Tampa Drug Crimes Lawyer
If you have been charged with a drug offense it is important to speak with an experience Tampa Drug Crime Attorney early in your case. Drug cases involve complex defenses that can hinge on technical issues surrounding the search and seizure of drug evidence.
Your entire case can be won or lost depending on the motion to suppress drug evidence that is filed and argued in your case. Additionally, 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.
If you have been arrested for a drug crime in the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County, Manatee County or Sarasota County, then you need an experienced Tampa Drug Crime Attorney who is well-versed in the most recent changes in the law and understands how to fight your case to win.
We represent individuals charged with a wide variety of drug charges, including:
Contact an experienced Tampa drug crime attorney who has a proven record of representing clients on a wide variety of possession, sale, and trafficking offenses including:
- Marijuana / Cannabis / Pot / Weed
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
- Street Drugs, including:
- Methamphetamine / Meth / Crystal Meth
- PCP (Phencyclidine)
- Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
- Psilocybin (Mushrooms)
- MDMA / XTC (Ecstasy)
- Prescription Drug Abuse (which can sometimes be charged as "drug trafficking" even through only one bottle of precription medication is involved), including:
- OxyContin / Oxycodone
- Demerol / Meperidine
- Vicodin / Hydrocodone
- Valium / Diazepam
- Xanax / Alprazolam
- Ritalin / Adderall / Methylphenidate / Amphetamine
· Credibility of Informants and Undercover Officers
· Motions to Suppress
· Element of the Offense - Proving Possession
· Common Factual Situations - Drugs Found in a Vehicle
· What to do when your vehicle is stopped
Drug Charge Information:
· Drug Trafficking
· Trafficking Prescription Drugs
· "Doctor Shopping" for Prescription Drugs
· Possession of Marijuana
· Possession with Intent to Sell
· Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Credibility of Confidential Informants (CI) and Undercover Officers
Drug cases often revolve around the credibility of confidential informants who are working with undercover detectives to set up other individuals to commit drug crimes. Confidential informants are used routinely for sale and delivery of cocaine cases, and for serious drug trafficking cases in the Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County and Pasco County. The key to winning these cases is uncovering mistakes made by law enforcement, inconsistencies in the testimony of various witnesses, and the physical evidence such as audiotaped or videotaped statements.
In many cases, confidential informants are desperate to set up another individual in order to lessen their own punishment for their own criminal misconduct. Conducting an exhaustive investigation to exploit this desperation is an important part of winning a drug case. Additionally, the Florida Entrapment Defense may be available in any case in which a confidential informant or undercover officer encouraged the defendant to commit the crime charged.
The confidential informant, usually an individual that already has a long criminal history or pending charges, has an incredible motive to lie, plant evidence, and make false accusations. In certain cases, the confidential informant (CI) will set up other individuals in exchange for cash payments from law enforcement or the FBI. These financial incentives can also call the confidential informant's credibility into question.
The detectives, special agents, or law enforcement officers working with the confidential informants may also be engaged in questionable activities, take shortcuts that violate the law, or otherwise cause their credibility to be questioned. In some cases, those shortcuts taken by law enforcement can cause the entire case to be dismissed. An experienced drug crimes criminal defense attorney can find and exploit reasonable doubts that may exist in your case because of credibility issues with the confidential informant, detectives, agents or undercover officers.
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Motions to Suppress
The fourth amendment of the United States Constitutions protects all individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures. Police officers all too often ignore these principles when conducting investigations. When the police seize evidence illegally, it is more than just a "technicality" -- it reaches to the very validity of the arrest.
Without constitutional requirements that protect the rights of citizens the freedoms that all law abiding citizens enjoy would be jeopardized. Hiring an experienced Drug Crimes Defense Attorney to contest the legality of each step taken by the police is critical to your defense. If your case involves a search of your person, vehicle or home, we will research every aspect of the case to have the illegally obtained evidence thrown out. Evidence obtain during the execution of a search warrant or arrest warrant can also be contested.
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Element of the Offense - 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 contract 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.
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Common Factual Situations - Drugs Found in a Vehicle
Two people are in a vehicle-- a 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 floor board, 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 officer 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, in order 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.
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What to do when your vehicle is stopped
The best thing to do when your vehicle is stopped by the police, is to be as politely 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:
- right to remain silent;
- right to have an attorney present before and during any questioning;
- right to refuse to consent to any search of your person, belongings, vehicle, or residence;
- right to refuse to consent to take any sobriety exercises, follow the pen with your eye "HGN" 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 invoked 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 officers 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 contact 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 thereafter.
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.
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If you have been arrested for any drug crime in Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Polk County, Pasco County, Manatee County, Sarasota County, or the surrounding areas, contact an experienced Tampa Drug Crime Attorney to discuss your case. Last updated on February 21, 2012.
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