Recently criminal prosecutions in Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida, have been focused on trafficking in cocaine and other controlled substances. A recent case decided in the Florida Supreme Court is very instructive when the Defendant is found to have multiple baggies or container of drugs. In Greenwade v. State, the court reviewed the defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal on a trafficking conviction. This charge requires a certain weight of drugs be proven to have been in the defendant’s possession. If the weight of cocaine in the defendant’s possession is 28 grams or more but less than 200 grams, the defendant is subject to the mandatory minimum penalties including a three-year prison sentence. If the weight of the cocaine exceeds 200 grams but is less than 400 grams the defendant is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of seven years in prison. The question before the court was whether the defendant’s conviction on the trafficking charge should be reversed because the state failed to test each of the nine baggies of suspected drugs separately but instead had commingled all of the baggies and tested the substances from the commingled bag.
The court reversed the defendant’s conviction for trafficking stating: “The process of commingling creates an unjustifiably high risk that noncontrolled substances will be inappropriately mixed with controlled substances. Once multiple packets of individually wrapped powder are commingled before they are chemically tested, the simple process of commingling irreversibly destroys both the independent chemical composition of each individually wrapped packet and the ability to discern whether the pre-commingled substance was controlled or counterfeit…. In effect, by commingling before testing each individually wrapped packet, the state can eliminate any possibility of discovering whether one or more of the individual packets contained a noncontrolled substance, while simultaneously increasing the probability that a defendant will be charged with trafficking in a higher amount than would have been possible if the state had individually tested each packet.” The Florida Supreme Court concluded “that to satisfy the burden of proving that the evidence seized meets the statutory threshold for weight in trafficking prosecutions beyond a reasonable doubt, the state must prove through chemical testing that each individually wrapped packet of white powder seized contains at least a mixture of a controlled substance.”
This decision by the Florida Supreme Court demonstrates the importance of the police investigation and testing of the alleged drugs. Mr. Greenwade’s case is an example of just how important the methods of testing and chemical analysis are to the fate of a defendant charged with trafficking in cocaine. The way in which the weight of the drugs was determined made all the difference between serving and not serving a mandatory minimum prison sentence.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug offense in Sarasota or Bradenton, Florida, whether it involves trafficking or possession, Mr. Dirmann offers an initial consultation without charge. Mr. Dirmann can be reached at (941) 366-7997.