In Florida, drug possession is among the most serious crimes. In fact, the state is home to some of the most stringent mandatory drug laws in the country. Miami has access to the waterway, hence gets the false reputation of being the “world’s illegal drug capital.” The harsh drug possession laws have placed many behind bars upon their conviction.
If you’re facing a drug-related charge, you may be wondering what the average sentence for drug possession is. Generally, the state laws are more lenient with those facing the charges of abusing illegal drugs than those who possessed it intending to sell. The bottom line is that either way, the case can substantially derail the life you’ve worked hard to build.
So if you’re facing drug possession charges, it’s in your best interest to seek an experienced Miami drug possession lawyer immediately.
This detailed guide highlights the different factors that come into play in determining your drug possessing penalty, the possible average sentence, and how a qualified attorney will help.
Factors Determining the Average Sentence for Drug Possession
The following factors determine specific penalties that you’re likely to face for a drug-related conviction:
The Nature of the Crime
Typically, the law considers drug possession to be less of an offense than drug trafficking or drug distribution, where the offender has affected others and contributes to drug distribution through the state or county.
Your Criminal Record
You lose your right to alternative sentencing, or your penalties may increase upon a subsequent, second, or third drug-related conviction.
Were Weapons Involved?
If you had a deadly weapon like a firearm during the arrest, you should expect enhanced penalties. The court is also likely to enforce mandatory minimum penalties.
The Type and Amount of Drugs
At the state and federal level, controlled substances are categorized into four schedules depending on their danger, potential for abuse, and other factors. Here are the different classes of drugs:
- Schedule I drugs – These have the highest abuse potential and have no accepted medical usage. They attract the harshest drug possession penalties upon conviction. Examples include LSD and heroin.
- Schedule II drugs – Substances in this category also portray a high potential for abuse and could lead to severe physical or psychic dependence. They have accepted medical uses but are offered with severe restrictions. Examples include morphine and opium.
- Schedule III drugs – Their potential for abuse is slightly less than schedules II or I. They also have accepted medical uses, and their abuse may cause high psychological dependence and low to moderate physical dependence. Anabolic steroids fit here.
- Schedule IV drugs – These also have acknowledgeable medical uses, but their abuse potential is lower than Schedule III substances. When abused, they may cause high psychological dependence and low to moderate physical dependence. One such drug is diazepam.
- Schedule V drugs – Substances in this category present the lowest abuse potential of all groups. They have an acknowledgeable medical use, and their risk of psychological and physical dependence is relatively lower. Schedule V substances usually contain specified narcotic drugs in limited amounts.
Possible Penalties for Drug Possession Charges
If you’ve been arrested with illegal or controlled substances, your drug possession charges may either be a felony in nature or different degrees of a misdemeanor.
Depending on your case, you face county jail imprisonment for up to a year if you’re charged with a misdemeanor. But if it’s a felony, the charges may land you anywhere from 12 months to life in prison.
If your case involves less than 20 grams of cannabis, your charge would be a misdemeanor for drug possession. The court can sentence you to 12 months in jail and fines of up to $1,000. Unfortunately, Florida is among the few U.S. states that haven’t done much regarding marijuana decriminalization.
Those found in possession of cocaine, heroin, and other illegal substances face third-degree felony charges. The penalties here are more severe than misdemeanor drug-related charges, and you may face up to five years and fines of up to $5,000.
If your case involves the possession of chemicals that manufacture methamphetamine, ecstasy, or GHB, you may face second-degree felony charges. The penalties may be up to 15 years behind bars and fines of up to $10,000.
There’s also a chance of facing a first-degree felony possession charge if you had a Schedule I substance like heroin. Possession of this category of drugs may attract up to 30 years behind bars.
Besides the fines and jail time, drug possession charges may lead to probation and suspension of your driver’s license. Not only do they massively impact your criminal record, but drug possession charges can also affect your eligibility for specific jobs, housing benefits, and financial aid for education.
It’s even more complicated if you have previous similar charges during your arrest since subsequent arrests attract more severe penalties. An experienced drug possession attorney will be your best partner if you wish to reduce your average sentence for drug possession.
Possible Grounds for Conviction
A successful conviction for possession of a controlled or illegal substance requires the prosecution to prove (beyond reasonable doubt) that the defendant was in actual or constructive possession of the item. They must also prove that you were aware of the substance’s illegality.
Actual possession means that you had the illegal substance in your hands or carried it with you at the time of the arrest. On the other hand, constructive possession is when the substance’s proximity can be considered under your control or dominion.
Notably, the mere fact that you were near the substance without additional evidence isn’t sufficient proof that you possessed the item.
First-time offenders arrested with small amounts of illegal substances can expect a sentence of short probation if you haven’t served your jail time or “time served” for the period you may have already stayed behind bars. The penalty may seem lenient, but you may suffer serious immigration consequences, including deportation.
Experienced Drug Possession Attorneys at Your Service
Are you facing a drug possession charge? The only way to have a favorable sentence is by seeking the assistance of an experienced drug possession attorney. Every lawyer will assure you of their experience and promise a good outcome, but not all firms in Florida comprise aggressive criminal trial attorneys with a track record of success in some of the most challenging cases.
Meltzer & Bell attorneys will find the best possible options for a strong defense and a negotiated favorable sentence. For instance, we can change a case of possession to sell into simple possession if you’re a first offender.