A Jacksonville man and woman were arrested last week on heroin trafficking charges, part of a case state and federal agents have been investigating since July. Hortencia Leyva Melendrez and Francisco Enrique Gonzalez were both arrested on Jacksonville Drug Charges and charged with conspiracy to traffic in heroin, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Melendrez is in jail on a $250,000 bond, while Gonzalez' is set at $1 million.
Both are charged with a first-degree felony in Duval County and could face up to 30 years in prison. With the massive shift in drug use and trafficking toward prescription drugs, a case involving an increasingly uncommon street drug such as heroin will make headlines. Heroin is treated very similarly to prescription narcotics by the Florida courts, meaning the penalties are severe and the amount needed to qualify as trafficking is very low, especially compared to drugs like marijuana. Gonzalez is accused of telling Melendrez to prepackage heroin for delivery to a third person in a condominium parking lot on Riverplace Boulevard just outside downtown Jacksonville, the newspaper reported. Police have not released the amount of heroin but, for the pair to be charged with trafficking drugs Jacksonville, it could be as little as four grams of the street drug. In this Jacksonville drug crimes case, Melendrez and Gonzalez could be facing some serious prison time because mandatory minimums could apply. If the amount in question is between 4 and 14 grams, the minimum sentence is three years in prison. If the amount is between 14 and 28 grams, the minimum sentence is 15 years and if there was more than 28 grams but less than 300 kilograms, they are facing at least 25 years in prison.
Minimum mandatory sentences in Florida spell trouble for defendants on two levels. First, they take discretion of out the hands of the judge and, even if this is a first offense for either of the suspects, a judge cannot take that into consideration in apply a lesser sentence. Second, people serving minimum mandatory sentences are not subject to the benefits of gain time. Most defendants who behave in Florida prisons only serve 85 percent of their sentence, but those on mandatory minimum terms must serve every single day. It is highly likely that there are more Jacksonville arrests to come in this case, especially if federal agents are involved. Our Jacksonville Drug Attorney has seen many similar cases where a few initial arrests are made, though authorities clearly have their sights set higher up the food chain. One way to get to the top is to put serious pressure on others in the operation by arresting them and threatening lengthy prison sentences and serious charges. In many cases, prosecutors will offer reduced charges if the defendants can provide information and testify against the mastermind of the operation.
An experienced Jacksonville drug crime lawyer can help you or a loved one navigate options in a case like this and will allow you to make the best decision as to how to move forward.
If you or a loved one needs a Criminal Defense Attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Drug Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.