Drug arrests are common in this area. For tourists, it can be part of the partying they came to do, and they end up getting caught trying to buy them. Or, they come here with drugs that may be legal in their state, but aren't here, such as vape pens with THC, which are a felony if possessed without a prescription. For locals, there are known areas, and frankly, known people the cops watch closely.
Our police use fairly aggressive tactics to combat illicit drug use and possession and dealing here. In certain areas and most assuredly certain times, virtually every officer is on the lookout for the slightest infraction which can give them the opportunity to conduct a search. It is the nature of the beast.
Things to know and consider about illegal drug cases
Some things legal elsewhere are felonies here. Vape pens are a biggy, where the logic is stretched a bit past where one might expect. Felony charges are still routinely issued upon a finding of possession of a vape pen testing positive for THC.
Possession can be 'constructive.' In other words, you do not have to personally have the drugs on your body or in your clothes or belongings to be charged with possession. If officers can prove - or believe they can try to possibly prove (to be more accurate) - that you knew the drugs were in a container over which you exercised control, even though the container was far out of reach, or even much closer to someone else, you can be charged with possession. Knowledge and control are all that are needed.
There are many well-known drug hot spots in the area. The police know where they are and work them hard. If you are there at two in the morning...yes, you have the right to be there. And the officer has the right to pull you over for a tag light flickering, and interact with you, and...
'Free air sniffs' are legal in Florida as long as there is no delay waiting for the dog to arrive. While one officer is writing a ticket or running your plates, another can walk their dog around your car. If the handler determines the dog has made a positive indication, the officers are going to search your vehicle completely.
Many searches are conducted in drug cases. Many are not conducted properly. There is little to nothing you can do on scene but submit to the search. Later the search can be attacked through motions to dismiss or suppress, but much of the harm may be done. Even a dropped charge can be quite public and embarrassing.
If you have prior drug arrests, you can count on special attention. The systems in police vehicles provide a lot of information real time to officers. Once you have been busted for drugs before, you can almost count on getting stopped and searched again. It isn't right, but it is what happens.
If you are a dabbler and get caught, a first arrest, marijuana, even cocaine in low amounts, the penalties for a first charge are often light, but the record begins. By the second or third drug arrest, excuses aren't going to cut it with the State Attorney's office.
Entering actual treatment in a good faith effort to get clean goes a long way toward mitigating penalties...if it is an obviously serious effort. People are arrested here everyday for drugs. Most are repeat offenders who have said it all before too many times for anyone to care anymore. The system wants to see people get clean and wants to help, but not to the point of the ridiculous. At the end of the day, it is not the State or the Court's job to get you straight. They will just lock you up and you as a problem are solved. A first drug bust is an excellent time to go straight and stay that way.
What I can do for you
First, we examine the arrest. As stated above, police go after drugs in our area aggressively, too aggressively many times. Just at our firm, in the last six months we have gotten several drug cases dismissed due to unconstitutional searches. Not every pull over is a search opportunity. Many are not. A lawyer knows the difference. Not all searches are created equal either. An officer may be able to search the interior of the vehicle in many situations, but going to through the trunk is illegal. The lawyer knows when those lines are crossed. Tips are common in drug arrests. Officers say they received a tip and go and search and arrest someone. We have gotten those thrown out. An anonymous tip is not sufficient to detain a citizen in a vehicle for even a second.
Drug charges have a very negative impact on employment opportunities. If you are in a sensitive job, government, military, medical, transportation or many other jobs common in this area and among its visitors, you simply cannot afford to take a conviction for drugs. Even the arrest can be career ending if not dealt with properly.
Drugs are a serious issue and police here enforce the laws aggressively. If you are charged with drug possession, trafficking, or certainly any felony drug charge, you need a lawyer urgently. An experienced local attorney knows the police agencies involved, their tactics, their common mistakes and their stretching of our search protections. They will also know the current going rate for the less serious charges, many of which can be dealt with in a way that leaves few permanent marks to cause problems down the road.