The National Institute on Drug Abuse has recently released a report that includes findings from the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission. Both the federal and state agencies are observing a steady decline in deaths associated with prescription opiate pain pills, oxycodone and oxycontin. However, the report finds that Florida’s pain pill crackdown has resulted in the unintended consequence of an enormous increase in the importation of Mexican white heroin. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that the number of persons using heroin in 2012 doubled since 2007. In Pinellas County, Operation PAR projected that in 2014, admissions to their treatment center for heroin addiction will be three times the number of their patients in 2012.
Ready Availability of Heroin
The ready availability of heroin has caused the street price to plummet. Heroin costs half as much today as it did in 2010. The difficulty in obtaining pain pills, combined with easily obtainable heroin has resulted in a sharp increase in the number of our clients being arrested for the felony drug charge of “possession of a controlled substance.” The National Institutes of Health has declared that drug abuse patterns in Florida reflect that the sunshine state is currently suffering from a “heroin epidemic.”
Sudden Spotlight on Heroin
Government reports and media headlines of this nature have grabbed the attention of local law enforcement agencies in the Clearwater / St. Petersburg area. The spotlight on heroin has likewise been further illuminated because of an 89% increase in heroin related fatalities in 2012. The statistics for 2013 are scheduled to be released any day by the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission. There is a general consensus to expect a further escalation because. The latest “Hot Spots” for heroin have developed beyond South Florida into the locally surrounding areas of Tampa, Orlando and Sarasota.
“Its almost like, ’Here we go again.’ Just like with pill mills, we’re trying to get in front of this. We have a lot of investigations going on. We see the trend. We’re trying to head it off.”
Felony Conviction Restrictions
Possession of even a trace amount of heroin constitutes a felony offense. A conviction for a felony carries with it collateral consequences that can affect you for a lifetime. These include:
- Summary denial of employment applications;
- Statutory disqualification for a variety of occupational or professional licenses;
- Denial of a United States passport;
- Automatic mandatory two year suspension of your drivers license;
- Loss of civil rights;
- Disqualification to vote;
- Ineligibility to serve as a juror;
- Loss of right to own, use or possess a firearm;
- Disqualification of concealed firearm/weapon permit;
- Adverse effect on credit;
- Denial of lease and home owner’s association applications;
- Ineligibility to hold public office;
- In some instances, denial of temporary federal assistance or food stamps;
- Ineligibility to be licensed or work in daycare;
- In some instances ineligibility for foster family or adoption approval;
- Eviction from public housing;
- Ineligibility for student loans, educational grants work-study benefits and aid;
- Ineligibility to enlist in any branch of the armed forces;
- Ineligibility for U.S. citizenship and potential deportation.
Why it Makes Good Sense to Consult With A Criminal Defense Attorney
There is an old cliché first coined by Henry Kett in 1814 that Abraham Lincoln later made famous. The proverb states “Every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.” This adage recognizes that although American law permits an individual to represent himself in criminal court, to do so is often a foolish endeavor.
The law is highly complex and your personal emotions could interfere with your ability to make decisions that are in your best interest. You are likely to be less objective about your case then independent counsel. More importantly, an experienced Pinellas county criminal defense lawyer is apt to identify weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case or suggest strategies that you would have missed.
How to Avoid a Felony Conviction for Possession of Heroin
A lawyer must investigate the facts and circumstances of every criminal case. When it comes to drug possession charges, your attorney will want to scrutinize the lawfulness of the search and seizure conducted by the police and determine whether your Fourth Amendment rights were violated. An illegal search or seizure can result in the inadmissibility of the heroin in any criminal court proceeding. Such a finding, will typically result in the dismissal of the charge;
- If the amount of heroin seized was minimal, sometimes an early intervention by your lawyer can be successful in having the charge reduced to a misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia charge;
- If the heroin was not found on your person then you were not in “actual possession.” The Pinellas prosecutor will therefore be forced to pursue your case on a theory that you were in “constructive possession.” A motion to dismiss might be appropriate depending on whether evidence exists that would show you had knowledge of the drug’s presence, whether you could have exercised dominion and control over the contraband and if you knew of its illegal nature;
- If the search and seizure was lawful in your case, your attorney can look to alternative methods of avoiding a felony conviction. For example, depending on your prior criminal record, a strategy might be employed through a plea bargain to secure a withhold of adjudication. In the alternative, if you have a prior criminal record, a prison sentence may be avoidable and a withhold of adjudication may still yet be obtainable through your successful participation in Pinellas county’s drug court program;
- Some of our clients have their possession of heroin charges outright dismissed after completing a diversion program called “Pre-Trial Intervention.”
Can My Record of Arrest be Sealed or Expunged?
Avoiding a felony conviction will often allow our clients to seal or expunge their heroin arrest records if they have never previously been convicted of a criminal offense. See: Do All Employers Run Criminal Background Checks? and Seal or Expunge Your Pinellas County Criminal Record & Land That New Job.
Take the First Step – Learn Your Options
Call our office at and schedule a free consultation. Together, we can review the facts and circumstances of your case and discuss which course of action is in your best interest in your efforts to avoid a felony conviction for possession of heroin. It is important to have a strategy designed to achieve the best possible outcome. We can help!
At Russo & Russo, we are Pinellas attorneys who represent clients charged with possession of heroin and other criminal offenses arising out of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and the Pinellas County area.
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Federal Laws - Collateral Consequences for Felony Convictions