St. Petersburg Man Sentenced To 17 Years For Distributing Drugs
In late October 2021, a federal district court judge in Tampa sentenced a St. Petersburg man to 17 years and 6 months after the man was convicted of conspiracy to distribute drugs – at least 500 grams of cocaine, as well as 100 grams of a drug mixture of heroin and fentanyl. The defendant had served as a major cog in a drug distribution conspiracy centered around Tampa that had lasted for over a year, from 2018-19. If you have been charged with distributing drugs with intent to sell, you need to be aware that these charges are very serious.
State vs Federal Charges
Drug distribution with intent to sell is seen as a serious offense in Florida, because of the possible harm it can do to society as a whole, rather than just to one victim as drug use is. This is the charge just below drug trafficking, so to speak; distribution of drugs is seen as more confined to a small area, and generally requires intent to distribute or sell, while trafficking charges do not require intent, and tend to involve transportation of controlled substances over state lines.
The majority of drug cases tend to stay at the state level, but cases can be tried in federal courts when the offenses involve large quantities of controlled substances, or if they are shown to be part of a larger conspiracy. Florida’s drug laws are extremely harsh, due to the state’s rough past with drug dealing and distribution, but federal drug laws are arguably even harsher. That said, penalties under federal and state law may be comparable if you are convicted, depending on the specific facts of your case.
Factors and Defenses
In order to establish your guilt in a drug distribution case, a State’s Attorney must establish two facts: that the drugs you were found with were a controlled substance under Florida law; that you knowingly and intentionally participated in distribution or sale. If your attorney is able to cast doubt on either of these issues, you cannot be convicted of drug distribution – it is possible to assert affirmative defenses (that is, defenses which directly undermine an element of the prosecution’s case) that cast doubt on both of these factors. For example, it is an affirmative defense to argue that you did not know the substance in question was controlled (and thus, illicit).
If at all possible, affirmative defenses are some of the most useful tools for your attorney, as the sentences for drug distribution can be just as severe under Florida law as the sentence handed down to the St. Petersburg man in federal court. For example, possession with intent to sell drugs is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, plus significant fines, while second-degree felonies carry a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. If you are able to undermine a part of the prosecution’s case, you may be able to avoid jail time entirely.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney
Drug distribution is a less serious charge than drug trafficking, but it still carries a serious potential sentence that can affect your life profoundly. If you have been charged with drug distribution, a West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help to answer your questions and ensure your rights are protected in court. Call our offices today to speak to an attorney.