Finding the Best Possible Results After a Clearwater, Florida Drug Arrest

It’s unfortunate but true that America has declared a unilateral drug war against its own citizens. The power of the state could have been used to promote awareness of the risks of various drugs and to help those addicted beat their habits. Instead otherwise law-abiding citizens are branded as criminals. Many are arrested on the flimsiest of excuses as law enforcement officers become liars in an effort to lock up as many people as possible.

Avoid the Pinellas Jail

Avoid the Pinellas Jail

Once arrested those suspected of having even small quantities of drugs often face significant prison sentences in federal and state courts in Florida. For example, it only takes being in possession of a handful of oxycodone, vicodin or other otherwise legal prescription pills to create a situation where a judge has no discretion to go under the federal or Florida minimum mandatory sentencing requirements. Even when a minimum mandatory sentence does not apply the strict standards of the sentencing guidelines may require a judge to give prison time even for a first time offender. Clearly the strict drug laws must be changed as soon as possible. The laws should focus on rehabilitation not punishment and on helping people not hurting them. More peoples lives have been destroyed by the strict enforcement of American drug laws than have been harmed by the illegal drugs themselves. But until federal and Florida drug laws are amended Clearwater criminal defense lawyers must find the best possible ways to minimize the terrible damage done to countless lives after a drug arrest. Here are the most important and effective things to do if you or someone you love has been arrested for a drug charge in Tampa Bay, Florida:

  1. Do whatever is necessary to get out of the Pinellas Jail which is well known for having poor food, unsafe conditions and providing poor medical care. Contact a bail bondsman if you don’t have the entire bail amount. Typically by paying ten percent of the entire bond to the bondsman which you forfeit as his fee, the bondsman pays the remaining 90% thus insuring that you don’t have to wait for months in jail while the case is being resolved. If the bond is still too high then a lawyer can file a motion with the judge to lower the bond by establishing that you are not a flight risk and that you have strong ties to the community.
  2. As soon as possible contact a reliable defense lawyer who is committed to helping you find the best results. Make sure the lawyer has prior criminal law experience and that criminal law is his one field of practice rather than finding a general practitioner or someone who also does civil law.
  3. Help your lawyer help you by providing any evidence you may have such as phone records, bank records, video or audio. It’s important to remember that you and your lawyer are now a team working together for the common goal of keeping you out of prison and finding the best result. Any information you provide may be helpful in arguments your lawyer may present to the prosecutor or judge in an effort to have your case dismissed or reduced to a misdemeanor.
  4. If the case can not be dismissed or reduced then it’s important to make a decision as soon as possible as to whether or not to have a jury trial. If you are not going to trial then you may want to co-operate with the government to obtain a better sentence. If you’re going to fight the charges then taking sworn depositions of the witnesses may be necessary. The decision on whether to go to trial is often pivotal as to how much prison time may be at risk.

It’s possible that your drug case may be decided in the special drug court. If that happens trial is unlikely as the purpose of the drug court is to give the judge other options than prison and punishment. Whether your case is decided in drug court or in a typical felony division, the Florida sentencing guidelines provide the map by which the judge will make most sentencing decisions. Therefore it’s important that your defense lawyer understand the sentencing guidelines and how they apply in your drug case.

Avoiding a Harsh Federal Minimum Mandatory Sentence in The Middle District of Florida in Tampa

Sentencing in Federal Court for drug trafficking and other federal crimes often require federal judges to give minimum mandatory sentences. This is because federal judges do not have as much discretion as federal prosecutors.

Prosecutor Yes: No Judge & No Defense Lawyer

Prosecutor Yes: No Judge & No Defense Lawyer

The very process of how federal criminal cases proceed allows the federal prosecutor often shapes the final sentencing results long before the federal judge is even assigned to the case. In grand jury proceedings prosecutors are permitted but not judges nor defense attorneys. Prosecutors mold the grand jury deliberations by defining for the grand jury the nature of criminal violations charged in the indictment. Prosecutors decide very early if the grand jury should trigger the minimum mandatory sentencing provisions of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. That early decision will effect how the case will later be decided.

Once the federal indictment is unsealed and an arrest of the defendant is made, then the defendant is confronted with a stark choice. Should the defendant co-operate and plead guilty to the charge or should the charge be tested thru a trial by jury. Should the defendant choose to fight the charges he will likely be forced to wait in jail for his trial because by definition any drug or weapons charge that triggers a minimum mandatory sentence forces a federal magistrate to make a finding under the law that the defendant is not only a threat to the community but a flight risk.

If the defendant decides to plead guilty again a federal prosecutor with help from a federal agency such as the FBI or the DEA, will have the ultimate decision as to whether the case justifies going under the minimum mandatory sentence.

The defendant is given an opportunity to give a proffer. In the proffer he must answer truthfully in assisting the prosecutor in making further indictments and arrests. The prosecutor has sole discretion as to whether the defendant was truthful, honest and useful. Ultimately the prosecutor must file a motion for substantial assistance known as a 5k motion (or known as a Rule 35 motion if made after the initial sentencing). The federal judge can not entertain a motion for substantial assistance unless the prosecutor files the appropriate motion because under federal law the judge only has jurisdiction when and if the federal prosecutors file.

Clearly, federal judges should be given much more discretion to give fair sentences under the strict minimum mandatory requirements and under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. But until that happens your criminal defense lawyer must understand how to adjust, attack and benefit from the framework of the guidelines to achieve the best results. It’s important to find an attorney who understands the grand jury process, how prosecutorial decisions are made and the criteria for sentencing among federal district court judges in the Middle District of Florida to find the best ways to avoid the guideline ranges and provide the judge with better sentencing options.

Don’t let the threat of a federal indictment or the possibility of a long federal prison sentence ruin your life. Attorney Robert Hambrick has handled many successful federal criminal cases in the Middle District of Florida. Robert can help you make the most important decisions of your life in dealing with the federal criminal justice system to achieve a result that will let you move forward with your life.

FEDERAL PROSECUTORS TOLD TO NO LONGER ENFORCE MARIJUANA LAWS IN STATES WHERE IT’S LEGALIZED

Your favorite Clearwater criminal defense attorney just obtained a memorandum sent today to each federal prosecutor working in every United States Attorney’s office. The memorandum outlines the factors which every prosecutor must now consider before pursuing marijuana trafficking cases.

Here are the six critical factors to be used by prosecutors in the future for every Department of Justice prosecution as delineated in the memorandum:

Cannabis is now legal in many states but not in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Is Cannabis Legal?

1. Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors. 

2. Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels. 

3. Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law from being dispersed to states where it is not legal. 

4. Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for trafficking in other illegal drugs or other illegal activity. 

5. Preventing violence and firearm use. 

6. Preventing DUI impairment from marijuana. Preventing the growing of marijuana on public parks or other public land or other federal property. 

What is most interesting is the fourth paragraph which represents a sea change of policy from Attorney General Holder’s previous guidelines for his prosecutors. 

Now state authorized marijuana activity will be monitored to prevent its use in other illegal drugs or other illegal activity, whereas before even if a state had legalized marijuana, the federal government viewed the marijuana growing as illegal activity subject to the federal law of drug trafficking in itself

Clearly citizens in states that do not allow marijuana will not be as likely as other citizens to be subject to the harsh minimum mandatory sentences for marijuana drug trafficking cases, which should bring some disparity of sentencing arguments as well as disparity of prosecution arguments into play by enterprising defense attorneys in every jurisdiction.

Here in Tampa Bay, Florida we can only hope that a new constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana will not only make the drug legal for medicinal purposes, but will stop at least some overzealous federal prosecutions that often result in unfair minimum mandatory prison sentences that judges do not have the discretion to go under. Because prosecutors always had more discretion under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, this roll back of harsh sentencing by Attorney General Holder will save many people from being branded as criminal by our government.

AMERICA’S WAR ON DRUGS DESTROYS ANOTHER LIFE WITH THE ARREST OF A PROMINENT FLORIDA SURGEON

Even eminent Surgeons are not immune to the lure of drugs nor to drug’s destructive power. Yet America’s war on drugs and harsh mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws have ruined many more lives than have the drugs themselves.

The Tampa Bay Surgeon, Dr. Carpenter, was arrested by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputies for multiple counts of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. And as absurd as this sounds under the prevailing Florida law the Doctor is fortunate in how the offense was charged. 

 van Gogh - Portrait of Doctor Gachet who would have been arrested in Tampa Bay Florida for Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud if he had prescription pills.
Van Gogh, Prescription Fraud Doctor

In many cases involving Prescription Fraud the total number of pills sheer weight is added together. In this case there were “at least 500 valium pills” according to deputies. Based on weight even as few as thirty pills is often sufficient to trigger a Drug Trafficking charge with a minimum mandatory sentence in Tampa Bay, Florida. 

It would be interesting to know the criterial, if any, which law enforcement officers use to determine when it’s appropriate to file Drug Trafficking charges. Shouldn’t there be written law enforcement policy as to what factors officers should take into account in how to charge or not charge Drug Trafficking cases? At least Tampa Bay Judges have some understanding that drug treatment at the Pinellas County Drug Court is a better answer than forcing addicts to spend useless prison time.

Needless to say, the prosecutors will use the threat of a Trafficking charge to leverage a forced plea of guilty. It’s as easy as amending the Information, which is the formal charging document filed by prosecutors, to include a Drug Trafficking charge should the Doctor attempt to fight the charges. No wonder a recent study established to the shame of the American Criminal Judicial System that over 96% of those charged with a crime plead guilty in this country.

Doctor Carpenter’s arrest for valium prescription fraud came about when he allegedly passed prescriptions for himself using the name and the DEA number of another doctor apparently without that Doctor’s permission according to press accounts:

Pinellas County Sheriff’s investigators received information that Dr. Richard Carpenter had been calling in prescriptions for Valium (Diazepam) for himself since October 2012. 

Authorities say Carpenter used the name of a doctor he knew and his DEA number to get the prescriptions illegally using his health care insurance to pay the cost of the prescription.
Investigators say Carpenter obtained at least 500 Valium 5mg pills.

Somehow that using of the insurance really bothers me, but a juror might see things differently. If the Surgeon fights this case all the way to a jury trial, the insurance might just be what sets him free. After all Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorneys could successfully argue that the Surgeon wouldn’t involve the insurance company unless he thought the prescriptions were valid.

LAW ENFORCEMENT WILL FILL PILL BOTTLES WITH GPS TRACKING DEVICES TO CATCH DRUG ABUSERS

The Government’s escalating battle to stop the abuse of oxycodone now includes baiting bottles in pharmacies with GPS tracking systems. According to press reports the baited bottles will be handed out during pharmacy thefts and robberies in the hope of later tracking down the perpetrators.

Law enforcement is also asking industry researchers to explore the possibility of applying nanotechnology in such a way that individual ‘bait’ tablets could be tracked by GPS.

GPS Enhanced Pill Bottles

The idea is similar to the red dye explosives banks throw into bags of cash when robbed. The dye makes it that much easier to catch the robbers. Unfortunately it takes weeks for your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney to rub off the red dye when making timely withdrawals, but never mind my legal problems.  
Couldn’t the banks use GPS as well? Well, they do. 
But they’re smart enough not to advertise the fact as it wouldn’t deter the robbery only force the robbers to remove the device. 
Clearly, growing technology is taking away more of our privacy rights. Yet folks who rob pharmacies and banks probably don’t have much room to complain. But for the rest of us imagine how are privacy rights will be diminished when the industry complies with law enforcement’s request to create a nano GPS system. And it’s important to know when electronic surveillance with GPS, video or audio is unlawful.

The Government has tried harsh mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses which have not only failed to curtail addiction and abuse, but have ruined many more lives than the drugs. In Florida law enforcement officers charged with protecting the public have recently abused their public trust by using improper tactics including secret video surveillance, false search warrants and lying while attempting to gain unlawful entry into a dwelling.

WHAT IS THE SURPRISING FEDERAL CRIME WOMEN COMMIT IN GREATER NUMBERS THAN MEN AND WHY?

While parsing thru the new fiscal year report from the Federal Sentencing Commission, your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney found a surprising statistic struggling to be set free among the gender based findings. The report unexpectedly notes that women outnumber men in only one category of crime in Federal Criminal Sentencing, which crime do you think it is? 

with cash in her hands mary caswith cash in hand degas' portrait of mary cassatt  could be charged with embezzlement in federal court in clearwater, largo & tampa bay florida.
Degas, Mary Cassatt & Cash, 1880

Here’s a hint. It’s not drug trafficking though at nearly 30% of all federal offenses women commit, it represents by far the highest number of women offenders. 

Yet the number of men committing federal drug trafficking far exceeds women who are often used by men as low level operatives or drug mules to transport or sell drugs.

So that leaves us with the intriguing question of which Federal Crime women commit in greater numbers than men. As the Sentencing Commission report notes it’s embezzlement:

In the fiscal year 86.5 percent of all offenders were men, compared with 86.5 percent in fiscal year 2007, and 86.0 percent in fiscal year 2002. Among female offenders, the most common crime was drug trafficking (28.8% of all women offenders). Embezzlement was the only crime for which female offenders outnumber male offenders (50.3% to 49.7%)

Before you decide to hire only men to keep those accounts of your business safe, lets look at why women commit federal embezzlement more than men. 
A look at the Federal Code Chapter 31 for Theft and Embezzlement reveals that there’s a blurred line between mere Theft and the more sophisticated theft within an Embezzlement. Embezzlement is a theft that also violates a fiduciary duty of trust to an employer or other entity. I suspect that women happen to be in greater positions of trust, not only because they’re more trustworthy, but because their jobs may tend to place them in closer proximity to liquid assets, such as the teller’s access to cash at a bank
A recurring problem in complex Federal Grand Jury Embezzlement Indictments of alleged white collar crime in Tampa Bay Florida Federal Court is over-broad statutes that result in over-criminalization where Defendants are charged with crimes such as embezzlement without proven criminal intent nor knowledge that what was done was illegal. For example, a company book keeper is ordered by the Company’s Chief Financial Officer to keep a second set of books for unknown reasons. Should she be charged in a federal embezzlement scheme?
If you’ve been charged with a white collar crime such as fraud, forgery, theft or embezzlement, you should seek the advice of a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer who will find the best possible solutions to protect your future.