Taking to task police who did not check every bag of suspected cocaine in the possession of a 32-year-old Florida man, the Florida Supreme Court threw out the conviction of drug trafficking. The charges of drug trafficking will be lowered to drug possession after the court ruled 5-2 that the Jacksonville man could be tried only for possessing the bags that were tested and came back positive for cocaine. His drug trafficking conviction led to a 15-year prison sentence, but a drug possession conviction brings a maximum sentence of five years.
Police were said to have combined the contents of nine bags of suspected cocaine before they could be tested in a laboratory, which gave them enough of the drug for trafficking charges. Every bag was individually field tested at the scene and determined to contain cocaine, but police dumped all the bags into one container to be examined by a forensic chemist and officially found to be the illegal drug.
Sheriff's deputies raided the man's house in 2009 and reported finding a bag in the garage which contained nine smaller plastic bags full of a substance. The man told police that the bags contained cocaine, an admission which authorities tried to use against him once the mistake was discovered, but the judge did not concur that this was enough to convict him of drug trafficking.
Conviction for federal drug crimes can mean a life spent in prison. Lesser drug offenses such as marijuana possession or a prescription drug violation can also derail an individual's life if not handled correctly. An attorney in Tampa, Florida who has experience in the defense of clients charged with drug offenses may help individuals enter a plea bargain with the court.
Source: The Florida Times Union, "Convict in cocaine-trafficking case to get shorter sentence ", Larry Hannan, October 18, 2013