Dabbling in hydrocodone and other drugs without a prescription is a serious criminal offense. As the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s ruling in Hollingshead v. State shows, an arrest in Florida for drug trafficking can bring hefty criminal penalties and jail time. It can also raise complicated legal issues in sentencing.
Kevin Hollingshead was convicted in 1999 of hydrocodone trafficking. He plead guilty to the charge as part of a deal with state prosecutors. In return, the state agreed to drop eight other related criminal charges.
More than a decade later, Hollingsworth filed a motion in state court, seeking to have his conviction overturned based on the Florida Supreme Court’s 1999 ruling in Hayes v. State. In that case, the court ruled that pills containing less than 15 milligrams of hydrocodone were a Schedule III drug, rather than a Schedule II drug, and therefore could not be the basis of a drug trafficking charge. The state legislature later clarified the law to provide that individual drug dosage amounts are irrelevant for the purpose of proving a trafficking charge because the drug weight can be aggregated based on the combined amount of pills.
Nevertheless, the state Supreme Court ruled in its 2002 opinion in State v. Klayman that the Hayes ruling should be applied retroactively to persons already convicted. The court further ruled, however, that a challenge to a conviction on this basis must be made within two years after the Klayman ruling.
The Fourth District denied Hollingshead’s motion, finding that he failed to file it within the two-year window provided in Klayman.
The Court also noted that Hollingshead plead guilty to the charge as a part of the deal, in which all other charges – which carried an additional 40 years of possible prison time – were dropped. Hollingshead benefited from this deal, according to the court, because it allowed him to be released on probation. Hollingshead absconded while on probation and was not apprehended for five years. He later received a 15-year sentence, well below both the 25-year statutory minimum and within the range of jail time he could have been given had he been convicted on the other charges. “Even if he were entitled to withdraw his plea based upon Hayes, the state would be entitled to pursue the dropped charges, and he would still be subject to significant penalties,” the Court said in upholding his conviction.
Florida is a prime area for drug trafficking and, as a result, has one of the strictest drug trafficking laws in the country. The penalties for a drug trafficking conviction can range anywhere from several years to life in prison and include heavy fines.
If you are facing a prescription drug trafficking charge in Florida, it is essential to have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney who can effectively defend your rights. The South Florida criminal defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine can help negotiate with prosecutors, find legal defenses that can exonerate you or reduce your sentence, fight for your interests and achieve the best results possible.
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