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.