Understanding drug trafficking charges in Florida

Considered a serious offense and punished harshly, understanding drug trafficking charges may help Floridians protect themselves.

There were 19,222 drug trafficking cases reported to the United States Sentencing Commission in 2016 alone. Many who are suspected of or stand charged with trafficking are not the career criminals and ruthless masterminds who are often portrayed perpetrating this offense on television and in the movies. In fact, some Floridians who have never sold a drug may be accused of this potentially serious crime. Understanding this offense may help people who find themselves facing allegations of trafficking illegal narcotics to protect their rights or avoid unnecessary arrests.

What is drug trafficking?

When most people think of drug trafficking, they think of the transportation, delivery and sale of controlled substances. Intentionally engaging in these actions qualifies as this offense under Florida law, as may the manufacturing, purchasing or possession of illegal drugs, including cannabis, cocaine and heroin. The drug charges people face may escalate to the level of trafficking in cases when the weight of the substance involved is in excess of the specified statutory limits. In certain situations, more serious allegations of distribution may be prosecuted at the federal, as opposed to the state, court level.

What are the potential penalties

Considered a serious offense, drug trafficking is prosecuted and punished harshly in Florida. The severity of the penalties people may face if convicted of this offense at the state level vary depending on the substance they were accused of trafficking and the amount of the substance involved. A drug trafficking conviction involving 25 to 2,000 pounds of cannabis or between 300 and 2,000 plants carries a mandatory minimum fine of $25,000 and a prison term of at least three years. Such convictions involving 28 to 200 grams of cocaine or four to 14 grams of heroin may result in a fine of at least $50,000 and a minimum of three years in prison.

Federal convictions for drug trafficking-related offenses may carry harsher penalties than those imposed at the state level. For example, the minimum penalties for the distribution of specified weights of heroin, cocaine, PCP, LSD, methamphetamine or cannabis include a prison term of no less than 10 years and a fine of $10,000,000. These consequences may be enhanced under certain circumstances, such as having prior felony drug convictions on their records.

Working with a lawyer

Allegations of drug trafficking may have a lasting impact on people's lives in Florida and elsewhere. In addition to facing potentially severe penalties, their future employment opportunities and federal rights may also be affected. Obtaining legal representation may help those who have been charged with drug-related offenses establish a solid defense to the allegations against them. An attorney may look out for their interests throughout the process and help them understand their legal options.