Procedural Defenses In Drug Trafficking Cases
At least subconsciously, many Hillsborough County jurors believe that “drug dealers” are the worst kind of criminals. As such, they are anxious to believe the prosecutor’s version of events in these cases, so they can punish these defendants as much as possible. Therefore, a procedural defense based on the Bill of Rights is often important in these cases. If a judge throws out the case on a technicality, prosecutors never get to make a pitch to a jury.
These defenses are quite complex. So, only the most experienced Tampa drug trafficking attorney knows how to identify them and, more importantly, leverage them during the criminal justice process. An effective procedural defense often convinces prosecutors to drastically reduce the charges or enter into other very favorable plea bargain arrangements.
Search Warrant Issues
A few drug trafficking cases, mostly involving prescription opioid painkillers, are little more than enhanced possession cases. But most drug trafficking charges involve multi-agency investigations which often last several months.
These officers spend all this time and money to develop probable cause, so a judge will issue a search warrant. Since the investigation consumes so many resources, at the end, officers often take shortcuts to ensure that it has not been all for naught.
Over-reliance on a Confidential Informer’s (CI’s) testimony is a good example. In many situations, the search warrant probable cause affidavit relies almost exclusively on a CI. These individuals usually receive substantial sums of money, or substantial leniency in another area, in exchange for their testimony.
Many people will say practically anything for love or money. So, most judges closely scrutinize CI testimony. Unless the informant has a positive track record or there is some corroborating evidence, the CI’s testimony might not constitute probable cause.
Witness identification issues sometimes affect arrest warrants. Cross-Racial Identification issues are a good illustration. If a person of one race sees eight or ten people in a lineup who are all about the same age, weight, and height, and these people all belong to another race, everyone in the lineup looks alike.
If there are issues with a warrant, prosecutors cannot work backwards. They cannot argue that if the police found drugs or the suspect confessed, the warrant must have been valid.
The Miranda Warnings
Most people are familiar with the Miranda warnings, such as “You have the right to remain silent.” Most people also know that officers must always administer these warnings. They are not optional.
However, most people don’t know that officers must deliver these warnings before they begin custodial interrogation. Let’s break these elements down individually.
“Custody” is much broader than being locked in a cell. Usually, “custody” begins when defendants don’t feel free to leave. Most people don’t feel free to leave once an officer asks for their license and registration.
“Interrogation” is similarly broad. Most skilled investigators know how to ask seemingly innocuous questions which could yield vital information. In fact, many investigators extract information without asking any questions at all.
If the defendant gives a statement or directs officers to physical evidence without being properly warned, any such evidence could be inadmissible as fruit from a poisonous tree.
Reach Out to a Diligent Hillsborough County Attorney
Effective procedural defenses stop drug trafficking prosecutions dead in their tracks. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start fighting for you.