The following questions are some of those commonly asked in a typical drug case in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, which includes Sarasota and Manatee Counties.
Question: Do I actually need an attorney to represent me on my drug charge?
Answer: Ultimately, that will be your decision to make. To begin with, anyone who either wants a trial or is facing jail time will almost certainly need an attorney. An attorney who has a background in narcotics defense may investigate any possible legal defenses you might have, such as illegal or non-consensual searches, as well as more complicated defenses such as entrapment. An attorney may also contact the prosecutors at an early stage in the proceedings, if there are facts or witnesses that need to be presented in your defense. The attorney may also investigate certain diversionary programs you may be eligible to participate in, such as pretrial intervention or drug court.
Question: Am I facing jail time on my Sarasota or Bradenton narcotics case?
Answer: It depends upon the facts of each case. If you have ever been convicted of a crime in any state, the likelihood of jail time increases, especially where that prior conviction is drug related. Any misdemeanor narcotics case in the state of Florida carries at least a 1 year potential jail sentence. A felony narcotics charge carries a potential state prison sentence ranging from 5 to 30 years. If your drug charge is a felony, your sentence will be computed using a “sentencing guidelines scoresheet.” If the total points on your scoresheet are 44 points or above, under current Florida law a state prison sentence is mandatory. If the felony charge is drug trafficking, Florida law requires that you serve a minimum mandatory sentence, which can range from 3 to 25 years. That sentence must be served without exception, even if you do not have a criminal history.
Question: I have been falsely accused of the charge against me, and I am not guilty. What are my options?
Answer: In Florida, you have the absolute right to a jury trial in this matter, which is a jury of six people. A jury verdict must be unanimous, which means to be found guilty all six jurors would have to agree upon your guilt. In the case of a jury trial, you always have the right to be represented by an attorney. Although you would have the right to be “pro se”, which means to represent yourself, this is usually an unwise decision, since the judge will require you to know and follow the Florida Rules of Evidence and Criminal Procedure. Your lack of legal training will not excuse you from these requirements.