Clearwater criminal defense lawyers are often asked about how to obtain the best possible results in federal drug cases in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa, Florida. In almost every Federal case but especially in Federal Drug cases such as Trafficking in Cocaine, Methamphetamine or Marijuana, the most important decision is the initial decision. Does a Defendant plead guilty or does he or she fight the charges by demanding a Federal trial with the very real possibility of being found guilty?
Either choice is difficult because the Federal Sentencing Guidelines requires that every Federal Drug Trafficking case yields a harsh minimum mandatory sentence as punishment. And more often than not Federal Prosecutors have more discretion to go under those minimum mandatory sentences than do Federal Judges.
And as many as 96% Federal Defendants plead guilty which is a stunning criminal justice failure in that they believe the Federal criminal process is rigged against them.
If you plead guilty and have no prior criminal history, then you may be eligible for the safety valve, which will allow your sentencing Judge to go under the minimum mandatory sentence in your case. But if you have any kind of prior record, even misdemeanors, then safety valve will not be available unless your attorney is able to overturn the Judgement and Sentence from the jurisdiction in which you were convicted before you are sentenced on the new Federal charges. Although some enlightened members of Congress are attempting to enlarge the safety valve provision to give Federal Judges more discretion, it’s unlikely that this will help on any pending cases.
If the safety valve provision of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is not available, then the Judge can go under a minimum mandatory sentence if and only if the U.S. Attorney’s Office files a motion for substantial assistance, known as a 5k Motion before sentencing or a Rule 35 if filed within a year of the initial federal sentence. In the Middle District of Florida motions for substantial assistance are filed if and only if the level of co-operation is such that a new arrests are made or a defendant establishes that he or she is willing to testify against co-defendants.
All of these fact make pleading guilty to a Federal drug case a roll of the dice without the benefit of knowing with certainty what will happen. But if you do not plead quickly, then the only alternative is to fight the charges with a jury trial. You’ll want to find a Tampa Bay Federal defense attorney with excellent qualifications and experience in Federal trials who will provide you with the best possible defense.
A new study by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project finds that soaring prison budgets do not provide the best path to public safety. The study singles out Florida as having wasted vast sums of money destroying lives with longer prison terms than were necessary for deterrence in averting future crime. Your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer wonders who did benefit from the enormous amount of prison overbuilding in Florida, which came at the expense of Florida funding for education, health and safety.
The tragedy detailed in this report is much more than merely lost money. It represents thousands of lost lives in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo and Tampa Bay especially for those unfortunates incarcerated for long prison terms or mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent crimes such as fraud, forged hydrocodone or oxycodone prescriptions, possession of marijuana, conspiracy and trafficking in drugs or possession of cocaine.
The report states as follows:
|Cezanne, The Opium Smoker
…extended prison sentences came at a price: prisoners released from incarceration in 2009 cost states $23,300 per offender–or a total of over $10 billion nationwide. More than half of that amount was for non-violent offenders.
Drug offenders served 36 percent longer in 2009 than those released in 1990, while violent offenders served 37 percent longer. Time served for inmates convicted of property crimes increased by 24 percent.
Almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, though that varied widely from state to state. In Florida, for example, where time served rose most rapidly, prison terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009.
A companion analysis Pew conducted in partnership with external researchers found that many non-violent offenders in Florida, Maryland and Michigan could have served significantly shorter prison terms with little or no public safety consequences.
One of the fundamental pillars of justice in America is that the defense is entitled to evaluate all testimony at trial thru the process of cross-examination. The constitution guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” This is known as the Confrontation Clause (which tho we are near Christmas has little to do with the Clause known as Santa).
For many years the Supreme Court allowed prosecutors to present evidence in an indirect manner which avoided the necessity of having witnesses confronted at trial, filtering even to our Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater Pinellas County, Forida where lab reports were found to be sufficient without testimony. However, the Supreme Court has begun to shift in favor of Defendant’s rights to cross-examine witnesses especially where expert witness testimony is proffered thru reports rather than with the actual witness at trial. Interestingly for your favorite Pinellas Crime Lawyer & Supreme Court Spectator, it seems to be driven by the conservative wing of the Court.
Part of the underlying reasoning for this shift as earlier entries in this blog have shown is the failure of Government forensic laboratories to give unbiased results.
The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment is a focal point of recent litigation. See Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004); Melendez–Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S.Ct. 2527, 174 L.Ed.2d 314 (2009); Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S.Ct. 2705, 180 L.Ed.2d 610 (2011). Listen to arguments of the case, see also for more Supreme Court audio arguments.
The Court’s opinion in Williams v. Illinois, argued December 6, should be announced soon: Is it a violation of the Confrontation Clause to allow an expert witness to testify about the results of DNA testing conducted by another analyst who has not appeared as a witness at the trial.
The First Circuit recently vacated a conviction over lack of confrontation (Ramos-Gonzlez)… In this cocaine case the government adds substitute chemist Morales to the witness list shortly before trial. Morales is called by the government testifying to the work of the previous chemist as the prosecutor failed to have Morales do his own testing… The Court stated that, “Morales’s testimony was neither cumulative of nor sufficiently corroborated by alternative evidence, and it comprised the only compelling basis for the jury to conclude a critical element of the government’s case—that the substance seized from the truck was cocaine. We cannot conclude that the presence of cocaine would have been proved without the testimony of Morales, and therefore the admission of his testimony was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”
A psychologist in California thought he had a great deal on a used van at $14,000. But 14 months later when he had his breaks fixed the mechanic found over half a million dollars of Cocaine. “My hands went numb,” he said.
He’s a lucky man. He’s lucky that the drug cartel missing the cocaine didn’t find him, then lead him toward a life ending accident.
And he’s especially lucky he doesn’t live in Florida. In Florida, Knowledge of the Cocaine is not required for arrest, prosecution and conviction of Trafficking in Cocaine.
In Florida the innocent psychologist could be subjected to life with a 15 year Minimum Mandatory prison sentence, despite a Federal Judge making a finding that the law violates the United States Constitution. Drug Law Unconstitutional
EXCERPT FROM THE MERCURY NEWS:
“This insulation isn’t supposed to be here,” the mechanic said, digging behind the panel. But it soon became clear that the tablet-sized objects wrapped in purple and clear cellophane weren’t installed by the manufacturer.
“I’m, like, dumbfounded,” said Preston, who works at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “Honest to God, my hands went numb.”
Police quickly arrived and found 14 packages of cocaine hidden in the doors. After impounding the van for closer examination, they found five more above the back wheels, Preston said.
“They told me, ‘You’re so lucky, you’d be in jail for the rest of your life if you got searched in a traffic stop and they found this.’ “
But they also told him something chilling: Take the van back in to the repair shop to check for tracking devices because somebody is probably looking for it. Then get rid of it.
Tampa Bay Police ask your help in finding the original owners of this Vehicle:
|Italy: Sicilian working cart,1890.