Questions and Answers About South Florida DUI, Criminal, Domestic Violence Cases and Home Insurance Claims

Many of those charged with a crime in Florida have little experience with the law, and they naturally have many questions. From information about how the local legal system works to the possible consequences of your charge, find answers to many common questions here.

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  • What is drug trafficking?

    Florida law defines drug trafficking as the intentional sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, possession or transporting a specific amount of a controlled substance. The amount of the substance varies by illegal drug.

     

  • What is drug possession?

    Drug possession is an offense by someone holding controlled substances for personal use and can be charged as a felony.

    In order to prove possession, the prosecution must prove the following:

    You were in possession of a controlled (illegal) drug
    You knew, or should have known you had it and that it was illegal
    You had control over the location and presence of the drug

     

    Depending on the degree of the charges, the penalties for being caught in possession of illegal drugs can be very severe.

     

  • It’s my first drug possession charge in South Florida. Will I go to jail?

    While no attorney can guarantee the result of any case, it is unlikely you will go to jail for your first possession charge, especially if you’ve never been in trouble with the law before. However it will still depend on the type of drug you possessed (controlled substances are typically treated more harshly than marijuana), the amount, and the individual circumstances surrounding the case.

     

  • What is a drug diversion program?

    In South Florida, many jurisdictions have a drug court or a pre-trial diversion program that is drug-specific, meaning for drug offenses. As long as they don’t believe that you are dealing drugs, you may qualify to go through a pre-trial diversion program that would provide the opportunity to get treatment for your drug and alcohol issue, and earn a dismissal of the charges by reporting to the program, providing random urine samples to show that you’re staying clean, doing various community service hours, and getting counseling/treatment. If you stick with the program and the charges are then dismissed, you may have the opportunity to get your record expunged.

     

  • What are the punishments for drug charges?

    Punishments can range from court-mandated treatment all the way up to lengthy prison sentences depending on the severity of the crime, and whether there is a mandatory minimum in place.

     

  • What is drug court?

    Treatment-based drug court is an alternative to incarceration for defendants who enter the judicial system because of addiction.  Through a non-adversarial team approach combined with an intensive, judicially monitored treatment program, drug court offers defendants the opportunity to restore themselves as productive, non-criminal members of society.

    A Drug Court has been defined by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs as having 10 key components:

    1. Drug Courts integrate alcohol and other drug treatment services with justice system case processing.

    2. Using a non-adversarial approach, prosecution and defense counsel promote public safety while protecting participants' due process rights.

    3. Eligible participants are identified early and promptly placed in the drug court program.

    4. Drug Courts provide access to a continuum of alcohol, drug and other related treatment and rehabilitation services.

    5. Abstinence is monitored by frequent alcohol and other drug testing.

    6. A coordinated strategy governs drug court response to participants compliance.

    7. Ongoing judicial interaction with each drug court participant is essential.

    8. Monitoring and evaluation measure the achievement of program goals and gauge effectiveness.

    9. Continuing interdisciplinary education promotes effective drug court planning, implementation, and operations.

    10. Forging partnerships among drug courts, public agencies and community-based organizations generates local support and enhances drug court effectiveness.

  • What if the drugs were illegally found?

    Violation of your 4th amendment rights is a defense against drug charges.

     

    The search-and-seizure provisions of the Fourth Amendment are all about privacy. The Fourth Amendment protects against "unreasonable" searches and seizures by state or federal law enforcement authorities.

    The flip side is that the Fourth Amendment does permit searches and seizures that are reasonable. In practice, this means that the police may override your privacy concerns and conduct a search of you, your home, barn, car, boat, office, personal or business documents, bank account records, trash barrel, or whatever, if:

    • the police have probable cause to believe they can find evidence that you committed a crime, and a judge issues a warrant, or

    • the particular circumstances justify the search without a warrant first being issued.

    When the Fourth Amendment Doesn't Protect You:

    The Fourth Amendment applies to a search only if a person has a "legitimate expectation of privacy" in the place or thing searched. If not, the amendment offers no protection because there are, by definition, no privacy issues.

    Courts generally use a two-part test to determine whether, at the time of the search, a defendant had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the place or things searched:

    • Did the person actually expect some degree of privacy?

    • Is the person's expectation objectively reasonable—that is, one that society is willing to recognize?

  • What if the drugs didn’t belong to me?

    The state doesn’t have to prove that the drugs belonged to you. Again, as long as you knew about them and had control over them you can still be charged with possession.

  • Can I be charged with possession even if the drugs weren’t on me?

    Unfortunately the answer is yes, you can be charged with drug possession even if you weren’t in physical possession of the drugs at the time. The standard the state uses is whether the drugs were in your “constructive possession” meaning you knew about them and had control over them. This would apply if the drugs were found in your car, or home.