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What are the minimum penalties for drug trafficking in Florida?

The sale and distribution of controlled substances are illegal per both Florida and federal laws. Prosecutors must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a Clearwater defendant committed the crime that they stand accused of. There are certain minimum penalties that anyone who's convicted of drug offenses may face at sentencing.

What's considered trafficking

If a defendant is arrested in possession of a small amount of a controlled substance that they appear to be prepared to sell, then this type of offense is most often considered as drug distribution here in Florida. Defendants that are arrested while in possession of a significant amount of certain types of drugs can be charged with trafficking. These crimes can be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies depending on the drugs involved.

Proving a drug trafficking case

Prosecutors must prove that the defendant brought drugs into Florida intending to sell them and that the controlled substance that the defendant trafficked is indeed illegal in the state. They must also prove that the defendant was aware that their activities were unlawful.

Penalties for drug trafficking

Sentences that defendants face if they're convicted of drug trafficking vary depending on the degree of their charges.

A defendant who faces first-degree drug trafficking charges may be sentenced to as long as 30 years in prison if convicted of such a crime.

Defendants who are convicted of trafficking anywhere between 25 and 2,000 pounds (lbs) of marijuana may be assessed $25,000 in fines and have to spend three or more years in prison. A defendant's potential period of incarceration increases to at least seven years and their minimum fine goes up to $50,000 if they're convicted of trafficking between 2,000 and 10,000 lbs of marijuana.

Any defendant that is convicted on second-degree felony drug trafficking charges may face up to 15 years in prison and be ordered to pay as much as $10,000 in fines. Third-degree drug trafficking charges carry with them as much as $5,000 in fines and up to five years of incarceration.

Defendants that have previous convictions on their record may face enhanced sentencing minimums in alignment with Florida's habitual offenders' laws. This is why you must seek out the guidance of an attorney if you've been arrested on suspicion of trafficking a controlled substance here in Clearwater so that you can work out a defense strategy in your case.

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