Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. - Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

How rideshares are changing the illegal drug market

For decades southern Florida has been a gateway to the U.S. for the drug trade from South America and Latin America. The methods for moving substances further inland have always been varied, but a new option has come to the marketplace.

The use of ridesharing services like Uber, Lyft and similar companies for drug trafficking is on the rise. Both academic and law enforcement experts believe the trend will only become more widespread over time.

A modern twist on an age-old practice

Literally tons of illegal drugs crisscross the U.S. every year. Transporting these substances requires "extralegal delivery mechanisms," which often include taxis or cabs. It is often too risky to use a personal vehicle for deliveries, as the plates could be known or run by law enforcement. Also, taxis are less likely to be pulled over by police officers.

It was only a matter of time until services like Uber and Lyft would join the line-up of covert delivery options. Using a ride-hailing service to run drugs offers the same benefits as a taxi, and is often cheaper and more efficient than a traditional cab ( a different point of contention among taxi cab drivers).

A case in point

In January 2015, law enforcement officers pulled over an Uber driver for what they thought would be a routine traffic stop. However, they found the two male passengers were in possession of $2,000 in cash and butane honey oil, a highly potent form of cannabis (which is still illegal in Florida).

The two men confessed they planned to sell the substance and that they decided to take an Uber to meet a customer. The driver was completely unaware the two men possessed illegal drugs. The two men were charged with drug possession.

The changing marketplace

Similar anecdotes are rampant on Uber People, an online forum for rideshare drivers (the forum is not affiliated with the Uber company). Many drivers report suspicions that passengers were carrying drugs, or using their services to conduct multiple drug deals by having them drive from place to place.

Law enforcement officials have also took note of this growing trend, and several cases involving rideshare services have already been filed in many states.

Despite moves in other states to legalize marijuana to curb these kinds of drug runs, Florida continues to harshly prosecute those caught with illegal substances. The best recourse if you are charged with drug possession or trafficking is to contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible.

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