Ft. Lauderdale drug trials can be quite the ordeal, especially if this is your first time being charged with a drug crime. While it is normal to feel overwhelmed when facing drug charges, it is important that you take action. If you have been charged with a drug offense, one of your first steps should be to reach out to a capable drug lawyer. Work with an experienced attorney that can help you navigate your drug trial process.
Where Fort Lauderdale Drug Cases Are Heard
Ft. Lauderdale drug cases are typically heard in the 17th judicial circuit in the state of Florida. The 17th judicial circuit is all of Broward County. Drug cases are either heard in county court or circuit court. County court is where misdemeanor cases are heard; circuit court is where felony cases are heard.
All felony cases are circuit court cases and held at the main courthouse at 201 South East 6th Street in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Some misdemeanors are also held in downtown Fort Lauderdale, but other misdemeanors are heard at one of three other satellite courthouses in and around Broward County.
Are Drug Cases Bench Trials or Jury Trials?
Almost every felony case or every circuit case in Fort Lauderdale will be a jury trial. Misdemeanors depend on the facts and circumstances. In Florida, each side, the defense and the state, has the right to a jury trial, so if either side wants a jury trial they would go.
More often in misdemeanor cases than in felony cases, the occasion possession of misdemeanor amount of cannabis or drug paraphernalia case might end up going the way of a bench trial or a non-jury trial.
They tend to take less time and if a person is dealing with technical issues, a judge might be more prone to be in a position to analyze those issues. If an individuals want a jury during the Ft. Lauderdale drug trials jury trial in a misdemeanor case, they can have one.
Impact of a Judge Certifying a Defendant
There is one way in Florida that a judge can limit the right of an individual’s case going before a jury and that is to certify to the defendant that even if they are found guilty they will not be convicted and not face any jail time that would take away an individual’s right to a jury during Ft. Lauderdale drug trials.
Typically, it does not happen in a felony case and judges do not make that certification in circuit court, but it happens on occasion in county court. As a result of the agreement of the parties, both sides could agree to forego their right to have a misdemeanor case in front of a jury and have a bench trial in front of a judge.
Length of Drug Offense Cases in Fort Lauderdale
That depends on the actual charge. With a misdemeanor possession of marijuana or cannabis, usually, it could take anywhere between three to six months and possibly longer if there are complex issues involving facts and circumstances. For example, for a first-time offender, there are two diversion programs that are available.
The first lower tier is for these people that have never been in trouble before. It is a three-month program. That program does not start until the first court date, which is the arraignment. That arraignment usually does not take place until about 30 to 60 days from the date of the arrest or date of the issuance of a notice to appear. Adding that up, a person is looking at about five months.
Diversionary Program Process
Second-level diversion programs for misdemeanor cases in Fort Lauderdale would be heard in misdemeanor drug courts. That process or program lasts six months. It takes one or two months to have the case scheduled for hearing for the arraignment after the arrest, so a person is looking at between six to 12 months.
If a person is not eligible for a diversionary program for their misdemeanor charge, and depending upon whether or not there are any viable pre-trial motions to dismiss, pre-trial motions to suppress, taking of depositions, and other discovery issues that would come up, the range is about six to 12 months. When a person goes into the felony case starting off with possession of a controlled substance, like cocaine, heroin, or any type of unlawful prescription medication, it is usually at least a year.
Diversionary Programs for Felony Charges
There are diversion programs and drug court program available for felony drug cases and they can last up to 18 or 24 months. If the severity of the charge is higher, the program can last longer. If a person is dealing with a case that does not go the diversion route and goes through litigation or discovery, it would be at least a year for a third-degree felony and one to two years for second-degree felonies.
It would range from two to three years for first degree felonies like drug trafficking cases, depending upon how much evidence needs to be examined, how many witnesses there are, how many depositions need to be taken, and how many pre-trial motions there are. It runs a wide range time from six months to perhaps three years or sometimes even longer. Individuals who have questions about Ft. Lauderdale drug trials should consult a skilled drug attorney that can help.