One of more serious cocaine offenses concerns delivery cocaine to a minor or using a minor to deliver cocaine to someone else. As a Ft. Lauderdale criminal lawyer, I encounter delivery cocaine cases frequently. However, the use of a minor is relatively uncommon. If you have been charged with this offense, you can rest assured that your case will stick out.
Because these cases involve children, they will always garner extra attention from law enforecement and prosecutors. Often times, such cases involve other offenses, like exploitation, Mann Act violations, and other child related offenses.
Due to the fact that delivery cocaine to a minor involves the exploitation of children, they can be very challenging and require a criminal lawyer with experience. Anytime a child is victimized, use to commit crime, or exposed to corrupting behavior, law enforcement and the courts take a far more serious approach.
That said, prosecuting someone for delivery cocaine to a minor is no different than prosecuting any other offense. Florida Law still places the burden of proof on the prosecution. When it comes to delivery of cocaine to a minor or the crime of using a minor to deliver cocaine, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
1) Delivery or Use of a Minor:
(a) The defendant delivered cocaine to a person under age 18, or
(b) The defendant used or hired a person under age 18 to as an agent or employee in the sale or delivery of cocaine, or
(c) The defendant used a person under age 18 to assist in avoiding detection or apprehension (such as being a neighborhood lookout).
2) The substance in question was actually cocaine.
3) The defendant was 18 years of age, or older, at the time of the offense.
The first element is usually proven using testimony or a combination of testimony and birth certificates. Usually, a prosecutor will simply put the minor in question on the stand and ask him/her how old they were at the time of the offense. Saying that they were under age 18 at the time the defendant delivered cocaine to them or at the time they were used them to sell or deliver cocaine to another, or were used to avoid detection/apprehension would suffice for evidentiary purposes.
Of course, at that point it would be up to your criminal defense lawyer to challenge the testimony, if such a challenge is possible in your case.
As has been discussed in other parts of this site, the term “deliver” means the attempted, actual, or constructive transfer of cocaine from one person to another. Additionally, the term “sell” means to transfer or deliver cocaine to another person or persons in exchange for money, something of value, a promise of money, or a promise of something of value.
While the prosecution does not need to prove that the defendant had knowledge of the illicit nature of the cocaine, a lack of knowledge of its illicit nature would be an affirmative defense. To be clear, this defense does not mean the defendant can claim he/she has never heard of cocaine and had no idea it was illegal. Rather, such a defense is predicated on proving that the defendant had no idea the white powder in their possession was cocaine. This often times happens when the defendant delivers a sealed package which he/she never opened.
Defending Against a Delivery of Cocaine to Minor Charge
As with all types of cocaine offenses, a criminal attorney should ask the right questions. Looking for a motion to suppress evidence, confessions/statements, recordings, testimony of confidential informants, identification, and others are key to getting started. A criminal lawyer should inquire about the following:
- Did police do an illegal traffic stop or detention?
- Did police conduct an illegal search/seizure of your property?
- Were you interrogated without being read your rights?
- Did police obtain a valid search warrant?
- Did police go beyond the scope of the warrant?
- Did police conduct a warrantless search?
- Was any statement you made recorded?
- Are confidential informants involved?
- How many people are involved in the case?
- Are you able to offer substantial assistance to law enforcement?
- Do you have a criminal record? If so, for felonies or other drug related offenses?
- Was a gun used in the commission of the offense?
- Was anyone killed or injured?
- How many instances of delivery does your case concern?
- What is the quantity of cocaine at issue?
- Does your case involve powder cocaine or crack cocaine?
These questions are not intended to be exhaustive. Reviewing your case with a criminal attorney will take time and your input is only one source of pertinent information needed. Making contact with investigating detectives or agent as well as prosecutors is an important first step as well. While they may not share everything they know about a case, they are certainly a valuable resource.
Ultimately, a criminal lawyer must make a decision about which defense is right for you, considering the specific facts of your case and your situation, in light of the applicable law and the intentions of law enforcement and the prosecution.