Trafficking in Heroin in Florida
Florida imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences and stiff fines for people convicted of Trafficking in Heroin.
Because of these serious consequences, it is important to know the:
- Definition of Trafficking in Heroin
- Penalties for Trafficking in Heroin and
- Defenses to Trafficking in Heroin.
Definition of Trafficking in Cannabis
Under Florida Statute 893.135(1)(c)(1), the crime of Trafficking in Heroin is committed when a person knowingly possesses, sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or transports 4 grams or more of heroin or any derivative compound.
Heroin Trafficking Thresholds
If a person is caught trafficking in heroin, the mandatory minimum penalties are determined by the following heroin trafficking thresholds:
- 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams of heroin;
- 3 years prison / $50,000 fine
- 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams of heroin;
- 15 years prison / $100,000 fine
- 28 grams to 30 kilograms of heroin;
- 25 years prison / $500,000 fine
- 30 kilograms or more of heroin;
- Life in Prison / $500,000 fine
Penalties for Trafficking in Heroin
The crime of Trafficking in Heroin is classified as a First Degree Felony and, depending on the amount of heroin, is assigned either a Level 8 or a Level 9 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.
Under Florida law, unless the State Attorney agrees to waive the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, the minimum penalties a judge can impose are determined as follows:
- Trafficking in 4 to 14 grams of Heroin
- Trafficking in 14 to 28 grams of Heroin
- Trafficking in 28 grams to 30 kilograms of Heroin
- Trafficking in 30 kilograms or more of Heroin
Trafficking in 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams of Heroin
If convicted of Trafficking in 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams of Heroin, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Trafficking in 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams of Heroin
If convicted of Trafficking in 200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams, of Heroin, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Trafficking in 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms of Heroin
If convicted of Trafficking in 400 grams or more, but less than 150 kilograms, of Heroin, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Trafficking in 30 grams or more of Heroin
If convicted of Trafficking in 30 kilograms or more of Heroin, a judge is required to impose a mandatory sentence of life in prison and a $500,000 fine.
Driver's License Suspension
Pursuant to Florida Statute 322.055, a person convicted of Trafficking in Heroin will have their driver’s license or driving privilege revoked for one year by the Florida DHSMV.
Professional License Suspension
Pursuant to Florida Statute 893.11, a person convicted of Trafficking in Heroin will be subject to the emergency suspension of any Professional License issued by the State of Florida that authorizes the practicing of a profession or trade.
Defenses to Trafficking in Heroin
Entrapment occurs when an undercover law enforcement officer or confidential informant induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit. If it can be shown you were entrapped, the court can dismiss the charges against you.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Often, law enforcement exceed the scope of their authority and require people to submit to a vehicle, home, or body search when they otherwise would not be required to; coerce people into agreeing to a search; arrest people without probable cause; or obtain search warrants in bad faith.
If any of these can be proven through the filing of a Motion to Suppress, the courts will suppress the resulting evidence as having been illegally obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States; which can lead to an outright dismissal of the case.
The prosecutor can only prove you possessed heroin for the purposes of trafficking in one of two ways:
To prove that you actually possessed heroin, the prosecutor has to show the heroin was found on your person. So if the heroin was found in your pocket, the prosecutor would have a case involving actual possession of heroin.
On the other hand, if the heroin was found in a place where more than one person had access, the prosecutor would have a much more difficult time proving you possessed the heroin because they would have to comply with the law of constructive possession.
The law of constructive possession requires the prosecutor to prove each of three distinct elements before you can be convicted:
- Knowledge of the heroin's presence;
- Knowledge the substance was heroin; and
- Dominion and control over the heroin.
Below are scenarios where it could be argued the prosecutor could not meet their burden of proving constructive possession.
Scenario 1: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found heroin in the trunk, they would be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Heroin unless they had some proof that you knew the heroin was there.
Scenario 2: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found a heroin package in the back seat, but in plain view. They would be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Heroin unless they had some proof that you knew the package contained heroin.
Scenario 3: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend takes a container with heroin in it and places it in the passenger side door pocket. The police then stop you, see your friend's container, and arrest both of you. They should be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Heroin because even though you knew the heroin was there, your friend is the only person who had dominion and control over it.
While not technically a defense, Substantial Assistance is the most commonly utilized method to avoid the mandatory minimum sentencing required for the crime of Trafficking in Heroin.
The state attorney is authorized by statute to ask the court to reduce or suspend a sentence of any person who is convicted of drug trafficking when the person provides substantial assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any other person engaged in trafficking in controlled substances.
This remedy is routinely offered pursuant to a "Substantial Assistance Contract" that requires you to "assist" law enforcement in arresting a specific amount of individuals involved in trafficking drugs within a limited period of time.
However, if you are unable to deliver the specified amount of people, you will be required to serve the applicable mandatory minimum prison sentence; regardless of how hard you tried to "assist" law enforcement.