Articles Posted in Drug crimes

The right to a speedy trial is a cornerstone of the American criminal justice system, as it ensures that defendants are not subject to unnecessary delays in the legal process. If a criminal defendant found guilty of a crime believes that their right to a speedy trial was violated, they might be able to successfully argue that their conviction should be vacated. As illustrated in a recent Florida ruling delivered in a drug crime case, however, it can be challenging to demonstrate that delays in criminal proceedings are unjust and unreasonable. If you are charged with a drug-related offense, it is smart to talk to a Sarasota drug crime criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a controlled substance. He was convicted and sentenced to 235 months in prison. He appealed on numerous grounds, including the assertion that the trial court violated his right to a speedy trial.

The Right to a Speedy Trial in Criminal Matters

After careful analysis, the court found that the defendant’s right to a speedy trial was not violated and upheld his conviction. The court explained that the Speedy Trial Act establishes guidelines for expediting criminal trials while allowing for justifiable delays. The Act excludes certain periods of delay stemming from proceedings involving the defendant, including delays caused by pretrial motions from filing through disposition.

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Laws pertaining to the medical and recreational use of marijuana continue to change in Florida and throughout the country. As such, many acts that were once criminal are now legal. A prior conviction for a marijuana-related offense can still adversely impact a defendant’s presentence investigation report, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence for possessing a handgun as a felon. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is important to speak to a Sarasota gun crime defense attorney about your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that police officers arrested the defendant for aggravated assault with a weapon. When they searched the defendant at the time of the arrest they found a loaded gun in his pocket; it was later revealed that the gun had been stolen two years prior. The defendant had numerous prior felony convictions, including convictions for the possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.

It is alleged, therefore, that the defendant was indicted for being a felon in possession of a handgun. He entered a guilty plea without a plea agreement. The probation office drafted a presentence investigation report which used a base offense level of 20 due to the defendant’s prior felony controlled substance offense. The defendant objected, arguing that he should not have been assigned a base offense level of 20 because marijuana was not a controlled substance under the sentencing guidelines. The court overruled his objection and sentenced him to 63 months’ imprisonment. He appealed.

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There are numerous measures in place at the state and federal levels that aim to protect people from unjust convictions. Among other things, people convicted of crimes have the right to file an appeal if they believe they were improperly convicted. If they fail to raise an argument on appeal, however, they cannot attempt to do so via a collateral challenge, as discussed in a recent opinion issued in a Florida case in which the defendant sought to overturn his conviction for drug trafficking and other offenses. If you are accused of committing a drug crime, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota drug crime defense attorney to assess your options for seeking a favorable outcome.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was charged with unlawfully possessing a firearm as a felon, using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possessing 50 or more grams of methamphetamine in violation of federal law. He pleaded guilty without a plea agreement and was sentenced to 160 months in prison. He did not appeal his conviction or sentence. He then moved to vacate his conviction for using a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in light of a recent ruling that invalidated the relevant statute’s residual clause pertaining to crimes of violence.

The Right to Appeal Criminal Convictions

The court denied the defendant’s request for relief on the grounds that his argument lacked merit and was procedurally defaulted. The court explained that collateral challenges could not do the work of an appeal. In other words, once a defendant has exhausted or waived the change to appeal, the courts are entitled to presume that the defendant’s conviction is fair and final. As such, claims that the defendant could avail themselves of but did not raise in a previous proceeding are procedurally defaulted and typically are barred from consideration on collateral review.

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While ignorance of the law is not a defense, criminal statutes generally aim to punish intentional wrongdoing. Thus, in many instances, the prosecution must prove that the defendant purposely committed the unlawful act. Some statutes are vague, though, leaving room for interpretation as to what evidence is needed to obtain a conviction. Until recently, it was not clear whether a defendant could be convicted for violating the Controlled Substances Act (the Act) if they were unaware that their actions were unauthorized. The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling clarifying what evidence is needed to convict a doctor of disbursing controlled substances in an unauthorized matter in violation of the Act. If you are charged with a drug crime or any other federal offense, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to assess your options.

Background of the Case

It is alleged that the government charged the defendant and several other pain management doctors with operating a medical practice as a racketeering enterprise in violation of the Act and other federal laws. The prosecution offered evidence at trial that the defendant prescribed opioids in a manner that did not comply with the applicable standard of care and that he acted for financial gain rather than to help his patients. A jury convicted the defendant and he appealed.  The appellate court affirmed the trial court ruling, and the defendant sought certiorari review.

Evidence Needed to Convict for Violations of the Controlled Substance Act

The sole issue on appeal was whether a physician that prescribes controlled substances outside of the scope of what is typically in their practice can be convicted of unlawful distribution of controlled substances in violation of the Act, if they harbored a reasonable belief that they were acting within the scope of their practice. Continue Reading ›

Drug crimes can result in serious penalties, and typically lengthier sentences are imposed for offenses involving certain classes of drugs. In recent years, though, flaws in the federal sentencing schemes were noted, and numerous laws were passed to address sentencing discrepancies, and people sentenced under prior laws may be eligible for reduced sentences. In a recent opinion, a Florida court discussed eligibility for a sentence reduction under the First Step Act in a case in which the trial court denied the defendant’s request for a reduction. If you are charged with a drug offense, it is smart to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney regarding your rights.

Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that in 2005, the defendant was charged with and found guilty of numerous drug crimes, including conspiracy to possess 50 grams or more of crack cocaine with the intent to distribute, in violation of federal law. Due to the amount of crack in his possession and his prior criminal history, he was sentenced to life in prison for the conspiracy charge. His total sentence was life in prison plus fifteen years, followed by ten years of supervised release. In 2019, the defendant sought a reduction of his sentence under the First Step Act. His sentence was reduced but he nonetheless appealed, arguing it should have been further reduced per the terms of the Act.

Reductions of Penalties Under the First Step Act

In 2010, Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which changed the statutory penalties for drug offenses involving crack cocaine, including the one for which the defendant was convicted. The amendments were not applied retroactively, though, until 2018, when Congress enacted the First Step Act. Specifically, the First Step Act provides that the Fair Sentencing Act is retroactive and granted courts the authority to reduce the sentences of eligible crack offenders if they deemed it appropriate. Continue Reading ›

In Florida, it is illegal for people to possess controlled substances other than those prescribed by a doctor. Additionally, it is unlawful to sell or distribute such drugs, and people caught with a certain quantity of illicit substances may be charged with drug trafficking. Drug trafficking is a serious crime that carries substantial penalties, and it is critical for people charged with such offenses to understand their rights. If you are accused of drug trafficking, it is in your best interest to meet with a Sarasota criminal defense attorney to evaluate your options for seeking a just result.

What is Drug Trafficking?

Under Florida Statute 893.135, it is unlawful to knowingly purchase, manufacture, sell, deliver, or bring in to the state or to knowingly possess certain amounts of controlled substances and constitutes drug trafficking. The amount varies depending on the drug in question. For example, a person who is caught with more than 25 pounds of cannabis or 300 or more cannabis plants may be charged with trafficking in cannabis, which is a felony of the first degree.

Similarly, a person who possesses 28 grams or more of cocaine may be charged with trafficking in cocaine. People may also be charged with drug trafficking for possessing a certain amount of morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, opium, hydrocodone, or any salt, isomer, derivative, or salt of an isomer of such a substance, including heroin and many other drugs. In addition to state charges, people accused of drug trafficking are also frequently charged with federal offenses. Continue Reading ›

In all criminal cases, the State bears the burden of producing evidence that the defendant committed the crime for which he or she is charged. If the State does not produce adequate evidence of a crime, the defendant should not be convicted. If a defendant is convicted despite insufficient evidence of a crime, as a general rule, he or she can only appeal if he or she objected to the sufficiency of evidence during the trial. An exception to this rule occurs when there is no evidence that the defendant committed a crime, however.

This was demonstrated in a case decided by a Florida court, where the court overturned a conviction for possession of a conveyance to be used for trafficking, due to the State’s lack of evidence of the crime. If you live in Sarasota and are currently facing criminal charges, you should consult a trusted Sarasota crime defense attorney to develop a strategy for your defense. 

Alleged Facts Regarding the Crime Committed  

Allegedly, a detective was at a package distribution center when a package was brought to his attention. The package was addressed to the defendant, who did not live at the address to which the package was sent. The package was delivered to a house located at the address listed on the package. Shortly thereafter, the defendant pulled up to the house in a car and went into the house. He left the house with the package a few minutes later and got into his car and drove away. The police then arrested the defendant. The defendant was charged with cocaine trafficking, possession of a conveyance to be used for trafficking, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted on all charges. The defendant appealed the possession of a conveyance to be used for trafficking conviction.

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