Drug Trafficking | State v. Sanchez

Drug Trafficking Charge

Not All Charges Are Equal

There are often completely different outcomes in similar criminal cases depending on the statute an individual is charged with. Prosecution must be accurate and precise in their charging decisions. Charging someone with the wrong crime can result in charges being dropped; cases are lost all the time due to technicalities.

In State v. Sanchez, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal acknowledges the importance of being charging an individual under the correct Drug Trafficking | State v Sanchez Criminal Defense Attorneystatute, but then goes ahead and reverses the trial court’s decision based on an interpretation of the law.

Betsy Sanchez, a nurse practitioner, was charged with nine conspiracy and drug trafficking offenses. The prosecution claimed she had been selling prescription drugs, including various painkillers such as Oxycontin. They went further to say that these prescriptions were “written in bad faith and not in the course of professional practice.”

At trial, prosecution had a debate over whether the charges filed were correctly chosen; 893.135(1)(c) or 893.13(8). The section under 893.135(1)(c) does not apply to medical practitioners; and penalties range up to first degree felonies. Statute 893.13(8), specifically applies to those individuals who are practitioners who knowingly write prescriptions in bad faith; this offense is a third degree felony. Prosecution argued that their original charge under 893.135(1)(c) was correct, because she was not a medical doctor, and so was not exempt from the law being applied in her case. At trial, the judge agreed with the defense and dropped the charge; reason being the prosecution should have charged Ms. Sanchez as a medical practitioner under 893.13(8).

Prosecution went on to appeal this decision, and the Fourth District Court of Appeal agreed with their reasoning. Under Florida law, a “practitioner” is defined as any licensed physician, dentist, naturopath, podiatrist, veterinarian, osteopathic physician; all must hold a federal controlled substance registry number that is valid. According to the court, “A medical assistant or nurse is not listed under the definition of practitioner, nor does a medical assistant or nurse fall within the meaning of ‘practitioner’.”

Although the dismissal of charges were inevitably reversed by the Fourth District Court, this case is a good example of what could happen if charged incorrectly. Charges may be dismissed, and this decision will not be reversed, unless the prosecution is precise in how an individual is charged. Florida is notorious for drug crimes, including drug trafficking. A drug trafficking conviction is a serious offense, and often carries with it a harsh prison sentence. Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Kenneth Padowitz provides a strategic criminal defense to those accused of all State and Federal crimes. Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. represents clients throughout South Florida, including: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Weston, Parkland, Cooper City, and Coral Springs. Contact us today so we can discuss this important matter.