Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Penalties Involved In Drug Related Cases and Mandatory Minimums


What Are The Penalties Involved In Drug Related Charges And The Mandatory Minimums?

There are different types of minimum sentences in Florida and knowing the distinction between them is critical. For example, people do not necessarily think of a DUI charge as a drug offense per se, but technically it is. If someone has a second offense within five years of a prior offense, then they have a minimum mandatory of ten days in jail. That is a minimum mandatory, where someone can substitute different things such as inpatient treatment day to day for the jail time as far as the statutory minimum.

In other drug cases such as trafficking, there are three and seven-year minimum mandatories, and those cannot be substituted for anything else. That is because a statutory mandatory minimum is different from a point based minimum. The only way you get around a mandatory minimum is a substitution of charge, a lesser included offense, or some evidence suppressed. There are a number of different ways to deal with them. Basically, a plea as charged to a mandatory minimum in a drug offense results in that minimum mandatory sentence. Substitutions of charge are a critical component of avoiding prison.

Florida Punishment Code, point based mandatory minimums are completely different. Point based minimums come from Florida Statute section 921, which is codified in the form of a rule of criminal procedure in rule 3.992 (a) and (b). The way it works with point based minimums is points are calculated according to ten offense severity ranking levels in chapter 921. There are a series of offenses listed as level one, another series of offenses, level two, three and four all the way through ten, ten being the most serious. A score sheet is prepared next and when the score sheet is prepared, a mathematical formula is used at the end and points are determined.

The rules on points go like this: Anything less than 22 points cannot be a state prison sentence unless the court makes specific findings that justify it, but generally speaking, cannot do it. For, twenty-two to forty-four points the court may impose a prison sentence. Above forty-four points, it must be a prison sentence that is a minimum sentence. Using a common example, if someone is charged with a collection of charges and their point total is above forty-four points, then at the end of rule 3.992(a)’s score sheet, there is a mathematical formula where twenty-eight is subtracted and 0.75 is multiplied by the remaining number. The number on the other side of the equal sign from that equation is the minimum number of months in state prison a person must be sentenced to, unless they need a rule departure under rule 3.992(b).

Another thing to note is there a problem with those types of rule departures. The most common, where somebody is providing substantial assistance, a very reckless and dangerous proposition in many cases where they provide information to law enforcement about drug activity, they would qualify for what is known as a substantial assistance departure. In bigger drug cases, that is what people sometimes are looking for.

Another one is a legitimate un-coerced plea bargain. That does not happen too often in drug cases. It does in some other cases but not in drug cases. Another common one is known as specialized treatment. Under rule 3.992(b), there is a provision that has three legal tests. If somebody has a terrible drug case and they point out to fifty-six points and they are in the mandatory prison sentencing by virtue of points, then they look at specialized treatment. Number one, they have to determine does this person have a physical disability or a mental disorder unrelated to substance abuse. In a lot of cases, even the attorneys may be critical and might say, “A drug case. There is no way on earth if this person was using”. They will then have to qualify the client on this ground for a departure sentence, a less superior sentence, maybe no prison at all.

Since that lawyer has said right away, “Because this person was using drugs and this is a drug case, because of that requirement that the mental disorder be unrelated to substance abuse, the case might not even be tried.” That is why they use brain imaging. When they use brain imaging, they can go into the courtroom and have some of the best people in the country work with them. With their database of one-hundred thousand plus brain scans, they are able to show what healthy, normal range brain images look like.

SPECT brain imaging based sentence mitigation is the most powerful secret weapon of criminal defense a lawyer can have in their arsenal to get a treatment based sentence instead of a punishment based sentence. I use SPECT brain imaging routinely, but virtually no other defense lawyers are using this advanced technique.

Read on to find out the Penalties Involved in Drug Related Cases and Mandatory Minimums in Florida or call Attorney Stephen G. Cobb of the Cobb Criminal Defense Law Firm in Florida for a FREE Initial Consultation at (850) 466-1522 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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