Florida has historically had strong drug crime laws due to its position as a major site of drug trafficking. Penalties for drug convictions in Florida are fast, harsh, and can be life-altering.
While Florida has seen some drug laws lessened in recent years, such as the recent legalization of some form of medical cannabis, Florida still adjudicates strongly in cases of recreational illegal drug use and possession.
If you find yourself arrested and charged with a drug crime in Florida, then time is of the essence. Drug crimes can range from misdemeanors to felonies but regardless of what class offense, they can drastically alter your life. Drug crimes could result in loss of employment, income, privileges, and in some cases be met with jail time. Drug crime conviction can also have an impact on your social life in the future.
If you are being charged for a drug crime, you need a competent attorney on your side who can help you navigate the legal quagmire that is Florida’s drug laws and ensure that your rights are protected. [Law Firm] is dedicated to defending your rights when they matter the most.
Florida Drug Law Statutes
Florida has a multi-tiered system of defining drug crimes and various laws surrounding possession, manufacture, use, and intent to sell/distribute. Drug crimes may count as felonies or misdemeanors depending on their classification.
Some of the most common drug crimes include:
- Possessing a controlled substance
- Manufacturing a controlled substance
- Trafficking a controlled substance
- Selling a controlled substance
- Possessing a controlled substance with the intent to sell, manufacture, or distribute it
- Falsely obtaining a controlled substance
Some drug-related criminal offenses can be categorized based on where they occurred e.g. a public park vs a school.
One of the most common drug charges is possession. According to Florida Statutes Title XXXIII, Chapter 499.03(1), individuals may not possess any drugs that are harmful, toxic, potentially habit-forming, or brand new. Some people are exempt from these rules, such as those who have a prescription for the drug, agents who deal with the drug as part of their business or legal work, and medical professionals who control the substance as part of work (ex. A doctor). Any possession of a controlled substance that violates these exemptions is classified as a 2nd-degree misdemeanor and may carry a maximum sentence of 60 days in prison.
There is also possession with the intent to sell, distribute, or manufacture. This is a much harsher possession charge and is normally reserved for people who are caught with large quantities of illicit substances or those who are caught with the tools to manufacture such substances (i.e equipment for cooking meth). Possession with intent is classified as a third-degree felony which could carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.
Prosecutors tend to be extremely harsh on those being charged with possession with the intent to distribute, sell, or manufacture and will attempt to punish them to the fullest extent of the law. Drug crimes in Florida can also be charged differently depending on the specific substance involved. Read here to see a full list of Florida’s list of drugs and schedules.
In order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person was in possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell, manufacture, or distribute, the burden is on the prosecution to show:
- The person possessed a substance with the intent to sell, manufacture, or distribute
- The substance is a controlled substance
- The person had knowledge of this controlled substance
According to Florida law, “to sell’ means to exchange a good or service to another for something of value or money or the promise of something of value or money. In most cases, it is very hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant had an “intent to sell.” Very often, people are arrested with larger quantities of illicit drugs, and the prosecution pushes an intent to sell charges to push for harsher penalties or even to intimidate defendants.
There are a few factors the prosecution might look towards to demonstrate a defendant had an intent to sell an illicit substance. For example:
- The presence of objects used to measure and weigh drugs
- The presence of large quantities of money near where the substance was discovered
- The presence of packing materials like bags or boxes
- The amount and nature of the substance that was possessed
Florida Drug Trafficking Charges
According to Florida Law, drug trafficking is defined as the manufacture, cultivation, distribution, or sale of substances that are prohibited by state drug laws. Florida state law also imposes a mandatory minimum sentence on all people convicted of drug trafficking. The minimum sentence is 3 years in jail and a $25,000 fine. Some drug trafficking crimes can result in much longer prison sentences, depending on the amount and nature of the substance and trafficking operation. For example, cannabis drug trafficking crimes typically have lower mandatory minimums than cocaine trafficking crimes.
The severity of a drug charge may also ride on whether you transported the quantity over state lines. If you are caught transporting substances over state lines, then you can be judged and sentenced by the Federal government as your case would then become a federal issue. If you are caught trafficking drugs on behalf of a criminal organization or a gang, then you could also face conspiracy charges.
Possession Legal Definition
In Florida, merely drug possession is charged very harshly. Even just possessing some cocaine can be considered a third-degree felony and carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. Florida law defines two types of drug possession:
- Actual possession: Actual possession is what occurs when drugs are found on somebody’s person. The definition of actual possession does not mean that you actually own the drugs that were found, only that they were found on your person. An officer has to have reasonable suspicion to stop you and must have probable cause to search you. A common way of fighting off possession charges is by questioning the nature of the stop and search that led to the discovery of possessed substances.
- Constructive possession: Constructive possession is more abstract and has to do with your ability to exercise control over the possession. You could be found to have constructive possession of drugs if they are found in your common room and it can be shown that you had knowledge and control over them. In order to show constructive possession, the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had control over the illicit substance, knew that the substance was there, and knew that the substance was illegal. Like a case of actual possession, a charge of constructive possession can be combated by questioning the details of the scenario that lead to the discovery of the substance in question.
Drug Paraphernalia Possession
Possession does not only extend to the actual substance itself but also to any paraphernalia that is used to make, carry, or use drugs. For example, you can be arrested and charged with a drug crime for having a bong in your car even if there is no marijuana around. Types of paraphernalia considered illicit might include things like blenders, bowls, capsules, certain containers, chemical products or equipment, scales or balances for weighing, and other objects like syringes meant to facilitate the use of a drug.
A conviction on a drug paraphernalia charge is a first-degree misdemeanor and can be punished with up to 1 year in prison or a fine up to $1,000. The manufacture and sale of drug paraphernalia can be charged as a 3rd-degree felony and carry a maximum 5-year sentence.
Florida Cocaine Possession Charge
Cocaine possession is a common crime that receives harsh punishment in Florida. Simply having cocaine on your person can be considered a third-degree felony and you can face a 2-year driver’s license suspension, extremely strict probation terms, a max fine of $5,000, or even up to 5 years in prison.
Needless to say, these are some extremely high stakes. So if you are being charged with cocaine possession, it’s important to know that you have legal options. Hiring a competent drug crime attorney can be the difference between getting a lesser charge or having a third-degree felony on your record for the rest of your life.
Florida Meth Possession and Trafficking Charges
Methamphetamine is another common drug that is punished very harshly by the Florida criminal justice system. Meth, also known as “crank” is a Schedule II controlled substance and considered a highly addictive narcotic. If you are caught with meth and an intent to sell is established, you could face extended prison time and a large financial penalty. Meth possession with the intent to sell could carry a 15-year sentence along with a 15-year probationary period and a monetary fine of up to $10,000.
How Can a Drug Crime Attorney Help?
At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., our professional team of attorneys collectively have decades of experience working Florida drug crime cases. There are several legal strategies we could employ to minimize your charges, sentencing, or in some cases get your charges dropped entirely.
- In many cases, drug crime charges can be dismissed if it is determined that the main evidence used by the prosecution is determined to have been illegally obtained. For example, if a police officer stops you for an illegal stop and frisk and finds drugs in your possession, the charges can be dismissed on the grounds that the officer did not have the legal authority to stop and search your person. We will also evaluate any police tactics during the investigation to determine if evidence was mishandled or used inappropriately.
- Charges of possession with the intent to sell can be combated by arguing that the offender did not have an active intention to sell. For example, a strategy that shows that the drug found was for the defendant’s personal use only, or that the police performed an illegal stop and seizure.
- Pretrial diversion: If you are a first-time offender and meet other criteria, you could meet your charges with a Pretrial diversion program which includes 10-24 hours of community service and random drug testing.
- Drug court options are often a viable alternative to prison. Once you complete a drug court program, the courts can dismiss your charges and you will not have a conviction on your record.
There are also several benefits to hiring a local lawyer. A local Florida drug crime attorney not only has in-depth knowledge of the relevant laws and statutes but will also be familiar with working with the prosecution and judges in the region. A local lawyer will be more responsive to these conditions which can impact the outcome of your case.
A conviction of a drug crime is a very serious issue and should be handled seriously. Being convicted of a drug crime can have a severe negative impact on your life and can even result in a lengthy prison sentence. Those convicted of drug crimes may lose any professional licenses or their job. A felony conviction can also strip you of your right to vote and make it much harder to find employment.
If you are currently being charged with a drug crime, it is imperative that you get in contact with a practicing drug crime attorney. A Florida drug crime lawyer can help build a strong defense to rebut the prosecution’s charges, or put together a deal with the prosecution that severely lessens your charges. In some cases, it might be possible to drop your charges entirely. Time is of the essence though. Drug crimes in Florida are processed quickly and harshly so if you do not have the right legal representation you could be taken advantage of.
So if you are facing a drug crime charge, call us today at (754) 755-8554 to schedule a consultation. We will work to find a legal solution that protects your rights and overall well being.