Because Florida is a prime state for drug trafficking, the state has some of the most severe laws concerning drug possession in the nation.
For example, some of the more lenient punishments in Florida are considered severe in other states. As a result, a drug possession charge in the state of Florida is serious business. You will need an experienced Miami drug possession lawyer to help you navigate the waters of drug possession in a state like Florida.
Even having drug-related paraphernalia can lead to serious consequences in Florida. Simply having needles, syringes, bongs, or other drug-related paraphernalia will add an additional offense and can land you with more jail time and fines. Since drug-related paraphernalia will result in an additional charge, you will need an attorney that recognizes each crime and knows how to create a case for all.
With all of that in mind, it is absolutely necessary for you to have legal representation when faced with a drug possession charge in Florida. Although other states might not take drug possession that seriously, Florida does. There is no way for you to protect your rights and fight on your behalf without an experienced attorney on your side.
Drug Possession Definition
As most people know, you can be charged with drug possession if drugs are found on your person or you have access to a drug. In Florida, possession can either be actual or constructive. Actual drug possession is straight forward. It means that an illegal substance was on your person, such as in your hand or in your pocket, at the time of the arrest.
Constructive possession is a bit trickier. It simply means that you had access to the controlled substance, but it was not found on your person. This charge often occurs when there are multiple parties present. For example, you may be charged with constructive possession if drugs were found in a glovebox of a car where there were multiple passengers, including you. These sorts of charges are put in place when it is unclear who the owner of the drugs is.
One caveat to constructive possession is that you must have knowledge of the drug’s presence. Therefore, the prosecutors must prove that you knew the drugs were present, considered a controlled substance, and had control over them in some way. You cannot be charged with constructive possession purely for being in the presence of drugs.
Difference Between Drug Possession and Possession with Intent to Sell
Though drug possession is a serious offense, drug possession with the intent to sell is even more serious. Regular drug possession differs from possession with intent to sell in that you have no intention of distributing or selling the drug in question. Instead, regular drug possession simply means that you held substance for personal use. It is important to understand the difference between these two charges since possession with intent to sell is a much more serious charge.
In order to be found guilty of possession with intent to sell, the prosecutor must be able to prove the following three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The substance is defined as a controlled substance according to Florida law
- The defendant knew that the substance was a controlled substance
- The defendant possessed the substance with the intent to sell
Of these three criteria, the last is the most difficult to prove. Any of the following may cause a prosecutor to seek possession with intent to sell over a plain possession charge:
- Large amounts of cash were found with a controlled substance
- Packaging materials were found that are consistent with the selling of drugs
- Drug related paraphernalia like balances, rolling papers, and testing kits were found
- Weapons were found in the presence of the controlled substance
- Admissions of intent to sell
- How much of the drug was found
Any of the previous points may cause a prosecutor to charge you with drug possession with the intent to sell. This allows them to possibly give a maximum sentence. It is important to make sure that you are not charged with possession with intent to sell because of the severity of the consequences that may follow.
Types of Charges
Drug possession can be charged as a third degree felony, but it can also be charged as a first degree misdemeanor for the possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. Typically, drug possession charges will be determined by the schedule of drugs in your possession and the quantity. The schedule of drugs simply refers to the classification of the controlled dangerous substance. Below are the different classifications for controlled dangerous substances in Florida:
Schedule I: High risk of abuse and no medical use
Schedule II: High risk of abuse and some medical use
Schedule III: Potential for abuse, some medical use, and potential for physical and psychological dependence
- Anabolic steroids
Schedule IV: Lower potential for abuse and have accepted medical use
Schedule V: Lowest potential for abuse and have accepted medical use with little risk of dependence
- Medicine with small amounts of narcotic drugs
In addition to the schedule type, Charges will also be based on how much you have in your possession. Obviously, the less you possess, the less severe the charges will be. Here is a list of charges with penalties:
More than 10 grams of a schedule 1 drug
- 1st degree felony
- Up to 30 years in jail and/or fine of $10,000
More than 10 grams of any other controlled dangerous substance
- 3rd degree
- Up to 5 years in prison and/or fine of $5000
Up to 20 grams of marijuana
- 1st degree misdemeanor
- Up to 1 year in prison and/or fine of $1,000
More than 20 grams of marijuana
- 3rd degree felony
- Up to 5 years in prison and/or fine of $5,000
What the Prosecutor Must Prove
In order to be found guilty of drug possession, the prosecutor must prove without a reasonable doubt a few things. First, the prosecutor must prove that the substance is illegal. Typically, the substance will be tested to prove what it is. This step is easy to prove since it requires laboratory testing.
Secondly, prosecutors must prove that you have knowledge of the drug. In other words, you must know that you are in possession of the drug and know that the drug is illegal. This step is important to prove because it can protect people who have drugs unknowingly planted on them without their consent.
Thirdly, the prosecutor must prove that you are in control of the drug. This third point is incredibly important in cases of constructive possession. For example, you may have no knowledge or control over a drug that your roommate brought into your apartment. As a result, you cannot be found guilty of drug possession since you had no control over it in the first place.
If your attorney can cast doubt on one of these three points, then you cannot be found guilty of a drug possession.
What to do if You Have Been Charged with Drug Possession
If you have been caught possessing drugs, it is important to know your Miranda rights. Your Miranda rights provide you the right to remain silent since anything you say can and will be used against you. It also gives you the right for an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided. It is important to know and utilize these rights so that you are best protected.
Secondly, you need to hire an attorney right away. Drug possession is a serious offense. Make sure that you have an educated attorney on your side to help you defend your rights and fight on your behalf. Without an attorney, your rights could easily be infringed upon and you may receive a more serious punishment than you deserve.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
Hiring a lawyer can help you protect your rights, navigate the confusing terrain of court, and hopefully get you a lesser sentence. An educated and experienced attorney will help you fight your charges by implementing several techniques that have a proven track record of working in drug possession cases in Florida.
Here are some ways that a lawyer may help you:
- Question whether the initial stop was lawful in the first place
- Question whether a valid search warrant was used to search your home or car
- Show you have a prescription for the controlled substance
- Question whether your rights were violated
- Question whether proper protocol was followed
Any of these techniques can help you get a lesser sentence for your drug possession. Obviously, all of these techniques require experience and knowledge about protocols and drug law. Someone like an experienced attorney can help you protect your rights.
If you need an experienced attorney, contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. today. We work endlessly to protect your rights and provide you the best legal counsel. With our attorney on your side, you can know that your case is given complete attention so that you have the best chance possible of scoring a lesser sentence for your drug possession charge. Contact us today for a free consultation.