A Clay County elementary school teacher was arrested last week and charged with a felony after cocaine and a short straw presumably used to snort the powder drug were allegedly found in her purse in her fifth-grade classroom. Ashlea Eucker was in a meeting and told a school counselor how to get into her desk and get her purse, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. When the counselor got to the purse, she said she found a baggie with white powder hanging out of it and a short straw sticking out of another pocket, the newspaper reported. The counselor told the principal and had the purse locked up until police arrived.
Eucker was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. She was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. The felony charge is obviously far more serious and could also put Eucker’s teaching career in serious jeopardy. Most Florida schools will not allow a convicted felon in a classroom with children, so the stakes are remarkably high for Eucker in this Clay County Drug Crimes case.
While the amount was not specified in the newspaper report, if Eucker would have had more than 28 grams of cocaine, she likely would have been charged with drug trafficking, which ups the ante for sentencing. More importantly, it brings a three-year minimum mandatory sentence into play. Mandatory sentences in drug cases take much of the discretion out of a judge’s hands and also can increase the time a defendant spends in prison. With a minimum mandatory sentence, defendants must serve every day of the sentence, unlike in most cases when people serve 85 percent if they stay out of trouble.
But, Eucker could be in a position to avoid prison all together, depending on how her case plays out. There are a couple of options, depending on what is negotiated. In some cases, the state will offer a Pre-Trial Diversion Program for first-time offenders, which she is, according to the newspaper report. If the defendant completes the program, which includes passing drug tests, attending classes and not picking up any new charges, the initial Clay County drug charge is dropped. That’s the most desired scenario.
The state has also been offering the same program as part of probation. In this option, the defendant pleads guilty to the charge, but adjudication is withheld, meaning the person is not convicted. But, if the defendant does not complete the program, the adjudication turns into a guilty plea and penalties, including prison time, can be applied. The reason this scenario is less advantageous for the defense is the punishment is already set once a person runs afoul of the program. When Pre-Trial Diversion is done before the case is resolved and a person doesn’t make it, negotiations can begin anew. Now, that can also backfire since the state can argue the person had a second chance to avoid prosecution and blew it.
Our Clay County Drug Crimes lawyer represents people charged with possessing all types of narcotics, including cocaine. There are several elements of possession that need to be examined in a Clay County Drug Crimes Case, and our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney can explain those to you or your loved one.
If you or a loved one needs a Drug Crimes Attorney in Orange Park or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.