How Florida Prosecutors Pile On Charges for “Drug Trafficking”
When it comes to drug crimes, Florida prosecutors love to pile on the charges. After all, why charge a defendant with simple possession when you can also accuse them of drug trafficking? For that matter, why not also charge them with using their car in service of drug trafficking?
In fact, Florida law defines a separate criminal offense for “ownership, lease, rental, or possession for trafficking in or manufacturing a controlled substance.” Basically, if you own or rent any property that is used to traffic illegal drugs, that is considered a third-degree felony under Florida law–which means you can be sentenced to five years in prison just on this charge alone, independent of any other drug-related crimes.
Court: Putting Backpack in a Car Does Not Prove Drug Trafficking
But even as broadly as this law is written, there are still certain limits prosecutors must obey. A recent decision by the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, Hunt v. State, offers a helpful example. In this case, prosecutors charged the defendant with a number of crimes related to his alleged trafficking in methamphetamines.
Here is what happened. Police officers went to a motel where the defendant was staying in order to serve him with an outstanding warrant. The officers found the defendant in the motel parking lot fixing a motorcycle that was parked next to a car. The defendant had left the car door open, apparently because he was using the vehicle to hold his repair tools, although the car did not belong to him.
When the defendant saw the officers, he attempted to flee. The officers detained him and eventually searched the car. Inside the car was the defendant’s backpack, which contained methamphetamines and related drug paraphernalia.
Prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with using the parked car as a “conveyance” for drug trafficking. The trial judge denied the defendant’s motion for acquittal. The Second District agreed with the defendant, however, that the evidence could not support such a charge.
The prosecution’s argument boiled down to an “inference” that the defendant intended to use the car for drug trafficking because he placed his backpack–which actually contained the methamphetamines–in the back seat. But there was no evidence of drug trafficking, much less that the defendant used the car to promote drug trafficking. Indeed, the appeals court noted there was “no evidence of a sale at all.” Rather, the defendant “just happened to set the drugs down” in the car “while he worked on the motorcycle.”
Speak with a Miami Drug Crime Attorney Today
Of course, the defendant was still convicted on other drug charges arising from his arrest. But it’s important to understand that just because prosecutors charge you with a particular crime, that does not mean they have the evidence to back it up. This is why it is so important to work with an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights in court. Contact the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos at 305.676.9545 if you have been charged with a drug crime and need immediate assistance.