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Florida Court Discusses Serious Drug Offenses as Defined by Federal Law

Convictions for drug crimes often result in significant penalties. Additionally, if a person is convicted of multiple drug-related offenses, it may result in a sentence under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), which imposes a minimum sentence of fifteen years. In order for the ACCA to apply, a defendant must have at least three prior convictions for serious drug offenses. The question of whether the purchase of a trafficking quantity of cocaine constitutes a serious drug crime as defined by the ACCA was recently discussed in an opinion issued by a Florida court. If you are charged with a drug crime, it is vital to retain an assertive Florida criminal defense attorney to help you seek a just outcome.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was convicted of a weapons crime and was subsequently sentenced under the ACCA. Specifically, the trial court held that the defendant had three prior qualifying drug-related convictions, one of which was trafficking cocaine in violation of Florida law. The defendant appealed his sentence, arguing that his drug trafficking conviction did not satisfy the ACCA’s definition of a serious drug crime. The district court was ultimately unable to resolve the issue and certified the question to the Florida Supreme Court.

Serious Drug Crimes as Defined by the ACCA

Under the ACCA, a serious drug offense is defined as an offense that involves the distribution, manufacturing, or possession with the intent to distribute or manufacture of a controlled substance. Thus, the court assessed whether trafficking cocaine in violation of Florida law satisfied the ACCA’s definition of a serious drug offense. The criminal statute in question listed six methods of trafficking, and the court noted that a violation of the statute would only be considered a serious offense if each of the alternatives met the definition.

The defendant argued that one of the methods would not qualify as a serious drug offense under the ACCA, and therefore, his sentence was improper. Specifically, he asserted that purchasing a trafficking amount of cocaine would not constitute conduct that involved the manufacturing, distribution, or possession with the intent to manufacture or distribute.

The court stated that the question of whether the defendant was correct required an analysis of how Florida’s criminal statutes defined purchasing. The court found, though, that neither the statutes nor relevant case law set forth the elements of the crime in question or otherwise defined the term “purchase” as used in the statute. Mindful of the significance of the question and the likelihood it would arise again, the court certified the question of how Florida defined purchase for purposes of the subject crime to the Florida Supreme Court.

Meet with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida

Drug crimes carry significant penalties, and in some situations, the sentence may be increased due to prior convictions. If you are accused of a drug crime, it is prudent to speak to a lawyer about your options. Attorney Genine Ann Mejia is a skilled Florida criminal defense attorney, and she possesses the skills and resources needed to help you seek the result available under the facts of your case. You can reach Ms. Mejia through the form online or at (386) 463-0849 to set up a meeting.

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