Drug Charges

Drug Crimes Lawyer in Tampa, FL

The consequences of being arrested and convicted for a drug offense can be serious. If you have been accused for a drug offense, it is important to speak with an attorney experience in fighting drug crimes that you trust to protect your rights, provide assistance in navigating the court process, and to help you achieve the best result possible depending on the specific facts of your case.

Attorney Chris Beardslee works hard to uncover mistakes made by law enforcement, undercover officers, and confidential informants in drug crime cases. He is an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer serving the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota counties. He is experience in filing motions to suppress and motions to dismiss drug charges.

He is dedicated to not only providing the best legal advice and defense for your case, but also to making sure that you are informed about the process and your legal options along the way.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your case or any current charges, our office is happy to help.

Contact The Law Office of Chris Beardslee for a free consultation today. Call 813-496-7778 or fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you to discuss the best strategies for your case.

Basic Drug Charge Information

Chapter 893, F.S., contains different provisions criminalizing the possession, sale, purchase, manufacture, and delivery of controlled substances. The severity of the penalty for a violation of the provisions found in s. 893.13, F.S., depends on:

  • the schedule in which the controlled substance is listed
  • the quantity of the controlled substance involved, OR
  • the location where the violation occurs

Section 893.135, F.S., provides penalties for drug trafficking offenses which include the minimum mandatory sentences and fines. Those penalties for drug trafficking crimes increase in severity as the quantity of the controlled substance involved increases.

If you are convicted of a drug crime in Florida, Florida Statute § 322.055 now requires a six (6) month suspension for any conviction occurring after October 1, 2019.

The defenses for drug crime cases are often complex. Your entire case could be won or lost depending on whether a viable motion to suppress evidence is filed and litigated. Alternatively, a motion to dismiss can be filed in your case if the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove that you actually or constructively possessed the controlled substance.

Other defenses exist in drug cases including an entrapment defense, a prescription defense, a legal disposal defense, and a drug overdose immunity statute. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine the best way to fight your charges your drug charges.

Types of Drug Crimes in Florida

Attorney Chris represents individuals charged with a wide variety of drug charges, including:

  • Marijuana crimes
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • Possession with intent to sell or distribute
  • Drug trafficking
  • Driving while impaired by drugs (DUI)

Elements of The Offenses – Proving Possession

The word “possession” has a particular meaning under the law. Possession of a drug does not require ownership. Possession of a drug is not necessarily exclusive to only one person (in other words, two people can “possess” the same item at the same time). Essentially, possession means to exercise control over something. Possession can be actual or constructive.

“Actual possession” means to be in direct physical contact with the substance, such as holding drug paraphernalia in your hand, having cocaine in your pocket, or carrying marijuana in a purse on your shoulder.

“Constructive possession” means that you are not actually in physical contact with the substance, and must be proven by showing that the defendant:

  • Knew of the presence of the drugs
  • Knew of the illicit nature of the drugs, AND
  • Had dominion or control over the drugs

Knowledge of the presence of the drug can be inferred from circumstantial evidence, including possession or ownership of the premises or vehicle where the item was found.

However, if more than one person jointly occupies the premises or vehicle where the drugs are found, then the knowledge of the accused will not be inferred from his possession of the premises or vehicle, but rather must be established by independent proof.

Independent Proof Can Include:

  • Statements of the defendant that he knew about the presence of the drugs, or
  • The fact that the drugs were in plain view

Common Factual Situations – Drugs Found in a Vehicle

The common factual situation occurs when two people are in a vehicle – the driver and a passenger. The vehicle is stopped for speeding. The officer asks the occupants to exit the vehicle and conducts a search. On the floorboard, under the back passenger seat, the office locates a baggy of drugs hidden in a brown paper bag (not in plain view).

The driver and passenger either refuse to answer any questions or deny knowing that the drugs were in the vehicle. Under this scenario, if the driver or passenger were arrested for possession of the controlled substance, either would probably win a motion to dismiss.

Under these facts, there is insufficient evidence to determine who possessed the controlled substance since it was found in a jointly occupied vehicle, it was not in plain view, and there were no statements by either party admitting to knowledge of the contraband.

A Motion to Dismiss is a written document that is sworn to by the defendant that recites the facts of the case as alleged by the police (assuming those facts are true) and shows that although the facts of the case are not in dispute, those facts do not prove a “prima facie” case of guilt.

Of course, most police officers understand that insufficient evidence exists under this scenario.

The police are trained to gather additional evidence in this type of situation.

First, the police will try and get one or both of the parties to make a statement admitting that they knew the drugs were in the car. The police do this in many ways. First, the police may threaten to arrest the other occupant of the vehicle unless someone gives a confession.

Secondly, the police may promise to “go easier” on everyone if someone admits knowledge or ownership of the drugs. Third, the police may accuse the driver of more serious offenses such as selling drugs, to get the driver to say, “No, that is for personal use. I’m not a drug dealer.” Once the driver is tricked into talking about the case, the driver has just admitted knowledge and ownership of the drugs.

What To Do During a Traffic Stop

The best thing to do when your vehicle is stopped by the police is to be as polite and cooperative as possible. Once you determine that the police are interested in more than just issuing you a citation, keep the following in mind:

  • Do not exit the vehicle until asked to do so. Once you are asked to exit the vehicle, the officers are interested in more than just issuing a civil traffic ticket.
  • Politely decline to make any statement or consent to any search of your person or property or perform any test or exercise of your sobriety.
  • Tell the officer politely that you are invoking your rights. The only thing that you need to say to invoke your rights is “I am invoking my right to remain silent. I want my attorney to be present for any questioning. Am I free to leave?”
  • Under the 5th Amendment and Miranda v. Arizona, your rights include the following:
    • The right to remain silent;
    • The right to have an attorney present before and during any questioning;
    • The right to refuse to consent to any search of your person, belongings, vehicle, or residence; and
    • The right to refuse to consent to take any sobriety exercises, the “HGN” eye test, handheld breath test, or other breath or chemical test.

Do not talk to the officer about whether any items belongs to you or not. Simply continue to invoke your right to remain silent. If the officer continues to question you, know that the officer is violating your right to remain silent. No matter what the officer says, continue to remain silent.

If you spontaneously start talking, even after invoking your rights, that information can be used against you. Of course, your refusal to answer all of the officer’s questions may mean that the officer will arrest you. However, if the officer has grounds to arrest you, then it is unlikely that anything you say will change the officer’s mind.

Usually, the officer continues the questioning because the officer does not have enough evidence to make an arrest without your confession or admissions. So by continuing to remain silent, you are not giving the officer that one additional piece of evidence needed to make the arrest.

Do not physically resist the officer in any manner, because doing so will result in an additional charge. Be as polite and respectful as possible.

If you are not under arrest or detention, you are free to end the encounter with the officer and leave. For instance, once you receive a traffic citation, you should be free to end the contact with the police.

Politely ask the officer if you are free to go. If the officer does not have “probable cause” to continue to detain you, then the officer will let you go. If the officer continues to detain you after you ask to leave, you may have grounds to suppress any evidence gathered after that.

The only information you should give the officer is information concerning your identity (name, date of birth, address, etc.), driver’s license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration. Make sure that information is easily accessible so you can hand it to the officer if it is requested.

Drug Overdose Immunity Under § 893.21(2)

In some cases, a person charged with a drug crime can file a motion to dismiss the criminal charge because of the immunity provision of Section 893.21, Florida Statutes, which provides:

Florida Statute Section 893.21 Drug-related overdoses; medical assistance; immunity from prosecution.—

  1. A person acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose may not be charged, prosecuted, or penalized pursuant to this chapter for possession of a controlled substance if the evidence for possession of a controlled substance was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.
  2. A person who experiences a drug-related overdose and is in need of medical assistance may not be charged, prosecuted, or penalized pursuant to this chapter for possession of a controlled substance if the evidence for possession of a controlled substance was obtained as a result of the overdose and the need for medical assistance.
  3. Protection in this section from prosecution for possession offenses under this chapter may not be grounds for suppression of evidence in other criminal prosecutions.

The immunity provisions of the drug overdose statute only apply when the defendant was experiencing a drug overdose and needed medical assistance.

The statute gives immunity to the person suffering from the overdose and the person who seeks medical assistance on their behalf.