Drug Crime Defense FAQ | Clearwater - Tampa

If you're facing criminal charges for a drug crime(s), you most likely have a litany of questions regarding your case. We have handled thousands of drug defense cases and our attorneys know how stressful this time may be for you. It is our goal to ensure you obtain the answers you deserve, as well as give you the representation and assistance you need to ensure a successful outcome.

If you have questions related to your specific case, you can contact us 24/7 for a free case review.

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Here are some common questions that our firm receives from clients involved in Drug Crime Defense cases:

Can I be arrested for 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 there is enough residue to be sent for testing at a lab. Often, 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 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. If you are convicted of any drug-related offense you will lose your license for two years. 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, ask whether you are eligible for a withhold of adjudication.

What is doctor shopping?

Doctor shopping is also known as withholding information from a practitioner. A common scenario is where 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 (also known as the Drug Prescription Monitoring Program) 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 that are receiving the drugs. This sharing of information amongst 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?

Yes. Will the state be able to prove the crime beyond a reasonable doubt? Unlikely. Knowledge is a key element of 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 programs in the past and they were unsuccessful, your chances decrease. Additionally, if you have a bad record and 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 with 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. Any time you walk into a courtroom you should be prepared for all possibilities. We 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 a low potential for abuse compared to schedule I-IV drugs.

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 his agent requests a certain amount of drugs from a seller and the seller does not come through, the officer may ask for additional drugs. If the originally proposed sell 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 his 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, sentencing entrapment may be argued.

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. There are situations where individuals may need to pick up prescriptions for sick family members. Technically, if you have someone else's medication in your possession, 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 along with a valid reason for your possession, you can almost certainly avoid prosecution. If you have any concerns about this type of drug possession, call out office today and we can advise 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 has an interest in drug cases that involve the sale, purchase or delivery of drugs across state lines. Typically, these cases involve large amounts of drugs. If you are under investigation by any federal agency, contact our office immediately for a consultation. Do not offer statements in writing, over the phone or in person. Exercise your right to remain silent, and hire an attorney immediately.

What is a proffer?

There are situations where 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 where a proffer is appropriate in drug cases.  If you have been charged with trafficking and you have a drug problem, an offer of 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 of mere possession or sales 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 our office about your options.  Never try to arrange a proffer without the assistance of an attorney.  Our attorneys will always explore all options for your trafficking charges and will never force you to do something you do not want to do.  Working as a confidential informat 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 where we will encourage our clients to begin treatment after arrest and prior to negotiations.  This can prove to be a helpful negotiating tool.

What is a confidential informant (CI)?

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

Should I work as a CI to reduce my charges?

Working as a confidential informant can be dangerous.  With that being said, law enforcement officers go to great lengths to protect the identity and the 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 an attorney first.  If you have been contacted regarding an investigation whether it is 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 or may carry certain mandatory minimum prison sentences by statute. Your score sheet will be calculated based on current charges and prior criminal record.

I had a prescription, can my charge be dismissed?

Often times 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. Our drug crimes defense attorneys 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 of your options should be discussed including negotiations, pre-trial motions, potential witness testimony and defenses.  Your attorney should discuss the maximum and minimum penalties with you as well.  Trial is always an option and our aggressive criminal defense attorneys are skilled drug crimes attorneys.  Make sure you explore your attorney's qualifications and experience with jury trials before trusting them with your life.

Do I have a defense?

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

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Powers Sellers & Finkelstein is committed to answering your questions about Criminal Defense law issues in Florida. We offer a free consultation and we'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.