It should come as no surprise to find out that a large part of my practice as a criminal defense attorney in Miami has involved representing people charged with drug crimes. Due to geography and cultural connections, Miami has been a point of entry for drug trafficking networks from South America, the Caribbean, and even Europe. Over the years, I have represented people charged with Miami-connected drug trafficking in State and Federal courts in Arizona, West Virginia, North Carolina, New York, and the District of Columbia. Drug cases have also taken me to other countries—including Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Netherlands—for investigative reasons.
The penalties for drug trafficking are severe in both the State and Federal courts. My approach to drug cases is similar to my approach to other criminal cases: I will do anything within the bounds allowed by the law to resolve the case favorably for my client. Law enforcement investigation of drug cases often raises important Constitutional issues. These include Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure issues, Fifth Amendment substantive and procedural Due Process issues, Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel issues, Double Jeopardy Clause issues, and Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment issues. I have litigated all of these issues. I included many of my drug case motions in my book, Florida Criminal Trial Procedure (James Publishing). As part of my drug case practice, I also have developed an expertise in administrative, civil, and criminal forfeiture proceedings, as well as involvement in original Federal Admiralty cases.
Not all drug cases involve large amounts of drugs. Most of the drug cases filed in the state Courts involve possession of drugs for personal use. Often, the people charges in these cases need help not only with navigating their way through the criminal justice system but also with personal drug addiction issues. Luckily, most jurisdictions in Florida have drug courts designed to assist first-time offenders in getting help with both their legal and personal problems. Drug courts help to provide treatment, instead of punishment, and reward those who complete treatment programs by allowing the criminal case to be dismissed. I have been involved with the Miami-Dade Drug Court—the first drug court in the nation—since it began in 1991 under the auspices of then State Attorney Janet Reno, Judge Stanley Goldstein, and my friend Hugh Rodham. Many of my clients have successfully completed the Drug Court program, and I have been able to get their criminal records expunged.
My drug clients have faced serious charges: the biggest MDMA (ecstasy) case in the Jacksonville Federal Courts; a major marijuana case in Arizona resulting in a controversial appellate opinion (State v. Magner, 956 P.2d 519 (Ariz. App. Div. 1 1998)); a continuing Criminal Enterprise case in the Miami Federal Coiurt involving tons of cocaine and multiple homicides; and a Haitian cocaine importation case implicating the former Aristede government. I have obtained numerous jury acquittals in Miami drug trafficking cases. But the most professionally satisfying drug cases for me are those in which I am able to help first-time offenders—many of them young people engaged in “recreational” drug use—get their cases dismissed and ultimately clean the criminal arrest and court history off their records so their youthful mistakes will not tarnish the rest of their lives.