What is the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program?

April 30, 2024 Criminal Defense, Drug Charges

Law enforcement agencies across the United States aim to protect citizens and prevent violence along with the increase of drug use and drug distribution. To help with this, the Federal government has created certain programs and entities to assist with local and state agencies. One of these programs exists in Northern Florida, frequently aiding police with the investigation and apprehension of suspected drug traffickers.

This page will provide information on the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas and how the program has recently assisted the Leon County Sheriff’s Department.

The DEA’s HIDTA Program

Congress first established the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. The program was created to help with local, state, Federal, and tribal law enforcement agencies for the operation in specific areas of the nation that are considered “critical drug-trafficking regions.”

The program is administered by the Office of National Drug Control Policy with over 30 designated HIDTA programs across the United States, along with regions along the U.S. Virgin Islands, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The DEA has more than 1,500 authorized special agents that work with the program.

The DEA outlines the following criteria that must be met for a region to qualify as a HIDTA:

  1. The specific area is considered a “significant center of illegal drug production, manufacturing, importation, or distribution;”
  2. Law enforcement agencies on the State, local, and tribal level have committed resources to respond to the drug trafficking problem in the area, which indicates a determination for an aggressive response to the problem;
  3. The alleged drug-related activities in the specific area have experienced a significant harmful impact in the area and in other areas of the country; and
  4. There is a significant increase in allocation of Federal resources that allow the necessary response to drug-related activities in the area.

Data From HIDTA

The overall goal of HIDTA is to “disrupt the market for illegal drugs by dismantling and disrupting drug trafficking and/or money laundering organizations.”

The following lists data on HIDTA’s National Effectiveness from 2022:

  • There were 83,295 officers, agents, analysts, and support staff trained by HIDTA related to drug crimes;
  • There were 36,729 investigations provided with analytics supported by HIDTA analysts;
  • 96% of the follow-up survey results indicated positive results from the training; and
  • 97% of agents or officers surveyed found that the assistance provided by HIDTA training was useful.

To help combat violence in the targeted areas, HIDTA reported there were 31,243 firearms removed from the streets in 2022. There were 32,686 suspects apprehended for crimes involving drug trafficking, violent gang crimes, and other major crimes.

Finally, HITDA lists the successful number of drug seizures (relating to specific controlled substances) conducted by their program in 2022:

  • Prescription narcotics – 1,363
  • Heroin – 2,538
  • Fentanyl – 13,657
  • Meth/Ice – 119,629
  • Cocaine/Crack – 182,810
  • Marijuana – 1.1 million

To read more about HIDTA’s work in 2022, refer to their page here.

HIDTA in Florida

According to HIDTA’s official site, the region of Northern Florida is a designated area for HIDTA, with their headquarters located in Jacksonville, Florida. As provided on their site, the following counties are included in HIDTA’s North Florida region:

  • Leon County
  • Columbia County
  • Baker County
  • Union County
  • Alachua County
  • Marion County
  • Bradford County
  • Clay County
  • Putnam County
  • Flagler County
  • Saint John’s County
  • Duval County
  • Nassau County

Example Case

An ongoing narcotics investigation in North Florida received assistance from HIDTA to help law enforcement arrest seven individuals accused of drug trafficking. According to Leon County Sheriff’s Office’s press release, HIDTA helped the Sheriff’s Office to conduct a search warrant at the 160 Block of Ross Road in the southern region of Tallahassee.

After the search warrant was executed, the responding detectives found a collection of illegal items and substances. Included in the seizure was approximately 60 grams of the following:

  • Methamphetamine;
  • Alpha PVP (Flakka); and
  • Synthetic cathinones (bath salts).

Since the operation is part of an ongoing investigation, the Sheriffs with Leon County are urging citizens with information pertaining to any illegal drug activity to contact the Vice and Narcotics detectives or submit an anonymous tip to the Crime Solvers at (850) 574-TIPS.

So far, there have been seven suspects arrested by Leon County Sheriffs, with charges ranging from drug possession, drug trafficking, and other related offenses.

Defenses to Potential Drug Charges in Leon County

Suspected drug offenses in Florida are not taken lightly. Whether a suspect has been accused of unlawful possession, drug manufacturing, or drug trafficking, the resulting penalties for a secured conviction can be life altering. However, there may be certain defenses available to the case to fight off a conviction or result in a lesser offense.

When you trust Pumphrey Law with your drug charges case, we will analyze all the available evidence to determine if any of the following defense strategies may be used:

  • Warrantless stop – A law enforcement officer who lacked probable cause to stop or detain a suspect, but did so anyways, can result in the seized evidence to be considered inadmissible in court.
  • Illegal search and seizure – If a police officer violated a suspect’s Fourth Amendment rights in any way, any evidence obtained may be considered an illegal search and seizure. This can help to weaken the State’s case against the defendant.
  • Issues with actual vs constructive evidence – Drug cases typically involve determining whether the defendant was in actual or constructive possession of the illegal substance(s). Depending on where the evidence was found in relation to the defendant, they can challenge the grounds of the alleged possession.
  • Insufficient evidence – The burden of proving the suspect is guilty falls on the prosecution. If they cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to sell, manufacture, or deliver controlled substances, it can help the defendant’s case.

These are just a few of the potential defenses to drug charges in Florida. Contact a defense attorney to discuss your options moving forward with the criminal case.

Contact Pumphrey Law Firm

Given that the North Florida region is extra vigilant in investigating and apprehending those accused of illegal conduct involving drugs with the help of HIDTA, it is extremely important for citizens to be aware of the implications of a drug charge conviction. Depending on the amount found in a person’s possession, the resulting penalties can include decades behind bars and high fine costs. To prevent this dark reality, consider hiring a defense lawyer who can accurately and aggressively represent your case.

The Tallahassee criminal defense attorneys with Pumphrey Law Firm have collaborated with individuals across the Florida Panhandle for accusations of drug crimes. We will do everything we can to defend your case and clear your name. Contact our office today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message for a free consultation.

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