Drug Lawyer in Tampa

Drug Lawyer in Tampa

How Do People Typically Get Arrested for Drug Crimes in Hillsborough County Florida?

Arrests for drug crimes are extremely common in Hillsborough County, Florida.  Tampa drug criminal cases can begin in a variety of ways.  For example, sometimes a Tampa Police Officer or a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy makes a traffic stop, and during the stop they smell or see evidence of illegal drugs.  Other times, Tampa law enforcement may get a tip that a certain person is selling drugs or growing cannabis – and then the police will start to watch that person.  Law enforcement may ask a judge for a warrant to search a suspect’s home, listen to their phone calls, or read their text messages.

In all of these cases, an experienced Tampa drug lawyer can fight to protect your rights.  Tampa drug crimes lawyer David C. Hardy is a former Tampa prosecutor that has extensive experience handling both Florida and federal drug cases.

Why is it Important To get the Best Tampa Drug Crimes Lawyer to Handle Your Case?

If you have been accused of a drug crime in Tampa Florida, you need a highly experienced Tampa drug crimes attorney.   Drug crimes in Tampa can have extremely serious consequences, including a permanent criminal record, years of probation, loss of driver’s license, and in some cases jail or prison time.  Because the consequences of a Hillsborough County drug arrest can be so serious, it’s best to hire a highly experienced Tampa drug crimes lawyer.

What Types of Florida Drug Charges do Tampa Drug Lawyers Handle?

In the Tampa state courts, there are a variety of drug charges that criminal defense attorneys handle.  For example, possession of drugs, possession of drugs with intent to distribute, sale or delivery of drugs, and drug trafficking are all charges that an experienced Tampa drug lawyer will handle.

Having a seasoned Tampa drug crimes attorney on your side is key to getting the best possible result in your case.

What Is A Drug Possession Charge?

One of the first things that a Tampa drug crimes lawyer will explain to you at the start of a Tampa drug case is the definition of drug possession in the Florida courts.  In Florida, to prove the crime of drug possession, the prosecutor must prove that the person accused knew of the presence of the drug, and that the person exercised control or ownership over the drug.

A Tampa drug crimes lawyer will explain that there are two ways that a person can possess a drug.  They are called actual possession and constructive possession.

Actual possession means the person is aware of the presence of the drug, and:

  1. The drug is in the hand of or on the person, or
  2. The drug is in a container in the hand of or on the person, or
  3. The drug is so close as to be within ready reach and is under the control of the person.

Constructive possession means the person is aware of the presence of the drug, the drug is in a place over which the person has control, and the person has the ability to control the drug.

What Are The Possible Punishments for Drug Possession in Tampa State Court?

One of the first things that a Tampa drug crimes lawyer will explain to you at the start of a Tampa drug case is the possible punishment for drug possession in Florida state court.  For example, the penalties for possession of drugs in Tampa are:

  • Possession of less than 20 grams of Cannabis: This is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year of imprisonment, a $1,000.00 fine, and 12 months of probation
  • Possession of more than 20 grams of Cannabis: This is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of a prison sentence of 5 years, a $5,000.00 fine, 5 years of probation.
  • Possession of cocaine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, or Xanax: This is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of a prison sentence of 5 years, a $5,000.00 fine, 5 years of probation.

What are the Possible Punishments in Tampa State Court for Selling Drugs?

An experienced Tampa drug crimes lawyer will explain the possible punishment for selling drugs in Tampa (or possessing drugs with the intent to distribute them). For example, the penalties for selling drugs in Tampa are:

  • Sale or delivery of cannabis, or possession with intent to sell or deliver: This is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 5 years of imprisonment, a $5,000.00 fine, and five years of probation.
  • Sale, intent to sell, or delivery of cocaine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, or Xanax: This is a second-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 15 years of imprisonment, a $10,000.00 fine, and 15 years of probation.

What is the Florida Offense of Drug Trafficking?

If your case involves drug trafficking in the Florida state courts, a Tampa drug crimes lawyer will explain to you the definition of drug trafficking.   While most people assume that drug trafficking charges imply that a person has sold drugs that is not always the case.

Drug trafficking is essentially a type of drug possession charge, and that the difference between a basic drug possession charge and a drug trafficking charge is one of amount or weight.

For example, an experienced drug crimes attorney knows that if a person possesses more than 25 pounds of cannabis (or 300 or more cannabis plants), then the State of Florida can charge that person with trafficking in cannabis.    If a person possesses more than 28 grams of cocaine, then the State of Florida can charge that person with trafficking in cocaine.  If a person possesses more than 14 grams of hydrocodone, then the State of Florida can charge that person with trafficking in hydrocodone.  If a person possesses more than 7 grams of oxycodone, then the State of Florida can charge that person with trafficking in oxycodone.

What are the Possible Punishments in Tampa State Court for Drug Trafficking?

In the Tampa state courts, drug trafficking is a first-degree felony punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison.

However, an experienced Tampa drug crimes attorney will also advise their clients that persons convicted of drug trafficking in the Florida courts will face minimum mandatory sentences and fines, and that the length of the minimum mandatory sentence will depend on the type and weight of the drug.  For example:

  • If the drug was cannabis, an experienced Tampa drug crimes attorney will explain that if the weight of the cannabis was between 25 and 1999 pounds, the judge must impose a 3 year prison sentence and a $25,000 fine.
  • If the drug was cocaine, an experienced Tampa drug crimes attorney will explain that if the weight of the cannabis was 28 grams or more but less than 200 grams, the judge must impose a 3 year prison sentence and a $50,000 fine.

How Can An Experienced Tampa Drug Lawyer Help You?

There are many possible defenses to a Tampa drug charge, and an experienced drug crimes attorney can review your case and develop the best possible defense.  Below are just a few defenses.

An Experienced Tampa Drug Lawyer Can File A Motion to Suppress based on a Miranda Violation

Frequently, the only way the police can establish that a person possessed, sold, or trafficked in a drug is by getting a confession from the person.  Police know this, and sometimes, because they are so intent on getting a conviction, they forget to follow the law.

When the police detain and question a suspect, they must read that person his or her Miranda Rights.  If a police officer does not read a suspect his or her Miranda rights before questioning, an experienced Tampa drug crimes lawyer can file a motion to suppress statements.  Sometimes, the very filing of a motion to suppress can lead to a reduction of the charge or even the dismissal of the case.

For example, imagine a deputy stops a car for running a red light, and there are three people in the car.   While the officer is speaking to the driver, she sees a package of cocaine on the rear floorboard.  If the officer were to detain and question the driver and passengers about the cocaine without reading them their Miranda rights, an experienced Tampa drug crimes lawyer could file a motion to suppress his or her client’s statement.  Depending on the facts of the case, this could lead to the State Attorney’s Office reducing the charge or the judge dismissing the case.

If you or a loved was made a statement to the police concerning who possessed are a particular drug, it’s important to speak with an experienced Tampa drug crimes lawyer so that the lawyer can determine whether or not a motion to suppress is appropriate.

An Experienced Tampa Drug Attorney Can File A Motion to Suppress Based on Lack of Valid Consent to Search

The general rule is that a police officer must get a warrant before he can search a suspect.  However, there are exceptions to this rule.  For example, police can search a suspect if that suspect voluntarily consents to a search.

However, law enforcement officers sometimes make threats or promises to get a suspect to consent to a search.  For example, sometimes a police officer will tell a suspect that if they don’t consent to a search, that they will be arrested.  Other times, a police officer might promise a person that if they consent a search, that they will not be arrested.

When police make threats or promises to get a person to consent to a search, a Tampa drug crimes attorney can file a motion to suppress evidence based on coerced (and therefore invalid) consent to search.   Depending on the facts of the case, this could lead to the prosecutor reducing the charge or the judge dismissing the case.

An Experienced Tampa Drug Attorney Can File A Motion to Suppress Based on an Unlawful Canine Search

Tampa Police will sometimes stop a car for a traffic infraction and then ask the driver if they can search the vehicle.  If the driver says no, the police will often call for a police dog to smell the outside of the vehicle in search of drugs.  If the dog alerts, the police are allowed to search the car.  However, Tampa police may not prolong the stop for the traffic violation in order to conduct the canine search.  If the officer prolongs the stop for the traffic infraction in order to conduct a canine search, the evidence found as a result of the canine search might not be admissible in court.

When police prolong the stop for the traffic violation in order to conduct a canine search, a Tampa drug crimes attorney can file a motion to suppress.   The motion is based on protections in both the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution.  Depending on the facts of the case, this could lead to the prosecutor to reduce the charge or the judge to dismiss the case.

An Experienced Tampa Drug Attorney Can File A Motion to Suppress Based on an Unlawful Detention

Police officers can’t detain people just based on a hunch that the person is committing a crime – police officers must have a reasonable suspicion that the person is committing a crime before they can detain them.

However, sometimes police officers stop and detain people with for little or no reason.  When that happens, a Tampa drug crimes attorney can file a motion to suppress and request that the judge exclude any evidence that the police discovered as a result of the unlawful detention.  This could lead to the State Attorney’s Office reducing the charge or the judge dismissing the case.

An Experienced Tampa Drug Attorney Argue There is Insufficient Evidence to Prove Drug Possession

If police discover a drug in a place where more than one person had access, in order to convict the prosecutor would have to prove that the person knew about the drug and that he or she had control over the drug.

There are many cases in which unless the person admitted to the police that the drug belonged to them, the prosecutor won’t be able to prove that the person possessed the drug.  In cases like these, a Tampa drug lawyer can contact the prosecutor and request the case be dismissed.  If this does not work, an experienced Tampa drug lawyer can bring the case to trial.  Many times, when the prosecutor realizes that the facts are not on the State’s side and that the drug crimes attorney is not afraid to try the case, the prosecutor will drop the case or reduce the charge.

An Experienced Tampa Drug Attorney Can Argue There is Insufficient Evidence to Prove Intent to Distribute

Sometimes, police will arrest a person for possession of drugs with the intent to sell or distribute, when the appropriate charge was simple possession of a drug.

There is a big difference between these two charges.  Simple possession of a drug is typically a third-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 5 years in prison. However, possession of a drug with intent to sell or delivery is a second-degree felony, punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Also, when a person is convicted of a third-degree felony the judge can withhold adjudication, which means that the person is not formally convicted of a felony.  However, when a person is convicted of a second-degree felony, Florida law requires that the judge adjudicate the person guilty of a felony.  A convicted felon in Florida loses valuable rights, including the right to possession of a firearm.

Additionally, sometimes a drug crimes attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to place a person charged with simple drug possession into a drug treatment program, and if the person successfully completes the program the drug crimes attorney can ask the judge to dismiss the charges.  However, if a prosecutor decides to charge a person with possession with intent to sell and distribute a drug, the person will not qualify for the drug treatment program.

Therefore, an experienced Tampa drug attorney will do all he or she can to get the case reduced to simple possession, as the consequences are far less severe for their client.

A Tampa drug crimes lawyer can often present a strong argument to the prosecutor that the police officer was wrong when he or she charged possession of a drug with intent to sell or distribute.   The police officer may have chosen this charge because of the amount of drug the person is carrying with them, or the presence of plastic baggies, large sums of cash, or a scale.  These factors may support the inference that the person was selling drugs.  However, there are frequently good arguments that an experienced drug attorney can make that the appropriate charge is simple possession rather than possession with intent.

When Does The Federal Government Prosecute Drug Crimes?

Both the State of Florida and the federal government prosecute drug crimes.  The federal government will often involve itself in a drug case if there is a large amount of drugs, or if there are a group of persons working together to transport and sell drugs.  Sometimes a drug case will begin in state court, but then the federal government will take the case and move it into federal court.

Drug cases in federal court frequently involve cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and prescription drugs.  Because the penalties can be so severe, it’s important to have a highly experienced Tampa federal drug lawyer to represent you or your loved one.

What Are The Penalties In Federal Court For Tampa Drug Crimes?

In federal drug cases, a variety of factors will influence the penalty.

The United States Sentencing Guidelines:

  • The United States Sentencing Guidelines is a system that federal judges in Tampa and around the United States use to calculate an advisory sentencing range for defendants.  The guideline sentencing range is called advisory because it is not mandatory – rather, it is a suggested sentencing range of incarceration for the federal district court judge to consider along with other sentencing factors.
  • The sentencing guidelines are designed to take into account the seriousness of an offense, as well as a Defendant’s criminal history.  In a Tampa federal drug case, offense seriousness is determined by the weight (and sometimes purity) of the drug.  The guidelines factor a defendant’s criminal history into the sentencing calculation by assigning points for a defendant’s prior criminal convictions.  More criminal convictions mean more points, and more points mean a longer sentencing guideline range.
  • When it comes to Tampa federal drug cases, the federal sentencing guidelines can be very complex.  Therefore, it’s important to have a highly experienced Tampa federal drug lawyer represent you or your loved one.

Minimum Mandatory Sentences:

  • Many drug charges involve minimum mandatory sentences.  For example, if a Tampa federal case involves at least 500 grams of cocaine, there is a minimum mandatory of 5 years in prison.  If a Tampa federal case involves at least 5 kilograms of cocaine, there is a minimum mandatory of 10 years in prison.

18 U.S.C. 924(c):

  • Under this statute, if a person uses, possesses, or carries a firearm during and in relation to any drug trafficking crime, an additional minimum mandatory sentence is added to the sentence that is imposed for the underlying drug case.  The length of the additional sentence depends on the type of the firearm.
  • When it comes to federal drug cases in which a firearm is alleged to have been involved, sometimes it’s unclear whether or not the firearm was used, possessed, or carried during or in relation to a drug trafficking crime.
  • An experienced federal drug crimes lawyer can argue to both the prosecutor and judge that this enhancement should not apply.  This issue can have a big impact on any potential federal sentence.  Therefore, it’s important to have a highly experienced Tampa federal drug lawyer represent you or your loved one in Tampa federal court.

21 U.S.C. § 851:

  • If a Defendant has a prior felony drug conviction, the prosecutor, pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851, has the power to enhance the current charge, increasing the defendant’s minimum mandatory sentence.  For example, if a defendant with a prior felony drug conviction is charged with a federal drug offense that carries a 10-year minimum mandatory, and the prosecutor files what is called an “851 Information”, the minimum mandatory will increase to 15 years.

How To Hire The Best Tampa Drug Crimes Lawyer For Your Case?

If you have been accused of a drug crime in Tampa, Florida, you need to hire the best Tampa drug crimes attorney for your particular case, because your liberty, financial future, and reputation may all be at stake.  Which Tampa drug lawyer you hire could have important consequences for the rest of your life.  As you research Tampa criminal defense attorneys, consider these questions:

  • Is the Tampa drug lawyer you are considering hiring actually a criminal defense lawyer?  Attorney David C. Hardy is a drug crimes attorney that has been practicing criminal law since 2005.
  • Is the Tampa drug lawyer that you are considering hiring highly experienced in criminal law? Attorney David C. Hardy is a Tampa drug crimes attorney that has handled thousands of criminal cases.
  • Is the Tampa drug lawyer you are considering hiring board certified by the Florida Bar as a specialist in criminal trial law?  Attorney David C. Hardy is a Tampa drug crimes attorney that has been board certified by the Florida Bar as an expert in criminal trial law since 2010.
  • Is the Tampa drug lawyer you are considering hiring a former prosecutor? Attorney David C. Hardy is a Tampa drug crimes attorney that served as a Tampa prosecutor for more than 5 years.  He has worked on both sides of the courtroom, and this experience helps him provide the best possible legal representation to his clients.
  • Is the Tampa drug lawyer that you are considering hiring rated AV-Preeminent by the Martindale Hubble Attorney Rating Service? Martindale-Hubbell’s attorney rating service is the most respect attorney rating service in the United States.  It is based upon the evaluations of judges and lawyers in the community.  Attorney David C. Hardy is a Tampa drug crimes attorney that has attained Martindale Hubble’s highest possible rating – called AV-Preeminent.

Are You Looking for the best Tampa Drug Crimes Lawyer?  Contact Attorney David C. Hardy

Tampa drug crimes lawyer David C. Hardy is a former prosecutor that now represents people accused of drug possession, drug sale, and drug trafficking.    Attorney Hardy is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law.  Attorney Hardy has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you through this process and obtain the best possible results in your Tampa drug case.