Trafficking in Hydrocodone in Florida
Florida imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences and stiff fines on people convicted of Trafficking in Hydrocodone.
Because of these serious consequences, it is important to know the:
- Definition of Trafficking in Hydrocodone and
- Penalties for Trafficking in Hydrocodone and
- Defenses to Trafficking in Hydrocodone.
Definition of Trafficking in Hydrocodone
Under Florida Statute 893.135(1)(c)(2), the crime of Trafficking in Hydrocodone is committed when a person:
- Knowingly possesses, sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or transports;
- 14 grams or more of any mixture containing Hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone Trafficking Quantities
If a person is caught Trafficking in Hydrocodone, the minimum penalties they face are determined by the following Hydrocodone trafficking quantity ranges:
- 14 to 28 grams of Hydrocodone;
- 3 years prison / $50,000 fine
- 28 to 50 grams of Hydrocodone;
- 7 years prison / $100,000 fine
- 50 grams to 200 kilograms of Hydrocodone;
- 15 years prison / $500,000 fine
- 200 grams to 30 kilograms of Hydrocodone;
- 25 years prison / $750,000 fine
The trafficking weight is determined by the combined weight of the Hydrocodone pills, not by the combined dosages.
As a result, a person could have ten Hydrocodone pills whose combined dosage is less than 4 grams of Hydrocodone, but because the pills weigh more than 4 grams, the person would be guilty of Trafficking in Hydrocodone instead of simple Possession of Hydrocodone.
Penalties for Trafficking in Hydrocodone
The crime of Trafficking in Hydrocodone is classified as a First Degree Felony and, depending on the amount of hydrocodone, 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 sentences depends on whether you are convicted of:
- Trafficking in 14 to 28 grams of Hydrocodone
- Trafficking in 28 to 50 grams of Hydrocodone
- Trafficking in 50 to 200 grams of Hydrocodone
- Trafficking in 200 to 30 kilograms of Hydrocodone
Trafficking in 14 to 28 grams of Hydrocodone
If convicted of Trafficking in 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, of Hydrocodone, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 36 months in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Trafficking in 28 to 50 grams of Hydrocodone
If convicted of Trafficking in 28 grams or more, but less than 50 grams, of Hydrocodone, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Trafficking in 50 to 200 grams of Hydrocodone
If convicted of Trafficking in 50 grams or more, but less than 200 grams, of Hydrocodone, 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 $500,000 fine.
Trafficking in 200 grams to 30 kilograms of Hydrocodone
If convicted of Trafficking in 200 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, of Hydrocodone, 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 $750,000 fine.
Driver's License Suspension
Pursuant to Florida Statute 322.055, a person convicted of Trafficking in Hydrocodone 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 Hydrocodone 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 Hydrocodone
- Illegal Search and Seizure;
- Insufficient Evidence;
- Substantial Assistance; and
- Valid Prescription.
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 hydrocodone for the purposes of trafficking in one of two ways:
To prove that you actually possessed hydrocodone, the prosecutor has to show the hydrocodone was found on your person. So if the hydrocodone was found in your pocket, the prosecutor would have a case involving actual possession of hydrocodone.
On the other hand, if the hydrocodone 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 hydrocodone 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 the hydrocodone is present;
- Knowledge the substance was hydrocodone; and
- Dominion and control over the hydrocodone.
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 hydrocodone in the trunk, they would be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Hydrocodone unless they had some proof that you knew the hydrocodone was there.
Scenario 2: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found a pill bottle containing hydrocodone in the back seat, but in plain view. Unless they had some proof that you knew the bottle contained hydrocodone, they would be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Hydrocodone.
Scenario 3: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend takes a pill bottle containing hydrocodone and places it in the passenger side door pocket. The police then stop you, see your friend's pill bottle, and arrest both of you. They should be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Hydrocodone because even though you knew the pill bottle 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 Hydrocodone.
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.
While it seems obvious, many people are arrested for Trafficking in Hydrocodone when they are unable to immediately produce a valid prescription or a recently dispensed pill bottle. These arrests usually occur when law enforcement have stopped your for suspicious behavior and discover the Hydrocodone in an unconventional area.
However, if you can subsequently show you were validly prescribed the Hydrocodone, you may be able to have the charges dismissed if your charge is based solely on the amount of Hydrocodone you had in your possession. The valid prescription defense does not apply if you were selling or dealing in your personal supply of Hydrocodone though.
Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby
The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.