NORTH FLORIDA LAW ENFORCEMENT AGGRESSIVELY TARGETING HEROIN DEALERS

Recent Report States the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Continues to go after Heroin Dealers Aggressively

A recent News4Jax story explains the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office attempt to reduce the amount of heroin overdoses in Jacksonville.  The story states that six people have been arrested in a targeted effort to rid the community of the drug (Heroin).  The article was published on March 9, 2017.

Benjamin Studybaker was arrested for selling Heroin.  His actual arrest was for Possession of Heroin with Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver within 1000 ft of a Convenience Business.  Studybaker’s arrest was dated  January 13, 2017.  A review of the arrest and booking sheet shows  Studybaker was contacted by undercover narcotics officers through the social media website Facebook.  A deal was struck in which Studybaker would meet the undercover detective at a specified location and sell heroin in exchange for $60.00.  When Studybaker arrived at the pre-determined location, he was taken into custody, before any hand to hand transaction took place.  No naroctics were recovered on Studybaker’s person.  A search of the area Studybaker where was standing revealed 3 tin foil packets containing Heroin.  Studybaker denied any knowledge of the narcotics found by JSO.

Reviewing Studybaker’s court records show that the State of Florida filed a lesser charge of Possession with Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver of a Controlled Substance.  Mr. Studybaker’s case was transferred to Veteran’s Court, a diversionary program for Veterans.  The Possession with Intent Charge is a Second Degree Felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison.  If Studybaker successfully completes Veteran’s Court, his case will likely result in a drop, as if it never happened.

Leeanne Pegg was arrested on February 9, 2017, for Sale of Heroin.  A review of her heavily redacted arrest reports shows that she was contacted at a hotel on Main Street by undercover narcotics detectives.  A narcotics conversation took place in which Pegg agreed to sell the undercovers $20.00 worth of Heroin.  After the transaction was completed, Pegg was taken into custody.  The $20.00 was recovered inside of Pegg’s shirt.  The money would have been pre-marked by the undercover detectives in the hopes that it would later be recovered on Pegg during the take down.

A review of court records for Pegg shows that the State of Florida filed a Sale, Manufacture, or Deliver of a Controlled Substance.  Pegg’s case is currently pending a review for the diversionary program Drug Court.  A Sale of Heroin charge is a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in the Florida State Prison.  If Pegg successfully completes her Drug Court Program, her case will likely end in a drop, as if the case never happened.

Michael Harris  and Sophia Cheek were arrested on January 17, 2017, by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office SWAT team for Possession of Heroin with Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver.  A review of the redacted arrest and booking report shows that the SWAT team entered the home and located Harris and Cheek in a front bedroom.  A search of Harris’ person revealed several baggies of heroin in his front right pocket.  A search of the bedroom revealed multiple baggies and straws with drug residue on them.  Harris and Cheek both stated, according to the police, in an interview that they are heroin users. A review of Harris’ court records shows that the State of Florida Filed a Simple Possession of Heroin charge.  Harris plead guilty on February 15, 2017 and received 6 months in the Duval County Jail.  If the search warrant was in fact valid, the State of Florida had a simple case against Harris to prove the crime of possession.  All that would be needed is for a SWAT member to come into the courtroom and state, “I found heroin inside of Mr. Harris’ pocket.”A review of Cheek’s court records shows that her case was not filed (dropped), by the State of Florida on February 7, 2017.  The drop is likely based on the simple jury instruction stating that mere proximity to an illegal substance is not enough to prove possession.

Both Harris and Cheek’s initial charge for Possession with Intent is a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in the Florida State Prison.  It is extremely difficult for the State of Florida to prove Possession with Intent cases based on the law and case law.  This likely explains why Harris’ charge was bumped down to Simple Possession.  Possession of heroin, like many other narcotics or drugs is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in the Florida State Prison.

Terraneus Taylor was arrested on January 17, 2017, for three counts of Sale of Heroin and Possession of not more than Twenty Grams of Marijuana (Cannabis).  Taylor’s arrest report is not currently available for review based on Florida’s broad Public Records law. A review of Taylor’s court records shows that the State of Florida filed three separate Sale or Delivery of Heroin charges against Taylor.  Each count is a separate second degree felony in carrying up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison.  If each sale is a separate incident, each count can be run consecutive, back to back, raising the maximum to forty five years in Florida State Prison.  The Possession of Cannabis charge was dropped by the State of Florida for unknown reasons.  If the State would have proceeded on the cannabis charge, Taylor would have faced a first degree misdemeanor charge with a maximum sentence of one year in the Duval County Jail.  Taylor’s sentencing is pending.

David Walker is the sixth person arrested in the targeted operation.  At the time of the writing of this article, no information was available regarding Walker’s arrest or court proceeding.

By simply reading the News4Jax article it is not clear if the intent is to show a great reduction in Heroin on the Streets of Jacksonville.  The information available shows that a total of $80.00 worth of Heroin was involved in the Sales and two addicts were arrested by the SWAT team.  In the courtroom, two cases have gone to diversionary programs, one case was flat out dropped, one case resulted in a six month jail sentence, one case is pending sentencing, and the other is unknown.  Perhaps to an uneducated reader, one may assume the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office is putting a dent in Heroin on the streets.  The purpose of the article would lead you to believe JSO went out and arrested six people “Aggressively,” however it is six arrests that have taken place one to two months ago.  It is clear Jacksonville has a heroin addiction(an article shows over 500 jacksonville heroin overdose deaths in 2016) and overdose problem and the heroin surge has to be battled; however, this is a feel good story about an approach is nothing more than a numbers game. This is nothing more than the police picking off the available low hanging fruit.

STEPS TO TAKE IF YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE HAS BEEN ARRESTED FOR DRUG POSSESSION OR SALES

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged on similar charges discussed above or any other drug offense or narcotics related case including Trafficking, Sales, Possession with Intent, or Simple Possession you will certainly need an attorney .  Almost all North Florida criminal defense lawyers give free consultations and/or jail visits.

Please give the Forbess Law Firm, 904-634-0900, a call for a free consultation.   Our firm handles narcotics and drug cases on a daily basis in Duval (Jacksonville), Nassau, Clay, Baker, St. Johns, Bradford, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam  and other surrounding counties.  Further, upon the arrest of yourself or a loved one,  our law firm is always available to argue for a reasonable bond in First Appearance Court.  We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to represent you and your loved ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Forbess, Jr.

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