Articles Posted in Drug Crimes

Bail-BondAs a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer many Criminal Defendants are out on bail. Bail comes in many forms and is determined by the judge during the initial appearances of the defendant. Furthermore, a bail can be set in a monetary amount, ROR, or surety. But, what happens if bail is paid and subsequently the Jacksonville Criminal Defendant does not appear at the required court hearing?

Florida Statutes Chapter 903 specifically deals with all matters relating to Bail. The Statute of particular importance in this blog is § 903.26 “Forfeiture of the bond…” According to the Statute, a bond can be forfeited for a breach of the conditions set forth in the bond and/or failure of the Defendant to appear at a required Court hearing. Failure of a Defendant to appear at a required Court hearing can have serious adverse consequences in your pending Jacksonville Criminal case. Additionally, up failure to appear the Court will issue a capias or a bench warrant for your arrest. A warrant will only compound the Criminal issues that are presently before you.

What about the person who paid the bond for your release? They will not have criminal or civil charges brought against them, unless they aided or assisted in your bail jumping. However, they will have lost the amount of money given to the Courts guaranteeing your return. This can be a substantial loss for some. It could mean the loss of your home, car, or a large sum of money. My advise for those who decide to post bail for another, make sure the Jacksonville Criminal Defendant is going to return to court before deciding to post their bail. It will not benefit either party if the Defendant does not return to Court.

Criminal Defense LawyerAnyone who has watched crime dramas on TV or heard a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer speak have heard a multitude of Latin words throughout their discussions, but some are not always completely understood. One such word is “corpus delicti.” Corpus delicti generally means the physical evidence of a crime, (i.e. the dead body in a murder). Recently, the 2nd District court dealt with an issue pertaining to corpus delicti in Reinlein v. State of Florida.

In this case, the Court had to determine whether the trial court erred in allowing the defendant’s post-Miranda testimony regarding his consumption of an illegal substance before the State established the corpus delicti of tampering with physical evidence.

The defendant was witnessed by police officers exchanging something in a high crime area. Because the actual transaction was not witnessed, they put a patrol car on the defendant’s vehicle to follow him; hoping he would commit a traffic violation and initiate a traffic stop. Several blocks from the drug transaction, the defendant was being pulled over when the officer saw the defendant make a motion as if placing an object in his mouth. The defendant exited the vehicle and was arrested. The only evidence the prosecution presented was the post-Miranda statement from the defendant that he purchased drugs and consumed the drugs before being stopped. The State charged the defendant with tampering with physical evidence.

Constitution-In a recent case, Rozzo v. State of Florida, the 4th District Court heard an appeal from the Circuit Court for the 17th Judicial Circuit in Broward County. The issue presented before the court was whether the consent given by the homeowners after and unlawful warrantless entry and protective sweep of the home was valid and therefore the defendant’s motion to suppress should be denied.

The issue arose after the trial court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence discovered inside the house following his arrest. In this case, the defendant sold drugs to an undercover officer on the street by his house. The officers arrested the defendant on the street. The officers then moved to the house, owned by the defendant’s parents. The officers proceeded to order the parents to stay outside during the “protective sweep.” Then the officers got a signed Consent form to search the house. The search revealed other drug related items in the defendant’s bedroom.

The U.S. Constitution, 4th Amendment has established a high reasonable expectation of privacy regarding one’s home. Furthermore, Florida Courts have established absent consent or exigent circumstances, police may not enter a home without a warrant. Additionally, Florida Courts have only permitted a “protective sweep” if the officers have reasonable, articulable suspicion to protect the safety of the officers or to prevent the destruction of evidence.

CocaineAs a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer I scour the local, national, and world news to stay informed on current Criminal legal issues. Just recently a news article by sparked my interest. The article titled “Cocaine Bust Lands Curvy Model in Italian Jail,” was a colorfully written article.

The article states a Spanish model attempted to smuggle Cocaine into Italy via prosthetic breasts and buttocks. The model’s plan was to distract the TSA by wearing tight-fitting clothes and her attractiveness would take suspicion away from the real task at hand. However, her “extra-large bosom and derriere” caught the attention of TSA and they investigated. After failing to provide sufficient answers to their questions, they conducted a strip search. The search revealed the model was attempting to smuggle 5.5 pounds of cocaine.

Currently the charges are pending and dependent upon Italian and international law, the charges could be quite severe. This article intrigued my legal mind because it shows the diminished expectation of privacy one holds while traveling through airports. At airports all the authorities need is reasonable suspicion before they can investigate. In contrast, inside one’s own home the expectation of privacy is very high. Police are required to have a warrant before entering your home, absent exigent circumstances.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor drug crime in Jacksonville, Florida, there are somethings that you should know. Although the crime is a misdemeanor, a drug crime is not a minor crime. For instance, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Florida. However, it carries serious ramifications. You can receive up to one year in jail for the charge. Even if you do not receive a jail sentence for possession of marijuana, it is still on your criminal record. Schools, potential employers, and the general public will be able to see your Florida criminal record and the misdemeanor drug charge. If you are convicted of the Jacksonville drug crime, you will not be able to seal or expunge the arrest. Therefore, discussing your case with a Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer before you enter a plea to the drug crime is crucial.

Under Florida Statute Section 322.055, your Florida Drivers License will be suspended for two years in you are convicted of certain drug offenses. While the court may direct the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue a hardship license, a hardship license is not available until at least six months of the revocation or suspension has expired. For most people, their Florida drivers license is crucial to maintaining employment, so even six months without a license can result in job losses. Also, if you get caught driving on a suspended license, you are looking at another Jacksonville criminal charge, Florida Driving with a License Suspended or Revoked.

As a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer I have sealed and expunged many Florida criminal records. Often, people ask me if they are eligible to have a felony drug charge sealed or expunged, in Jacksonville, Florida. The answer is “it depends.” It depends on the charge and the disposition. If you have ever been convicted of any crime, you cannot have your recorded sealed or expunged.  Therefore, if you were convicted of the drug charge, you cannot get it expunged.  Even if you were convicted of an unrelated criminal offense, you cannot get the drug charge expunged.  

It also depends on the crime. If you have pled guilty or no contest to certain drug offenses, such as manufacturing any substances in violation of chapter 893, you cannot get your record sealed, even if the adjudication was withheld. Section 907.041(4)(a) of the Florida Statutes gives a list of all the crimes that cannot be sealed in Jacksonville, Florida (See Florida Crimes that Cannot be Sealed). However, if the charge was dropped, you may be able to get the Jacksonville arrest expunged, even if it is listed in Section 907.041(4)(a), because you did not plea guilty or no contest to the Jacksonville criminal charge.

As a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer I can review your Florida Criminal Record and make the initial determination if your Florida Criminal History is applicable for a Record Seal or having your Record Expunged.

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled on the standards and training required for automobile searches using drug detection dogs (Harris v. Florida, 36 Fla. L Weekly S163a (2011). This case has been applied by another Florida appellate court. In Sarasota County, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals addressed the drug detection dog’s reliability standards in Wiggs v. Florida, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D1688a (Fla. 2nd DCA 2011). In Wiggs, the drug detection dog, Zuul, gave a positive indication at criminal defendant Wiggs’ vehicle during a Florida traffic stop. The police officer searched the vehicle and found cocaine.

Wiggs challenged the Florida K9 search on the basis that “Zuul’s alert to the exterior of Wiggs’ vehicle provided probable cause to support a warrantless search of the vehicle’s interior.” Although Zuul went through over 400 hours of training and did quite well, Zuul was not so effective in the field. He only had a 29% accuracy rate. Zuul had many false positives, including several instances of identifying drugs in areas where drugs had once been but no longer were.

In Harris v. Florida, 36 Fla. L. Weekly S163 (Fla. Apr. 21, 2011), the rule established by the Florida Supreme Court states “when a dog alerts, the fact that the dog has been trained and certified is simply not enough to establish probable cause to search the interior of the vehicle and the person.” The Florida Supreme Court adopted a “totality of the circumstances approach” that places the burden of producing evidence to establish the dog’s reliability on the state.” In this case, Zuul’s detection rate was too low for the court to consider “probable cause.” Therefore, the cocaine in this case should have been suppressed.

In Jacksonville, police often use trained drug detection dogs to detect illegal drugs in vehicles. Usually, the canine (K9) walks around the vehicle and signals if it senses the illegal substance. Then, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will search the vehicle. When a Jacksonville drug detection dog search is conducted, police officers must comply with certain procedures and standards.

Jacksonville Florida is in the First District. In April of 2011, the Florida Supreme Court addressed a First District Court case regarding K9 searches (See Harris v. Florida, 36 Fla. L. Weekly S163a). The Florida Supreme Court stated:

“The issue of when a dog’s alert provides probable cause for a search hinges on the dog’s reliability as a detector of illegal substances within the vehicle. We hold that the State may establish probable cause by demonstrating that the officer had a reasonable basis for believing the dog to be reliable based on the totality of the circumstances. Because a dog cannot be cross-examined like a police officer on the scene whose observations often provide the basis for probable cause to search a vehicle, the State must introduce evidence concerning the dog’s reliability. In this case, we specifically address the question of what evidence the State must introduce in order to establish the reasonableness of the officer’s belief — in other words, what evidence must be introduced in order for the trial court to adequately undertake an objective evaluation of the officer’s belief in the dog’s reliability as a predicate for determining probable cause.”

The Florida Law Weekly published an opinion from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals. The Florida Court had to decide “whether the trial court committed reversible error by answering a question from the jury without first consulting the defense attorney and prosecuting attorney.” Pearson v. State, 36 Fla. L. Weekly D1156a.pdfThe Florida Criminal Defendant was on trial for sale of cocaine within 1000 feet of a park and possession of cocaine. While deliberating, the jury asking for a definition for “abiding conviction of guilt” which was a phrase used in the standard jury instructions. The Florida judge went into a lengthy discussion about this phrase and the reasonable doubt standard without first discussing it with counsel for the Florida Criminal Defense Attorney and the State Attorney. Afterwards, he asked the attorneys if they had any objection, and the Florida Criminal Defense Attorney objected.

Rule 3.410, Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure, states that jury instructions “shall be given and the testimony read only after notice to the prosecuting attorney and to counsel for the defendant.” The Florida trial court gave clarification to the jury without affording defense counsel a meaningful opportunity to have input. It was not sufficient that the court later asked if the defense attorney had any objections to the trial court’s statements. Therefore, the Florida Criminal Defendant is entitled to a new trial.

Recently, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled on a protective-sweep search of a Florida residence in a Florida Possession of Cocaine, Marijuana, and Paraphernalia case. The Florida Court held that the search of a bedroom was unlawful which occurred during an arrest of a woman, Mary Rogers, in her residence.

In Rogers v. State, the police went to the defendant’s house, because a neighbor heard yelling and fighting. Police officers also heard the dispute and knocked on the door. A woman peaked through the window and police heard a man yelling not to open the door. The front door was unlocked, so the police entered, because they were concerned about the safety of the woman.

In the dining room, the officers saw pot in plain view. Upon doing a protective sweep, the cops realized the bedroom door was locked. The defendant, Mary Rogers, refused to open the door. By this time, Ms. Rogers and the other occupants of two other people were either handcuffed or seated at the dining room table. Thereafter, the police jimmied the lock and saw cocaine in an open dresser drawer, along with drug paraphernalia.

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