Monday, May 26, 2014

Drug Cases in St. Petersburg, Clearwater & Tampa

Drug offenses can be very unsophisticated, with ample opportunity for a favorable resolution, or very complex, with the potential to utterly ruin a person’s life. Obviously, an individual charged with possessing a small amount of marijuana is not in the same legal posture as a person who has been charged with trafficking in kilogram quantities of cocaine. Following any drug related arrest, having an experienced Tampa Bay area criminal defense attorney on your side, protecting your rights and your freedom, is essential. 

Many drug offenses carry what is referred to as a minimum mandatory sentence. A “min man” is a period of prison time that the court must impose, following a plea of guilty or no contest, or a finding of guilt by a judge or jury, on certain types of drug offenses. To obtain a sentence that is less that the minimum mandatory, an agreement must be reached with the State Attorney and this usually requires an amendment in charge or cooperation with authorities in the prosecution of other involved parties. You should also be aware that drug related offenses carry potential fines that can far exceed most other types of offenses; they can range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Florida law classifies controlled substances into five separate schedules. Schedule I controlled substances include heroin, certain morphine derivatives, and cannabis; Schedule II controlled substances include opium, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, cocaine, and methamphetamine; Schedule III controlled substances include many types of anabolic steroids; Schedule IV controlled substances include Alprazolam, Clonazepam, and Loprazolam; Schedule V controlled substances include those containing certain specified quantities of codeine, morphine, and opium (measured in milligrams per 100 grams). This is by no means an exhaustive list; it is meant to provide a very general overview of the types of substances listed under each schedule.

Possession of Controlled Substances

It is unlawful for any person to be in actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance unless such controlled substance was lawfully obtained from a practitioner or pursuant to a valid prescription. Any person who violates this provision commits a felony of the third degree. A third degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. 

If the offense is the possession of not more than 20 grams of cannabis, that person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in the county jail. 

Sale, Manufacture, or Delivery of Controlled Substances

It is unlawful for any person to sell, manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to sell, manufacture or deliver a controlled substance. In most instances, the sale, manufacture, or delivery of a controlled substance is a felony of the second degree. A second-degree felony is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. The sale, manufacture or delivery (or possession with intent to do the same) of certain statutorily enumerated substances, such as cannabis, constitutes a felony of the third degree. The sale, manufacture or delivery of a Schedule V controlled substance constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree. A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in the county jail. 

In Florida, if the Sale, Manufacture, or Delivery occurs within 1000 feet of a childcare facility, elementary or middle school, college, university, church, or assisted living facility, certain enhancements may apply, including minimum mandatory sentences. An experienced criminal defense attorney can provide more information on what enhancements, if any, are applicable in your case. 

Trafficking in Controlled Substances

Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into the state of Florida, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of certain statutorily prescribed substances, in certain amounts, commits the offense of trafficking. Minimum mandatory sentences in trafficking offenses typically range from 3 to 25 years depending on the substance involved and its weight. Fines typically range from $50,000.00 to $500,000.00.

A conviction for any type of controlled substance in Florida will result in a two-year driver’s license revocation. It does not matter whether the controlled substances were found in or around your vehicle. In some states, a nolo contendre plea will avoid the associated driver’s license suspension, but not in Florida. 

Also, many types of drug offenses carry adverse immigration consequences for non-United States citizens, including deportation. If you are charged with a drug related offense, and you are not a United States citizen, you must consult with an immigration attorney before entering any sort of plea in the criminal case. 

If you have been arrested or charged with a drug offense, there may be certain favorable sentencing options available to you, such as pre-trial diversion or a withholding of adjudication, which would avoid a criminal conviction, a driver’s license suspension and, possibly, some of the adverse immigration consequences that would otherwise apply. Depending on the circumstances, a motion to suppress may also be a viable option. If granted, the state may be precluded from proceeding with prosecution.  In any event, you should consult with an experienced Tampa Bay area criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

For more information, see our article on HG.Org: St. Petersburg Drug Crimes Defense Attorney.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Navigating the DUI Minefield in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa & Surrounding Areas

In DUI cases, there are typically two proceedings that a person needs to be aware of: an administrative proceeding, and a criminal proceeding.  The administrative case proceeds through the Department of Motor Vehicles and involves the suspension of a person’s license (potentially) for a set period of time.  The criminal case proceeds through the court system and, where a plea of guilty or no contest is tendered, or where a person is found guilty by a judge or jury, involves the imposition of fines and court costs, a period of probation, the possibility of jail (or prison) time, and a host of other conditions that are prescribed by state statute.  

                              The Administrative Proceeding

Upon arresting a person for DUI, the officer will usually confiscate the person’s license, and issue a citation for the offense.  The citation acts as an unrestricted driver’s license for ten days following the arrest.  During that ten-day window, the person must request a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Once the proper paperwork has been received, the Department will issue the person a permit to drive until after the hearing is held.  Hearings are usually set within 30 to 45 days.   With a permit, the person may drive only for work, church medical, or educational purposes, or to maintain a livelihood.   

If a hearing is not requested within ten days of the arrest, the person’s license is suspended on the 11th day. 

How long a person’s driver’s license is administratively suspended depends on two factors: (1) whether the person submitted to a breath (or blood) test; or (2) whether the person refused the requested test. The period of suspension can range from six months (with a thirty hard suspension period and hardship license eligibility thereafter) to 18 months (with no hardship license eligibility).

If the person’s attorney is able to get the administrative suspension set aside, then the person’s driving privileges are reinstated.  If the attorney is unsuccessful at the administrative hearing, then the license suspension goes into effect after the person’s permit expires.  The period of suspension is as set forth above.

In July of 2013, there was a change in the law related to administrative license suspensions in Florida. For arrests occurring on or after the effective date, a first time DUI offender can waive a formal review hearing and obtain a hardship or business purpose only license for the period of suspension.  For most people, this is a very viable option but should be discussed with a qualified DUI defense attorney before the decision to waive is ultimately made.

The Criminal Proceeding

To prove the crime of DUI, the state must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the defendant drove or was in actual physical control of a vehicle; and (2) while driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle, the defendant was under the influence of an alcoholic beverage to the extent that his or her normal faculties were impaired, or had a blood alcohol level of .08 or more grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. 

Most DUI offenses are charged by citation.  Once the arresting officer files the citation with the clerk of court, the person is formally charged and prosecution has commenced.   Upon receiving and docketing the citation, the clerk will set the case for an arraignment and a notice will be mailed to the defendant.

DUI is an enhanceable offense, which means the more prior convictions a person has, the more severe the penalties become.  Another factor in sentencing is whether the person’s breath or blood alcohol level exceeded .15 in the pending case.  Depending on the number of priors (and when) the case may be prosecuted as a felony.

In misdemeanor DUI cases, the maximum period of probation is twelve months.  Maximum jail sentences range from 180 days to one year depending on the number of priors.  In all instances, the person’s driver’s license will be suspended by the court, he or she will be required to attend DUI School, undergo and alcohol evaluation, complete treatment if recommended, and will be subject to a vehicle impoundment.  For a first offense, fifty hours of community service is required.  Depending on the number of priors, and the blood alcohol level, the installation of an ignition interlock device may also be required.  If prosecuted as a felony, the person is facing up to five years in prison and many of the above listed sanctions will also apply.  It should be noted that any license suspension in the criminal proceeding is separate from, and in addition to, the administrative license suspension.

A qualified DUI defense attorney can help a person navigate this often complex and confusing process.  Also, the attorney will meticulously review the evidence to determine the existence of any possible defenses including, but not limited to:  (1) whether there any witnesses who actually saw the defendant driving or in actual physical control of the vehicle; (2) whether the officer had the requisite reasonable suspicion to conduct a traffic stop; (3) whether the officer had probable cause to make an arrest; (4) whether the person was properly instructed on the field sobriety exercise; (5) whether the person’s purported signs of impairment can be attributed to something other than ingestion of alcohol or drugs; (6) whether the person was read his or her Miranda warnings; (7) whether implied consent warnings were read; (8) whether the breath test machine was functioning properly; (9) if a blood draw was done, whether proper procedures were complied with; and/or (10) if the person requested an independent blood test, whether proper procedures were complied with. 

Also, the person may elect to exercise his or her right to a jury trial.  If fount not guilty, the person will not have a conviction on his or her record and, if he or she had been subject to an administrative suspension, that suspension will be reversed.  If you have been arrested for a DUI, time is of the essence; you should consult with an experienced Tampa Bay area DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

For more information, see our article on HG.Org: St. Petersburg DUI Attorney.

Monday, May 19, 2014

St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Donald J. Kilfin sworn into Georgia's Highest Courts

On May 19th, 2014, St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney Donald J. Kilfin was sworn into the Georgia Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of Georgia.  Mr. Kilfin is licensed to practice law in both Florida and Georgia. 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

An overview

The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. is a full service Tampa Bay area DUI and criminal defense firm. We represent clients in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, New Port Richey, Dade City, and Bradenton. The Kilfin Law Firm is owned and operated by former Pinellas county state prosecutor Donald J. Kilfin. 

Mr. Kilfin attended Stetson University College of Law from 1997 - 2000.  During that time, he studied all facets of the law, with a particular emphasis on criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence, and trial advocacy.  Mr. Kilfin was published in the 2000 editions of Who's Who Among American Law Students and The National Dean's List based on his academic achievements at Stetson. 

Upon graduation, he accepted a position with the Pinellas County State Attorney's Office, where he worked as a prosecutor for the next six years.  In that capacity Mr. Kilfin handled thousands of criminal cases which ranged in severity from minor traffic infractions to first degree murder.  He conducted over sixty jury trials to verdict, including first degree murder, second degree murder, manslaughter, capital sexual battery, trafficking in kilo quantities of cocaine, GHB, and MDMA, arson, and firearms offenses. 

In 2008, after working for nearly two years in a St. Petersburg area civil firm, Mr. Kilfin associated with a close friend and former state prosecutor to form one of Pinellas county's most successful and well repsected criminal defense firms.  As a partner with the firm, Mr. Kilfin represented numerous clients throughout the Tampa Bay area in an array of criminal matters, including assault, battery, firearms offenses, drug trafficking, and murder. During this time, he was published in Super Lawyers Rising Stars 2010 and The National Trial Lawyers Top 100

In 2013, Mr. Kilfin opened The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. where he utilizes the many skills he developed, as both a Pinellas County prosecutor and Tampa Bay area criminal defense attorney, in representing the residents of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and surrounding counties. Mr. Kilfin has dedicated his professional life to helping good people, accused of crimes, through some of the most difficult and challenging times in their lives. At The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C., providing competent, effective legal representation to our clients is our top priority.  Mr. Kilfin is licensed to practice law in both Florida and Georgia.

The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. is conveniently located between Tampa and St. Petersburg, in the Carillon business district off Ulmerton Road: 970 Lake Carillon Drive, Suite 324, St. Petersburg, FL 33716.  Our office number is (727) 290-2543.  Mr Kilfin can always be reached by e-mail: 
If you have been arrested for a DUI, traffic matter, non-traffic misdemeanor, or felony offense in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, New Port Richey, Dade City, or Bradenton, contact The Kilfin Law Firm, P.C. today.  The initial consultation is free.