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The Complex Field of Drug Possession and Drug Trafficking Cases in Florida

January 22, 2018

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The best way to beat a drug possession, drug sale or drug trafficking case is by availing yourself of the Fourth Amendment. While the Fourth Amendment is a powerful tool in defending many types of cases, it is extremely helpful, specifically in defending narcotics cases. However, over the years, appellate courts have eroded the protections supported by the constitution. Criminal investigators have been given more leeway in conducting searches and seizures to the point it has become increasingly difficult to prevail at a motion to suppress. The Miami Drug crime lawyers at DMT have filed hundreds of suppression motions throughout the State of Florida. While winning many of these motions over the years and protecting the rights of the accused, cases are being released by the federal and state appellate courts diminishing the rights of those arrested and allowing investigators to get away with a lot more with regards to searches and seizures of items from homes and/or automobiles.

Picture of a Search and Seizure
In a recent South Florida case, armed SWAT deputies appeared at a residence with what appeared to be a lawfully executed search warrant. A 6:45 a.m. (a time when the state and federal authorities like to execute search and arrest warrants), law enforcement arrived a house to conduct a search for what law enforcement believed to be an operational marijuana grow house. The husband and wife along with their two children were at home sleeping when the police arrived on their doorstep. According to reports, the police knocked three times, announcing themselves. After fifteen seconds, with no response from the occupants of the house, the police used a battering ram and flash-bang grenades to enter the residence. The execution of the search led to the discovery of 26 marijuana plants and drug paraphernalia.

State prosecutors charged the homeowner, only the husband (which is not uncommon if the man of the house is cooperative with law enforcement), with cultivation of cannabis and trafficking in cannabis, which are both felony charges. The most serious charge is trafficking, a first degree felony punishable up to 30 years in prison along with a 3 year minimum mandatory. The 3 year minimum mandatory is important because a judge cannot go below that number without the acquiescence of the prosecution. The defense attorney in the case filed a motion to suppress, which was heard by the circuit court judge presiding over the matter. After losing the motion to suppress (no surprise), the Defendant entered a no contest plea and was sentenced to two years in state prison after reach an agreement with the state. The defense attorney did a fine job of reserving the defendant's right to appeal, which is important as a defendant gives up most of his appellate rights when entering a plea.

The appellate court heard arguments from both the defense and the state. While both sides agreed that the search warrant had no legal defects, the argument was over how much time the officers should have waited prior to crashing into the house to conduct the search and seizure. The appellate court agreed with the defense and remanded the case back to circuit court, with the judge reversing his decision. Of course, the state could appeal the case and seek a hearing before the Supreme Court of Florida. The appellate court basically held that the time it takes to enter a residence and whether or not a search or seizure is reasonable is not a perfect science. Basically, there is no bright line rule regarding the length of time law enforcement has to wait before forcing their way into a residence. The court did say that in this particular instance, the police should have given the homeowner more time to answer the door. The court set out certain factors to determine if the defendant's rights have been violated. The type of crime being investigated and the background of the homeowner will be some of the circumstances considered in determining whether a search and seizure is legal or not.

If you are facing criminal charges, contact Donet, McMillan & Trontz at (305) 444-0030 today!
Categories: Drug Offenses
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