Florida congressman sentenced on charges of cocaine possession

If you’re facing drug charges, you’re not alone; at any given time, hundreds of alleged drug offenders are being shuffled through the criminal justice system. But, it’s not every day that one of them represents your state in the U.S. House of Representatives.

On October 29, Florida Republican congressman Trey Radel was arrested in Washington D.C. after allegedly purchasing cocaine from an undercover narcotics officer. On November 22, Radel pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in D.C. Superior Court.

Only a year of probation with possibility of conviction being dismissed

In Washington D.C., Radel’s charge was a misdemeanor, carrying a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000. Had he committed the same offense in his home state of Florida, it would have been a third degree felony, for which he could have received as many as five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Radel did not receive any jail time, however; instead, he was sentenced to a year of probation. If he completes his year of supervised probation successfully, his case could even be dismissed without a conviction on his record.

While the year of probation may seem like a light sentence, similar diversion programs are often available for first time, nonviolent offenders. In Florida, someone without a prior record convicted of a similar drug crime could have the option to clear his or her record by meeting a certain set of requirements, typically including things like passing regular drug tests, working or looking for a job, and attending counseling sessions, and then filing a petition to expunge the charge.

Not surprisingly, in the wake of the conviction, Radel’s politics regarding drug crimes have fallen under scrutiny. Earlier this year, Radel voted for a food stamps bill with a provision that would allow states to require food stamp recipients to pass a drug test before qualifying for benefits. On the other hand, Radel co-sponsored a bill to ease mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of drug crimes.

Talk to a Florida criminal defense lawyer if you have been accused of a drug crime

An affluent, Caucasian member of one of the most powerful lawmaking bodies in the world has some obvious advantages when facing drug crime charges. While you may not share all of them, you do have the same right to the most important aspect of fighting drug charges: a legal defense.

Even possession offenses can be serious in Florida, and when Florida police seize quantities of drugs that could imply distribution, serious mandatory minimum sentences could come into play. If you have been accused of committing a drug crime, take the most important step to protect your rights and your freedom and get in touch with a Florida criminal defense attorney.