It can be a scary and confusing time if you're facing a drug charge. Knowing that drug charges often come with stiff penalties, you may fear for your future.
A Florida criminal defense attorney can help you build a defense on your behalf and represent you aggressively in and out of court. That's why it's always a good idea to consult with a defense lawyer immediately following a drug-related arrest.
In Florida, a charge for drug possession results from knowingly and illegally possessing a controlled substance. The possession of a drug can either be for personal use or to distribute or sell the substance.
Florida law makes it illegal to possess a controlled substance unless a person has a valid prescription from their doctor for the medication in their possession.
Possession can either be actual or constructive. Someone with actual possession of a drug has the drug on them. For example, if law enforcement finds the drugs in a person's purse or pocket, they'd actually possess the drug.
Constructive possession is a bit more challenging to prove. When someone has constructive possession of a drug, law enforcement finds drugs in their area, but not necessarily on their person. For example, if the police stop an individual’s vehicle and find drugs in the glove compartment, this would entail constructive possession.
Whether possession is actual or constructive, an offender still faces the same drug possession charge.
There are several types of drug charges in Florida.
Drug possession is one charge, but a person can also face charges for possession with intent to distribute. What differentiates the two charges is the number of drugs the individual is caught with.
When law enforcement finds a small number of drugs on a person, it would likely appear for personal consumption, resulting in drug possession charges. However, if they uncover a larger quantity, they could surmise that the individual intended to distribute the drugs. Police will also look to see if you have scales, small baggies, or cash wrapped in particular ways to assess if the drugs were possessed with the intent to sell.
Drug trafficking charges are similar to those for distribution charges, and the critical distinction is the quantity or weight of the substances in question.
When police find illegal drugs over a certain amount or weight, charges escalate from distribution to trafficking. If the trafficking involved crossing state lines or importing/exporting to another country, the accused trafficker could also face federal charges.
Drug paraphernalia can consume, conceal, or produce illegal substances. Common examples of drug paraphernalia include:
Possessing any drug paraphernalia is illegal and could result in criminal charges, even if there are no drugs.
In Florida, aside from possessing drugs, it's also illegal to manufacture or deliver illicit substances.
Manufacturing entails producing drugs or other products used to make illegal substances. Drug delivery is similar to drug distribution, as an offender delivers illegal substances, usually for sale.
Florida law, similar to federal law, has a classification system, separating drugs based on their medical value and the likelihood of addiction and abuse from Schedule I to Schedule V. A controlled substance is any substance named or described on this list.
The schedule types include the following:
Drug schedules play a vital role in determining the type of substance involved in drug charges in Florida and the penalties an offender may face.
Penalties for drug charges in Florida vary depending on several factors, including the type of crime.
Crimes may be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are considered less serious, while felonies are more severe and often have significant penalties.
A first-degree misdemeanor in Florida can have consequences of up to one year in jail and fines totaling up to $1,000. For example, certain drug possession charges in Florida, like drug possession of under 20 grams of marijuana, would be a first-degree misdemeanor. Drug paraphernalia charges can also be a first-degree misdemeanor.
First-degree felonies are the most serious, carrying the most substantial penalties.
Examples of first-degree felony drug charges in Florida include possessing more than 10 grams of a Schedule 1 or Schedule II drug or selling drugs within 1,000 feet of schools or parks.
Drug trafficking charges in Florida are also first-degree felonies. Depending on the type of drug and the quantity, the crime comes with mandatory prison sentences of three to 25 years.
Penalties for first-degree felonies usually include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.
Generally, possession with intent to sell would be a second-degree felony, as would possession of chemicals used to make certain types of illegal substances, such as ecstasy.
Second-degree felonies can have consequences of up to $10,000 in fines and a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
If an individual faces drug possession charges and the substance exceeds a certain weight, they may face a third-degree felony. Common drugs resulting in a third-degree felony include:
In Florida, third-degree felonies are the least severe type of felony. They are punishable by fines of up to $5,000 or prison sentences of up to five years.
If you’re arrested for drug possession or other drug charges in Florida, don’t hesitate to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney.
A skilled lawyer can help you:
The Denson Firm has over two decades of experience fighting for its clients — we want to do the same for you. Contact our office today to schedule your complimentary case evaluation.
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