Recently, one Florida prison inmate hit the legal lottery. The Florida Supreme Court just reversed his cocaine trafficking conviction. First, let’s go back to 2009 to learn what he did.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office was executing a search warrant at the home of Baron Greenwade. When they arrived, they found him in his garage. Unfortunately for Mr. Greenwade, he was caught red handed clutching a green bag that contained nine 1 ounce baggies.
At Greenwade’s trial, a chemist testified that she analyzed the one bag provided to her and determined it contained 234.5 grams of cocaine. Because in Florida possession of 200-400 grams of cocaine warrants a trafficking charge, Greenwade was facing a fifteen year minimum mandatory sentence. He pleaded guilty to three counts, but not to trafficking. On that offense, he went to trial. A jury convicted him and he was off to the pokey for 15 unpleasant years.
On appeal, he contested only the trafficking charge. He made one argument on appeal. He argued that it was improper for police to combine all nine bags into one before submitting the single bag to be analyzed by the chemist. The judges at the First District Court of Appeal didn’t buy the argument, ruling that legislative policy permits commingling where circumstances allow a reasonable conclusion they all contain contraband.
The Florida Supreme Court was a lot more receptive to his argument. Justice Lewis, writing for the high court, found that, “The simple process of commingling irreversibly destroys both the independent chemical composition of each individually wrapped packet and the ability to discern whether the pre-commingled substance was controlled or counterfeit,” He further ruled, “The state must prove through chemical testing that each individually wrapped packet of white powder seized contains at least a mixture of a controlled substance before the state may combine and weigh the commingled substance.” In other words, some of the nine baggies could have contained counterfeit cocaine. By mixing all the bags together and then testing the one big bag, Greenwade’s rights were violated.
The Court ordered that Greenwade return to the lower court and be re-sentenced on a much less severe charge of simple possession of cocaine charge. Out of the pokey he went.
I like this ruling, in spite of my gut feeling that Greenwade lucked out. Most likely, each individual baggie that he possessed contained cocaine. While possible, I doubt that Greenwade had cocaine in one baggie yet filled the others with baking soda and/or flour. Nevertheless, in order to protect the one defendant in the future who may fit that innocent scenario, the ruling preventing co-mingling of baggies needed to be made.
Rulings like this are routinely released from appellate courts. Ones favorable to the defense don’t come around all that often. When they do, it’s imperative that we analyze the decision to be used for our future criminal clients. Staying up to date on the latest court decisions and changes in the laws is imperative.
If under investigation or arrested for a criminal matter, let us utilize our vast experience to assist you. Call for a free consultation: 954.500.0003 or 305.674.0003 or visit our web site: www.EiglarshLaw.com.