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Twelve charged in Florida with distribution of synthetic drugs

Twelve people in South Florida have been arrested in connection with a nationwide law enforcement operation aimed at so-called "designer drugs." Five people, accused of being major distributors, face federal drug charges. In addition, local sheriff's offices in several counties have arrested seven employees of retail stores that allegedly sold the substances.

Use of synthetic drugs has been on the rise recently. These substances, known as synthetic cathinones, fall into the categories of hallucinogens or stimulants. They are often sold under brand names like "Purple Wave," "Bliss" or "Vanilla Sky." They reportedly mimic the effects of LSD, cocaine or methamphetamine. They have become popular with young people, in part due to a mistaken belief that they cannot be detected in drug tests conducted by employers or government agencies.

Those facing drug distribution charges in South Florida face very serious consequences if convicted. Prosecutors take these cases very seriously. But an aggressive defense can often lead to acquittal or a significant reduction of the charges.

These cases are often built by prosecutors on the basis of evidence seized in a search of the accused's residence, vehicle or place of business. But, our Constitution guarantees all citizens protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the search was made without a warrant, the prosecution will have to show that circumstances justified the warrantless search and resulting seizure. If a search warrant was issued, defense counsel can often challenge whether its issuance was proper.

When a search is determined to be unconstitutional, the prosecution will be unable to use any evidence obtained in the search at the trial. This usually causes the prosecution's case to unravel. A defense attorney experienced in drug charges can determine the best strategy to challenge the prosecution's case.

Source: South Florida Business Journal, "Businesses raided in synthetic drug crackdown," Kevin Gale, July 26, 2012

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