727-202-4418 or email my firm to schedule your free initial consultation.