Substantial Assistance and Drug Trafficking Cases

          The penalties are severe for drug trafficking in Florida.  For example, if a person is convicted in State Court of trafficking in 200 grams or more of cocaine but less than 400 grams, that person must be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 7 years and ordered to pay a fine of $100,000.  And if someone is convicted of trafficking in 400 grams or more of cocaine but less than 150 kilograms, that individual must be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 15 years and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000.


          One way of avoiding such mandatory penalties is through something called substantial assistance which has been defined as assistance "directed to the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities by persons other than the defendant."


          Florida statute section 893.135(4) provides that "[t]he state attorney may move the sentencing court to reduce or suspend the sentence of any person who is convicted of a violation of this section and who provides substantial assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any of that person's accomplices, accessories, coconspirators, or principals or of any other person engaged in trafficking in controlled substances. . . .  The judge hearing the motion may reduce or suspend the sentence if the judge finds that the defendant rendered such substantial assistance."


          All is well and good if an individual provides substantial assistance and in return receives a reduction in sentence. Some people, though, are unable to provide the prosecutor with such information.  Others are simply unwilling to do so.  In either case, substantial assistance is of no help to them.


          Sometimes, however, a defendant provides a prosecutor with information about the criminal activities of others but still does not receive a sentence reduction because the prosecutor or the judge does not believe that his assistance warrants it since the information turned out to be of little value.  It is particularly frustrating when that occurs because the accused individual has, as it were, stuck his neck out by providing information about others, yet he receives nothing in return.  It is for that reason that some defendants choose not to provide substantial assistance.

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