April 23, 2009 /24-7PressRelease/
-- Illegal Drugs in Florida: Worth the Risk?
Article provided by Stepniak & Park, P.A., visit us at http://www.stepniaklaw.com
People find themselves in Florida for lots of reasons. They come by car, by plane, by truck and by boat, as tourists, businesspeople, laborers and immigrants. Law enforcement has its hands full keeping everyone safe and controlling criminal activity. Not surprisingly, when the crimes concern illegal drugs, the legislature and courts take it very seriously. Compared to those in other states, Florida's penalties for drug convictions can be severe and sentences harsh.
Don't let tough drug laws in Florida take you by surprise. What might be a minor offense elsewhere could get you jail time. If you face drug charges in Florida, it is important to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney thoroughly familiar with the criminal laws and justice system.
What Is Illegal?
Drug crimes are the most common criminal charges in Florida. Illegal substance abuse ranges from occasional experimentation to serious drug addiction and the demand for drugs fuels a dangerous black market. Possessors, manufacturers, importers, buyers and sellers violate Florida law and place themselves in danger of a range of sentences, including the death penalty for the gravest crimes.
A drug crime may involve either an illegal substance, or a prescription drug obtained or used unlawfully.
What Can Happen?
Florida sentencing law is complex and takes into account the degree of seriousness (first-, second- or third-degree felony or misdemeanor), the level classification (levels 1 through 10), the points assigned by the Criminal Punishment Code worksheet and other provisions of various statutes. For many drug crimes, a particular sentence is spelled out by statute, such as an automatic fine of a certain amount and a prison sentence of a preset length.
Penalties and other negative results of a drug-crime charge and conviction in Florida may include:
• Substantial bail requirements depending on the street value of drugs involved
• Drug treatment
• Driving restrictions
• Public service
• No bail pending appeal
Under Florida law, certain circumstances trigger tougher penalties for drug crimes, such as:
• If the crime benefitted a criminal gang
• If the crime took place in close proximity to certain sensitive places like childcare centers, schools, parks, community centers or churches
• If someone was injured or killed, particularly people like police officers, firefighters and government employees
• If the defendant had prior convictions
• If the crime involved a firearm
• If a child or juvenile was involved
• If the defendant showed reckless disregard for human life or displayed heinous behavior
For the most serious drug trafficking crimes, the law imposes long mandatory prison terms -- sometimes life without parole -- and large fines, and sometimes even a death sentence.
Legal Help is Essential
In the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, the legislature states that punishment is the primary goal of sentencing and rehabilitation only a secondary goal. With this official policy, it is noteworthy that the state of Florida was instrumental in establishing the drug-court concept. About two-thirds of Florida's counties have drug courts that provide drug treatment and monitoring as an alternative to more severe criminal penalties. For an appropriate defendant, usually a first-time or nonviolent offender, the goal of the drug-court approach is to heal the addiction and thereby reduce the likelihood of future drug-related criminal activity.
If you face charges in connection with illegal drug activity in Florida, an experienced and aggressive defense lawyer can fight for a more positive outcome like drug-court treatment or a similar program, and help you avoid jail whenever possible. If you are not eligible for such a program, a criminal defense lawyer can advise you of your options, stand up for your rights, investigate defenses and identify mitigating factors. With the possibility of stiff sentences for drug crimes in Florida, including life in prison and capital punishment, it is critical to seek legal help as early as possible. You have everything to lose.