Are There Mandatory Minimum Penalties For Felony Drug Charges in Florida?
This is a multi-part answer. Some drug charges do not have a mandatory minimum term of incarceration or fine, but there will be a mandatory 1-year suspension of the driver license if the person is adjudicated guilty of a felony or misdemeanor drug offense. “Adjudication of guilt” is a term of art in Florida criminal procedure. The adjudication is to be contrasted with the “withhold of adjudication”. The withhold of adjudication is not considered to be a conviction. A person who receives a withhold of adjudication may be placed on felony probation, but that person’s driver license would not be suspended, because there is not an adjudication of guilt.
Another possible escape from a driver license suspension is a diversion, such as a pre-adjudicatory drug court. Felony drug court may be available to certain individuals who have not previously been convicted of a felony and who did not sell, distribute or possession with intent to sell or distribute a drug. At the successful completion of drug court, a conditional plea is set aside and the case dismissed. If, on the other hand, a person is adjudicated guilty of a drug offense in Florida, then that person will receive a 1-year driver license suspension. That person would not be eligible for a driving permit until after serving the first six months of that 1-year suspension.
The term “mandatory minimum” would also apply to a variety of charges, such as trafficking, or to sale or possession with intent to sell or distribute, within a certain number of feet of a church, school or day care center. These mandatory minimum sentences range from three years in prison to life in prison depending upon the amount of drugs and other circumstances. Each trafficking conviction is accompanied by a mandatory fine. By law, the court must adjudicate guilty any person who pleads to, or is found guilty of, a trafficking charge. While not technically a “mandatory minimum”, certain persons score prison under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.
When a person scores prison under the Code, the sentencing judge is bound to sentence to not less than the minimum prison term computed under the guidelines – unless the State agrees to a lesser term via a bona fide plea agreement, or the court finds a legally sufficient basis for a downward departure.
Can Police Execute A Warrantless Search Of Automobiles Or A Home If They Suspect A Drug Offense?
Article I, Section 12, of the Florida Constitution, deals with searches and seizures. It is required to be read, and applied, in the same way, that the United States Supreme Court interprets the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In general, an automobile cannot be searched on mere suspicion. However, an automobile can be searched without a search warrant if there is probable cause for the presence of drugs in the car, or if the occupant is arrested for some other charge. This latter type of search is variously referred to as a search incident to arrest, protective sweep or inventory search.
The question of what constitutes probable cause is an issue constantly being litigated in the courts. There is also a question whether police need a warrant to search a parked car after the occupants have departed. A search warrant is needed to search premises which are used as a home. The search warrant must be based on probable cause. Mere suspicion will not allow for the issuance of a search warrant. Different kinds of “premises” are not necessarily subject to the same level of protection as a home. There might be no need for a search warrant for an area which is open to the public. The police will, however, need a search warrant to search a motel room or a cell phone. A given person might consent to a search and will be considered to have waived his constitutional rights by doing so.
Can I Receive A Drug-Related Charge If I Am A Passenger In A Vehicle Where Drugs Are Discovered?
Yes, you may be arrested. The charge may not “stick” if there is no independent evidence of knowledge and the ability to control those drugs. The law does not presume knowledge and control when an area is possessed by more than one person. To be a passenger in a motor vehicle suggests that there is at least a driver, and possibly other passengers. In such a situation, the car would not be under the exclusive possession of any particular individual. Therefore, proof of knowledge and control over the drug would have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by independent evidence.
The outcome may be different depending on where you might be when drugs are found. If you are in a public area, then you might get arrested at police discretion, but there is no presumption of knowledge and control. Unless the police testify that they saw you “throw down” the drugs or you confessed to throwing down the drugs, or someone else says that the drugs belong to you, then it is hard to see how the State would be able to prove knowledge and control beyond a reasonable doubt.
If drugs are found in your personal apartment, and no one else is present, then the area would be under your exclusive possession or control. The law presumes your knowledge and ability to control any drugs found in an area under your exclusive possession or control. If you are in somebody else’s apartment, then the law generally would not presume your knowledge and ability to control over drugs – as long as those drugs were not open and obvious and within your easy access.
For more information on Mandatory Penalties For Drug Offenses, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (772) 242-6380 today.
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