Plea agreements can be useful tools for anyone facing criminal charges in Florida. These deals allow you to resolve criminal charges without at least some of the time, expense, and stress that come with a full-blown trial. They may also give a criminal defendant the leverage to reduce the punishment that comes with a conviction. It is important to remember, however, that these deals are binding legal agreements that you probably can’t go back and change later down the road. A recent case out of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida is a good example of that point.
Defendant was charged with introduction into interstate commerce of misbranded drugs, a federal crime, stemming from his alleged involvement in a synthetic marijuana business. According to prosecutors, the products “were manufactured by applying chemicals (synthetic cannabinoids) to plant material to create a product which users would smoke for a ‘high.’” The products were intended to be smoked, the prosecutors said, but they were not properly labeled. The prosecutors said the packaging indicated that the products were “not for human consumption” and that they included potpourri and incense. The packaging didn’t correctly identify the synthetic marijuana and didn’t include adequate directions for using the drug, according to prosecutors.
Defendant eventually entered into a plea agreement. As part of the deal, he agreed to waive his right to appeal the sentence eventually handed down by a judge. He nevertheless filed a motion to vacate the sentence after it was handed down. Defendant argued that the trial judge wrongly concluded that the fraud involved $1.9 million in business from the synthetic drugs. He said the amount was actually less than that because he was involved in the business for 10 months rather than 17 months.
The trial judge denied Defendant’s request to vacate the decision. The judge noted that Defendant signed a plea agreement that stated that he was involved in the business for at least 17 months.
The judge also said Defendant was barred from challenging the sentence. “A valid sentence-appeal waiver, entered into voluntarily and knowingly, pursuant to a plea agreement, precludes the defendant from attempting to attack, in a collateral proceeding, the sentence,” the court explained. “A contrary result would permit a defendant to circumvent the terms of the sentence-appeal waiver simply by recasting a challenge to his sentence…”
As a result, the court entered a judgment against Defendant and declined to issue a certificate of appealability, which would allow him to further challenge the decision.
If you or a loved one has been charged with federal drug or other crimes in Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney. Tampa drug crime lawyer Will Hanlon is a seasoned attorney who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (813) 228-7095 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.
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