Audit Reveals Mishandling of Large Amount of Drugs & Evidence


The Sarasota Police Department recently made public an audit which began in August of 2013. The audit revealed the Sarasota Police Department couldn’t account for 2167 drug related pieces of evidence. The report has received a strongSarasota Police Department Headquarters response from the community, which is understandable considering the amount and volume of drugs and drug related items lost.

Defense attorney Andrea Morgensen believes an error this great sets off alarm bells. The 20 page internal audit investigated the SPD’s property and it’s evidence producers. The audit found the department falls short in eight catagories, three of which are high priority. The fear is that fraud or serious violations may have occurred, namely, the mishandling of a large amount of drugs. 830 pounds of marijuana and 31 kilograms of cocaine have gone missing according to the police departments records . This amount of missing drugs is staggering.

The lost kilos of cocaine have no date associated with the seizure, but the pounds of pot were supposed to be transferred to the DEA in August of 1999; however, because there was no records of the transfer, the status was listed as “unknown” in October of 2011. The thorough report shows another 2000-plus items out of 53,000 in total had incomplete or incorrect records.

How does a department lose so many narcotics?

The audit indicated the narcotics weren’t weighed during intake. Weighing the drugs is supposed to be part of the process–property comes in and weighs x — narcotics are fungible and their weight can change over time so weighing them when they are received provides a point of reference for future investigations. Chief Bernadette Dipino holds the missing items to be a result of clerical errors, rather than dubious police officers. While it is true there were some computer errors, there were a lot of human errors, especially in the way things are administered and processed. The older tracking systems led to miscategoriziation. Chief Dipino believes the situation to be under control as all of the drugs, weapons and money are in the departments property section, and is currently being held in the appropriate way.

What are some drug laws in Florida?

Drug laws in Florida are forever changing. Currently, possession of a controlled substance, such as cocaine, can be charged as a third degree felony; this is not to include manufacturing, distribution or sale, those charges carry must stiffer penalties. Florida recently added Bath Salts and Spice(synthetic marijuana) to the lists of banned substances. Fortunately, simple possession of marijuana, less than twenty grams, will only net you a first degree misdemeanor charge. In order to be popped for drugs, the prosecutor must be able to show the illegal nature of the substance; the defendants knowledge and the defendants control of the drug. Fla. Stat. § 893.13.

Some possible defenses are; lack of knowledge, valid prescription, entrapment and fourth amendment violations due to unlawful search and seizure. While, lesser drug charges garner lesser sentences, maybe sixty days in jail; third degree drug felonies can carry a term of imprisonment of up to five years, and require a fin up to the amount of $5,000. Second degree felony charges carry far stiffer penalties, to include up to fifteen years imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000. The punishments only increase every time you get caught with the illegal substance.

Where to find legal help.

If you get a caught with an illegal substance, you are almost assuredly in for a long, egregious legal battle, which could cost your freedom. Our drug charge attorneys have years of experience dealing with courts and defending clients against drug offenses. If you or a loved one find yourself in a vehicle with a controlled substance and the police putting you in cuffs, give us a call so we can discuss your case and start fighting for you!

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