Seminole County Teacher Charged with Trafficking Fentanyl

April 1, 2023 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, News & Announcements

Not only is fentanyl an extremely dangerous substance that can result in death, it can also cause serious legal repercussions. A person caught with even a small amount of fentanyl in their possession can face charges for trafficking. In a recent Florida case, a Sanford teacher has been arrested after police found enough fentanyl to charge her with trafficking.

This page will provide the case details along with relative information on fentanyl charges in Florida.

What was the Incident?

The Sanford Police Department responded to a call around 1:30am on March 25th, 2023 after a person reported they had been threatened by a driver with a gun. The responding officers spotted a car that matched the description from the caller and pulled over Shavon Michelle Pearson, 38.

The deputies identified Pearson as the driver and the only person in the vehicle. During the traffic stop, they noticed what appeared to be a marijuana blunt in the center console of the car. Upon searching the vehicle, police found “eight grams of Fentanyl, a loaded 9mm handgun, and one gram of cannabis.”

Pearson has since been arrested and charged with trafficking fentanyl, a felony offense in Florida. Seminole County Public School spokesperson Katherine Crnkovich stated the school has placed Pearson, an instructional coach at Seminole High School, on leave.

“Our immediate concern is ensuring that students were not impacted,” said Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith. “She was in a profession of trust and she has clearly breached that trust. We will ensure a thorough investigation takes place into the full extent of her criminal conduct.” 

Charges for Trafficking Fentanyl in Florida

All controlled substances are categorized by their potential for medical use and potential for abuse on the Florida Drug Schedule. Fentanyl is currently ranked as a Schedule II substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and severely restricted medical use within the U.S. Fentanyl mixtures are listed as a Schedule I substance, making it the highest risk of abuse.

In May 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 95 into law, which was created to crack down on the increasing abuse of fentanyl in the state. In addition to using the Statewide Task Force on Opioid Abuse, which the governor created in 2019, the bill does the following:

  • Adds methamphetamine to a list of controlled substances where in the event the user dies from the substance, the dealer who distributed the controlled substance can face a first-degree felony murder charge;
  • Enhances penalties for the sale of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of substance abuse facilities; and
  • Increases the mandatory minimum sentence for trafficking fentanyl from 3 to 7 years for 4-14 grams, and from 15 to 20 years for 14-28 grams.

Florida Statute Section 893.135 defines fentanyl trafficking as the act of a person knowingly possessing, purchasing, manufacturing, delivering, or transporting 4 or more grams of fentanyl—or any fentanyl derivative. Trafficking fentanyl is considered a first-degree felony in Florida. Typically, a first-degree felony can result in up to a $10,00 fine and up to 30 years in prison. However, a person charged with trafficking fentanyl may face more severe penalties based on the State’s Criminal Punishment Code.

To find out the specific penalties for trafficking fentanyl based on the amount in the accused person’s possession, refer to our page here.

Enhanced Penalties for Breaking the Law on School Property

In Florida, legislators created what is referred to as “drug-free zones” to prevent drug-related activities in certain areas. The current list of drug-free zones (which are enumerated under Florida Statutes Section 893.13) includes the following:

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Childcare facilities
  • Community centers
  • Park
  • Place of worship
  • Public and private elementary, middle, or high schools
  • Public and private universities
  • Public recreational areas

If a person is caught in the possession of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a drug-free zone, they will face a penalty one degree higher than the charge would have been if it was outside of a drug-free zone. For instance, a person who is caught with cocaine in a non-drug-free zone may face a second-degree felony in Florida. However, if the person is caught within 1,000 feet of any of the above listed drug-free zones, they would then face a first-degree felony.

Defenses to Drug Charges in Florida

As mentioned above, getting caught in the possession of a controlled substance in Florida can result in extensive penalties. You might feel as if you have no hope in your case, however, there are still defenses that can be used against a drug charge. Working with a skilled Tallahassee drug defense attorney is the best way to protect yourself and fight your case.

The following is a list of potential defenses applicable to a drug charge case:

  • Illegal search and seizure – Unless they have probable cause, law enforcement is required to have a warrant before searching your person, car, or home. If police obtain incriminating evidence during an illegal search and seizure, a defense attorney can file a motion that would exclude the drugs found in the search from the evidence.
  • Lack of possession – It is the responsibility of the Prosecution to prove you have actual or constructive possession of the controlled substances in question. Without proof of possession, a defense attorney can use lack of possession as a defense.
  • Lack of knowledge – If you did not have any knowledge of the controlled substances and did not have control over them, you may be able to use lack of knowledge as a defense.
  • Entrapment – If a police officer coerces you into committing a drug crime you wouldn’t have otherwise committed, a defense attorney can use entrapment as a defense in the drug charges case.

Defenses will vary on a case-to-case basis, so the best way to determine which defense works for you is to speak with a criminal defense attorney in your area.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

After getting arrested for a controlled substance in Florida, make your top priority by speaking with a legal representative. Dealing with a drug charge is serious, and requires the knowledge and experience of an attorney such as Don Pumphrey. At Pumphrey Law Firm, our team has worked on countless drug cases. We understand the stress that you are under, and we vow to stand by your side and fight for your freedom.

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm for a free consultation today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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