In Greenwade v. State, the Florida Supreme Court recently weighed in on an important issue in drug cases involving suspected narcotics in small, individually wrapped containers or packages.
As the court explained, Detective Donald Bishop led a team of officers from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in executing a search warrant at a local home in April 2009. The officers noticed Mr. Greenwade sitting at a table in the home’s garage as they approached and apprehended Greenwade when he attempted to flee. Greenwade allegedly then told Bishop “I know why you’re here,” claimed he’d been set up and led the officers to the table where he’d been sitting. There, the officers noticed a scale and a green bag that Greenwade said contained cocaine. Inside the bag, Detective Bishop found nine one-ounce baggies containing a white powder and which Greenwade later acknowledged were his.
Officers field tested each of the nine bags for cocaine before emptying the contents into one bag at the sheriff’s office property room. A police forensic chemist later testified that she received one sealed bag weighing 234 grams. Testing revealed that the powder in it contained cocaine. Greenwade pleaded guilty to a slew of related charges, but pleaded not guilty on trafficking in cocaine in an amount more than 200 grams but less than 400 grams. He sought acquittal on this charge, arguing that the police wrongly combined the contents of the nine individual baggies before weighing and testing the contents, rather than weighing and testing the contents of each baggie separately. The trial court denied the motion, and he was later found guilty on the trafficking charge. He was sentenced to seven to 15 years in prison.
The matter eventually made its way all the way up to the Florida Supreme Court, which reversed the trial court’s decision after an exhaustive review of the relevant case law.
“Once multiple packets of individually wrapped powder are commingled before they are chemically tested, the simple process of commingling irreversibly destroys both the independent chemical composition of each individually wrapped packet and the ability to discern whether the pre-commingled substance was controlled or counterfeit,” the court explained. In other words, the court said it’s possible that at least some of the white substance in some of the packages wasn’t a drug and therefore shouldn’t be counted when determining the weight of any drug Greenwade possessed. The court noted that previous rulings on the issue were limited to cases involving white substances and that individual weighing and testing had been deemed unnecessary in other instances, including those involving suspected marijuana and heroin.
As a result, the court remanded the case back to the trial court with instructions to reduce Greenwade’s conviction to one for simple possession, rather than cocaine trafficking.
If you’re facing drug possession or trafficking charges, you are well-advised to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney who help you mount the strongest possible defense. The South Florida drug trafficking defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are dedicated to providing our clients with aggressive, competent and high-quality representation. We are prepared to defend your rights and help achieve the best outcome possible.
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