Another year in South Florida brought the annual Ultra Music Festival attended by thousands of local residents and tourists. In typical fashion, the music festival which is held in Miami, Florida was fun for all who attended except for the dozens of people arrested on a variety of charges. Anyone arrested at the festival should immediately contact a Miami criminal lawyer to defend the case. Seventy-one individuals were arrested over the weekend with 48 of those facing felony charges, mostly for drug possession. The majority of the arrests were for possession of an illegal substance. The most common illegal substance found at the concert was ecstacy or MDMA. While the concert is certainly not a hot bed for drug trafficking, many of those who attended the festival possessed MDMA. On its face, being arrested for possession of an illegal substance, such as ecstacy, seems like no big deal. While penalties of jail or prison time are remote, possession of ecstacy is a third degree felony under the laws of the State of Florida.
Tourists and residents alike, arrested for possession of ecstacy or possession of marijuana should not take their cases too lightly as entering a plea and receiving credit time served could have long term damaging affects on a person's personal and professional life. Everyone arrested should understand the process when involved in the criminal justice system. After someone is arrested, they are taken to the Dade County Jail. Upon booking into the jail, a bond will be set in the case. There are two ways to post bail. First, the cash amount of the bond can be paid resulting in the release of the person arrested. Once the case is closed, the money posted for the bond will be returned to the person who paid via a check from the clerk's office. If a person does not have the funds to post a cash bond, a bondsman can be hired. Florida residents will generally have to pay the bondsman 10% of the bond to secure a release. Out of state residents are typically charged the full amount of the bond, with 90% of the money being returned at the conclusion of the case.
After a person has posted bond or bail, he or she can return to the state where they reside. An arraignment will occur 30 days after the arrest. Prior to the arraignment, the state attorney's office will subpoena the witnesses listed on the arrest affidavit and conduct a pre-file conference. If the prosecution believes the case can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and there are no search and seizure issues, the charges will likely be filed. At the arraignment, if a defendant has no prior criminal record, the prosecution will offer the drug court program or a withhold and credit time served. There are serious problems with both resolutions. The drug court program is highly intensive and takes 9 months to a year to complete. A person must attend narcotics anonymous meetings three times a week and engage in some form of outpatient drug treatment. While the successful completion of the program will result in a nolle pros or dismissal, it is a long hard road to get that result. A time served plea is much easier and the case will resolve right away. However, a defendant who takes that plea will have a criminal record. The case can be sealed, but certain government agencies will have access to the criminal record.
A skilled defense attorney will not subject his or her client to the drug court program or allow the client to enter a plea. Lawyers familiar with the system can usually work out a compromise with the prosecutor. For example, a charitable contribution or community service hours can be exchanged for a nolle pros or dismissal. The success of such a strategy usually lies with prosecutors in a particular criminal court division. A defense lawyer's relationship with prosecutors in the division goes along way in resolving a case favorably for the client. If the case cannot be resolved in that manner, depositions of the involved officers should be taken. After the depositions are taken, cases of this nature generally fall apart due to the number of arrests made over the Ultra Festival weekend.
Drug Arrest at Ultra Music Festival, Miami Herald.com, March 28, 2012.