Articles Posted in Drugs

It’s become increasingly common in Florida DUI cases for prosecutors to rely heavily on the investigation and testimony of drug recognition experts (DREs). These are police officers who are specially trained to recognize the signs of impairment in drivers who are under the influence of drugs. DUI defense

Last year, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that for the first time, drivers killed in crashes are more likely to be on drugs than drunk. Forty-three percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes had used a legal or illegal drug, surpassing the 37 percent who tested above the legal limit for alcohol. It’s worth noting that researchers were unable to definitively say there was a causal link between the presence of those drugs and the crash, or even that the drugs were present in levels that indicated impairment.

F.S. 316.193 makes it clear that no driver is allowed to be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of any substance – legal or otherwise – if it impairs his or her normal faculties. But while legislators have created a per se limit of intoxication that pertains to alcohol consumption (0.08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or per 210 liters of breath), no such cut-off exists for drug impairment. That means the question of whether someone is “under the influence” is often a subjective question that comes down to the observation of the arresting officer – who has more credibility in a courtroom with DRE certification. That does not mean the assertions made by that officer are correct. Our Fort Lauderdale DUI defense attorneys encourage all defendants to remain respectfully silent during questioning and ask to speak to a defense lawyer as soon as possible. Continue reading

Florida state lawmakers are mulling drug crime reform, specifically a series of bill that include provisions allowing judges more discretion for sentences that currently require minimum mandatory sentencing and increases of substance abuse treatment funds.drug crime defense attorney

The chances signal a turn away from the hard-line stance so many lawmakers took in the 1980s and 1990s when the so-called “War on Drugs” was in full swing. Those efforts have largely proven ineffective, with many policy leaders agreeing hard-line sentences for low-level drug offenses didn’t lower use and didn’t keep the rest of us safer. In fact, all it did was decimate low-income, minority communities, which were disproportionately on the receiving end of enforcement.

Now, The Sarasota Herald Tribune reports the legislature appears somewhat split on criminal justice reform, with roughly half supporting these changes and half digging in their heels to maintain the status quo. Supporters of the bill say it will help bridge the gap of racial disparities that exist when it comes to enforcement and penalties for these offenses. Continue reading

Multiple drug convictions could be overturned, if a state high court decides the trial court erred in allowing certain evidence to be considered.drug crime attorney

Although this is an out-of-state case, errors in evidence admission aren’t rare. The question is whether evidence errors ever warrant a reversal. Trial courts do have broad discretion in deciding when to exclude or allow evidence. That’s why appellate and state supreme courts don’t take such decisions lightly. Still, they will occasionally reverse convictions if relevant evidence prejudicial to defendant was allowed for consideration when it shouldn’t have been or if relevant information helpful to defendant was suppressed or excluded erroneously.

The appellate courts will consider whether the evidence is of consequence or material. If it’s not key to the case and the question of guilt or innocence, the court likely won’t take a drastic step like reversal. In criminal cases, they will also look at whether there was prosecutorial abuse, including inappropriate arguments to jurors or mischaracterization of applicable law.  Continue reading

A new Florida law signed by Governor Rick Scott takes aim at opioid trafficking and possession, imposing harsher penalties for those convicted of dealing and using pills, heroin, fentanyl and more. The measure, House Bill 477, enacts new mandatory minimum sentences for opioid users and dealers and establishes new bans on trafficking drugs that include synthetic marijuana and fentanyl.drug defense lawyer

The new law sets mandatory minimum sentences for convicted dealers, which will force judges to lock away drug offenders for extended periods of time with little opportunity for discretion.

All this is despite the growing realization that “tough-on-crime” drug laws simply do not work, and disproportionately affect poverty-stricken and minority communities. Meanwhile, the state will receive $27 million in federal grant money to help pay for its enforcement.  Continue reading

There is no question that we have a major problem with opioid addiction in this country. While many of these cases, including ones where people overdose involve illicit narcotics like heroin, many still involve the use of prescription painkillers like Vicodin, Percocet or OxyContin.

Drug Defense In many cases, a person will get prescriptions from various doctors and hospitals and take the take the medications themselves.  In other cases, a person will do this same thing, but sell the drugs he or she doesn’t use, so they can buy more drugs. Pills on the street go for a lot more money than they do at a pharmacy, and when you obtain the drugs legally, you likely have insurance that will pay the bill, or at least some of the bill. Continue reading

Florida state senators in the Criminal Justice Committee are weighing a measure that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the Sunshine State.marijuana

If passed, violators would receive a civil citation instead of facing arrest. Possession of less than one ounce would be considered a first-degree misdemeanor, for which the penalty would be a $100 fine.

Similar measure have been undertaken by local governments, including Broward County. In 2015, Broward County Commissioners gave law enforcement agencies the option of issuing a $150 citation to those who were caught for the first time with 20 grams or less of marijuana. Second-time offenders would have to pay $250 and third-time offenders would be charged $500. After three arrests for this same offense, it would be considered a crime. However, officers still have the choice to make an arrest, which is exactly what officers have opted to do in the majority of instances. Fort Lauderdale, however, opted out of that program. Continue reading

A number of factors appear to have played a role in lower arrest rates at South Florida’s premier electronic music festival in Miami this year compared to years past. festival

The Miami Herald reports there were a total of 35 arrests over the course of the three-day revelry at Bayfront Park, which was attended by more than 150,000 mostly-young guests from around the globe. This number of arrests represents a 50 percent drop from 2016, continuing the downward arrest trend that began in 2013.

Police officials say part of it has to do with a number of changes, including increased police enforcement and a crowd that is maturing. Authorities say educating the public was a big part of this success, as was close cooperation with the event creators and promoters.  Continue reading

After decades, it seemed there was finally a general bipartisan consensus – even if unspoken by some – that the so-called, “War on Drugs” was a failed one. Formally kicked off and coined in 1971 by President Nixon, it began with a primary focus on drug addiction treatment. However, it morphed over the next decade with the Reagan’s, “Just Say No” campaign to one of heavy-handed enforcement, including harsh minimum mandatory penalties on even low-level, non-violent drug offenders. pass it

But there was a recognition over time that this hyped enforcement did little to curb drug use, didn’t make communities safer and actually had a disproportionate impact on lower income and minority communities. In the last decade, there has been a reversing trend that once again focuses on treatment and has peeled back some of the tougher penalties for low-level drug crimes. Marijuana is now legal in most states (including Florida) for medicinal purposes and in a handful of states for recreational use and sales.

However, some are concerned that new U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions may be preparing to crack down once more. Sessions has a long history of disdain for drug use and drug users. Still, some thought it unlikely he would return to policies that had proven unpopular and ineffective. Still, some of his recent comments seem to indicate he may not back down. Continue reading

Marijuana laws are rapidly evolving around the state – including here in Florida, where voters agreed to widen access to medicinal pot. At the same time, four other states were added to the list of those that now allow recreational marijuana use (bringing the total to eight). studentunion

But while the state marijuana laws in this country vary wildly, there are two things you should know that apply everywhere:

  • Marijuana is illegal under federal law.
  • Most college campuses still do not allow it.

Take, for example, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. A spokesman for the university recently told USA Today that while marijuana was legalized statewide for adults to possess, sell and use for recreation, it’s still not allowed on campus. Because it’s illegal at the federal level, it’s barred on campus and considered a violation of student code, similar to possession of alcohol.  Continue reading

In criminal cases, scientific evidence is given a significant amount of weight, whether that is DNA evidence or proof of that a certain substance is in fact illegal. However, as we’ve seen in a number of instances across the country in recent years, that evidence is not infallible. One of the most infamous cases of this was that of a chemist in Massachusetts, who reportedly admitted to manipulating drug test results in order to give prosecutors a leg up. She is believed to have been involved in more than 20,000 drug cases in the course of her 8.5 years working with the state crime lab (from which she was later fired).powder

Now, the question is what to do about all those potentially tainted convictions, many of which were secured using the test results of that chemist. Recently, more than 4.5 years after the chemist confessed, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has called on prosecutors to reverse potentially thousands of those.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, prosecutors have been reluctant throughout this process to reverse convictions where the chemist’s work played a role. In one instance, prosecutors argued they didn’t have any obligation to let those convicted know of their possible innocence in the court’s eyes. Incredibly, one prosecutor even opined that many of the defendants were probably too poor or else too tied up with issues that were more pressing, such as addiction or mental illness, to have any real desire to address these cases. But the state’s highest court isn’t buying that. Continue reading