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Narcotics detectives still taking down grow houses

November 04, 2014

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Despite budget cuts and reduced overtime, Miami-Dade narcotics detectives continue to bust marijuana grow houses. Last months, local law enforcement took down 13 marijuana grow houses and made 11 arrests. The results netted approximately 500 pounds of marijuana with a street value in excess of $2 million. In addition to marijuana, guns were seized during some of the arrests which may lead to some of the defendant being charged with armed trafficking. In a press conference, detectives warn that illegal marijuana grow houses pose threats to its inhabitants from poor ventilation, noxious chemicals and fires caused by the illegal diversion of electricity. Detectives also warned of the potential violence that could result from running a grow house, such as home invasion robberies.

There are several criminal offenses that can be charged as result of being arrested for owning or operating an illegal marijuana grow house. Florida Statute 893.135 covers all trafficking offenses including trafficking in marijuana. Individuals arrested in connection with grow houses are usually charged with trafficking in marijuana in excess of 25 pounds, but less than 2000 pounds. The number of plants seized at the scene is irrelevant in making a charging decision. Possession in excess of 25 pounds carries a 3 year mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of three years and a fine of $50,000. The offense is a first degree felony punishable up to 30 years in prison.

A second commonly charged offense falls under Florida Statute 893.1351 which allows the State to charge someone for owning, leasing or renting a residence or structure for the purpose of trafficking in a controlled substance. The statute most commonly occurs when a person allows for a residence in their possession to be used as a marijuana grow house. A violation of this statute is a third degree felony punishable up to five years in prison. Any person who is in actual or constructive possession of a grow house faces a second degree felony which is punishable up to 15 years in prison. If a child is present, the owner of the home a structure can be charged with a first degree felony. All of the aforementioned offenses are bondable. However, these cases require more than posting a bond. Judges and prosecutors will require defendants to prove that the monies used to post the bond come from legitimate sources. This is commonly referred to as satisfying the "Nebbia" requirement.

The only offense that can prevent an individual arrested for marijuana trafficking from bonding out jail can occur if a firearm is in his or her person or present in the grow house. Armed trafficking is a first degree felony punishable up to life in prison. In basic terms, an individual charged with this offense can be held without a bond. However, persons charged with this offense have the opportunity to appear before the judge and litigate for a bond at an "Arthur Hearing". It is entirely possible that an experienced and qualified Miami criminal lawyer can come to an agreement regarding a bond with the prosecutor handling the case.

Even though an individual is charged with any of the above listed offenses, there are many ways to defend the case. Motions to suppress based on illegal searches and seizures and coerced consent can be filed and litigated. Strong motions drafted and filed by criminal defense attorneys can result in the dismissal of charges or significantly reduced sentences. Anyone arrested for trafficking in marijuana or owning an operating an illegal grow house should seek the advice of a lawyer experienced in defending these types of cases.

"Miami-Dade Police Take Down 13 Marijuana Grow Houses, Make 11 Arrests.", October 11, 2014.
Categories: Drug Offenses
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