Defense of Trafficking in Crystal Methamphetamine Charges in Florida
Crystal methamphetamine, also known as “crystal meth” and “crank” on the streets, is a highly addictive and potent drug. Florida law considers crystal meth to be a Schedule II drug. The popular television series “Breaking Bad” portrayed the life of a crystal meth dealer. Although it is said that art often imitates life, the majority of people arrested for trafficking crystal meth are not living the lifestyle portrayed in the show.
What Constitutes Crystal Methamphetamine Drug Trafficking in the State of Florida?
Trafficking in crystal methamphetamine is determined by the weight of the drug coupled with an intent to possess, sell, distribute, give the drug away, or bring into Florida from outside of the state. Trafficking weight in Florida is 14 grams, which is the equivalent of one-half of an ounce of crystal methamphetamine. The drug does not need to be pure to be defined as trafficking because any mixture of crystal meth and an additive or adulterant, under Florida law, is the determining factor of the weight of the narcotics and not the purity of the drugs.
What are the Penalties for Crystal Methamphetamine Drug Trafficking in the State of Florida?
Florida Statutes §893.135(1)(f)(1) establishes the crime of trafficking in methamphetamine and breaks the crime down by weight thresholds. The minimum-mandatory prison sentence a person must serve depends on the weight of the drugs. Notwithstanding the minimum-mandatory sentences set forth by §893.135(1)(f)(1), the crime of trafficking in narcotics is a first-degree felony and may be punished by a prison term not to exceed thirty years.
First Level Drug Trafficking of Crystal Methamphetamine Punishments
The weight of first level trafficking of crystal methamphetamine is fourteen to 28 grams. The minimum-mandatory prison sentence for first-level trafficking is three years. Additionally, the court will impose a fine of $50,000.00.
Second Level Drug Trafficking of Crystal Methamphetamine Punishments
Second level trafficking of crystal methamphetamine ranges from 28 grams to 200 grams of crystal methamphetamine. The minimum-mandatory sentence is seven years commitment to the state’s prison along with a $100,000.00 fine.
Third Level Drug Trafficking of Crystal Methamphetamine Punishments
The most severe minimum-mandatory penalty for trafficking in crystal meth is the third tier. A conviction for trafficking in crystal methamphetamine of 200 grams or more is a fifteen-year minimum-mandatory prison sentence and a $250,000.00 fine.
It is important to remember that the weight of the entire mixture of crystal meth is the determining factor. The entire mixture could weigh seventeen grams, for example, but only have three grams of the pure drug in the mixture and still qualify for trafficking weight.
Florida judges must follow the state’s Criminal Punishment Code when sentencing a person convicted of a crime. A conviction for trafficking in crystal meth is no exception. The weight of the drug will determine whether the criminal offense level is eight or nine. The judge will hand down a sentence following the appropriate offense level. The judge could impose a shorter prison sentence than the sentence suggested by the Criminal Punishment Code for a level eight or nine offense if the judge determines that the offender deserves a downward departure. The judge cannot go below the minimum-mandatory sentence specified in the statute. A person facing crystal meth trafficking charges in Florida should be warned that the judge could impose a longer prison term if the facts and offender deserve exceeding the sentencing guidelines.
Additional Punishments for a Crystal Methamphetamine Drug Trafficking Conviction in Florida
A conviction for any drug offense in Florida has consequences beyond fines and incarceration. A person convicted of trafficking in crystal methamphetamine will face a suspension of his or her driver’s license for up six months, according to Florida Statutes §322.055. Additionally, a person who holds a professional license could have his or her professional license suspended as an emergency action by the licensing board of the person’s profession.
A person charged with trafficking in methamphetamine might assume that he or she will spend a long time in prison because the law seems to favor the prosecution. It does not. A person charged with trafficking crystal meth has numerous defenses that could win them an acquittal or receive a sentence to a reduced charge.
A person could always plea bargain a case down to a lesser sentence. The prosecution holds all of the cards because of the minimum-mandatory prison terms involved. The state attorney could waive the minimum-mandatory requirement in exchange for a guilty plea and perhaps other considerations.
Potential Defenses to Florida or Federal Crystal Methamphetamine Drug Trafficking Charges
In cases where the state will not “break down” the minus-mandatory sentences or the accused wishes to exercise his or her constitutional rights in court, there are defenses that could be successful. As always, the relative chances for success of a particular defense depend on the circumstances of the case.
During the pre-trial stages of the case, a person accused of trafficking in crystal meth could move to dismiss the case for insufficient evidence or move to suppress the contraband seized by the police.
Filing a motion to suppress all contraband seized by the police is a useful tool to use when defending crystal methamphetamine trafficking cases. A hearing on a motion to suppress tests the constitutionality of the law enforcement agents’ actions during the investigation. The judge must suppress the evidence if the police violated the rights of the accused.
Search warrants are customarily sought by drug interdiction officers to search a person’s home, car, place of employment, storage locker, dorm room, or other private location. The accused could argue that the search warrant did not contain enough evidence amounting to probable cause to justify a magistrate or judge issuing the search warrant. If the motion is allowed, then all of the evidence seized during the execution of the warrant must be suppressed.
Some crystal meth trafficking cases arise out of investigations that do not involve search warrants. Police frequently seize drugs during car stops without a warrant. The state attorney must justify the officer’s actions to win the case. Otherwise, everything seized as a consequence of an unlawful search, and seizure must be suppressed. Similarly, any evidence seized as a result of a “consent” search will be suppressed if the consent was not freely given.
At trial, the defendant may argue that the state did not prove possession. Possession can be proved by actual possession (e.g., the drugs were in a person’s pants pocket) or by proof of constructive possession (e.g., narcotics found in a sock drawer in a bedroom). Constructive possession requires evidence and proof that the person knew the item was contraband, knew the contraband was in the place where it was located, and had the intent to exercise control over it. Failing that, the prosecution has failed to meet its burden of proof.
The prosecutor must prove the substance is what the state claims it is. Therefore, a defendant could contest the chemical composition of the drug, and if successful, could win the case.
Entrapment is another viable defense in some cases. Entrapment could be argued when an undercover investigator convinces someone to commit a crime that the person would not ordinarily commit. The judge could dismiss the case outright if the defense proves entrapment.
Call Musca Law for Immediate Help with Your Crystal Methamphetamine Trafficking Defense
Musca Law’s drug crime defense lawyers are standing by and ready to fight for your rights guaranteed by the constitution. Contact Musca Law today at 1-888-484-5057 to discuss your crystal meth trafficking case.