Florida’s drug possession laws are stringent, with prosecutors aggressively pursuing convictions and harsh penalties. Drug penalties in Florida are categorized based on the type of drug and the severity of the crime, with penalties ranging from fines to lengthy prison sentences, especially for trafficking offenses. It’s crucial to act swiftly and seek legal counsel to explore potential defenses and mitigate the consequences of drug charges.
If a Florida court convicts you, don’t be surprised if the judge imposes the maximum sentence. Consequently, it’s never in your best interests to even think about trying to defend yourself without the aid of an experienced Florida drug lawyer.
Florida Drug Possession Laws: The Five Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS) Schedules
Florida, like the federal government, has divided illegal drugs into five classifications, known as schedules:
- Schedule I includes the “hardest” drugs: heroin, LSD, etc., for which there is no known medical use.
- Schedule II includes hard drugs for which there is some medical use: cocaine, opium, etc.
- Schedule III includes drugs with an established medical use but significant potential for addiction, such as anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV includes drugs with established medical uses and a moderate to low potential for addiction, such as Valium.
- Schedule V includes substances with a low potential for abuse and well-established medical uses, such as medications with limited quantities of codeine.
New substances are frequently added to these schedules.
Florida Drug Laws and Penalties: Categories of Drug Crimes
Florida has divided drug crimes into four separate categories, in ascending order of seriousness:
- Possession or use of paraphernalia, such as bongs, needles, rolling papers., etc., but only if these articles are being used in conjunction with illegal drugs.
- Possession of a small amount of an illegal drug for personal use only.
- Possession with intent to deliver, sell, or distribute. For this charge to be appropriate, the police need evidence of your intent to sell, such as a scale and baggies — possession alone is not enough.
- Drug trafficking charges apply if you possess an excessive amount of drugs. If the police catch you with a large enough quantity of illegal drugs, they could charge you with this level offense without any further evidence of your intent.
Although trafficking requires more than simple possession, it is mere possession of a large amount of drugs that raises the inference of trafficking.
Florida Drug Possession Penalties
The exact penalties for every schedule of drug across all four offense categories are too extensive to list here. Below, however, are some examples:
- First-degree felony possession of more than 10 grams of heroin (Schedule I): Up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Third-degree felony possession of CDS drugs listed in Schedules II through V (without a valid prescription), unless an exception applies: Up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- First-degree misdemeanor possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana: Up to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.
- Possession of more than $10,000 pounds of marijuana: Up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $200,000.
Conviction of a third or subsequent first-degree felony, whether or not drug-related, can result in life imprisonment.
The seriousness of your offense depends largely on the weight of the drugs you were caught with. The prosecution is allowed to count the combined weight of the substance that they seized from you, even if the substance was an illegal substance mixed with a legal substance.
Suppose, for example, that the police caught you with four grams of cocaine that someone cut with seven grams of a legal substance, for a total of 11 grams. Suppose further that the police caught your friend with 11 grams of pure cocaine hydrochloride. The police could charge both of you with possession of 11 grams of cocaine each.
There are numerous defenses that you could possibly use against drug possession charges, including the following four:
- Claiming the drugs belong to someone else;
- Illegal search and seizure;
- Entrapment; and
- Claiming that the substance is not actually an illegal drug.
These are not the only possible defenses, but they are among the most popular and frequently used strategies.
Claiming the Drugs Belong to Someone Else
If the police found drugs in your possession (your suitcase, for example), it will be up to you to prove that the drugs belonged to someone else and that you didn’t know what they were. Perhaps CCTV footage showing someone slipping a package into your bag at the airport exists. This might be enough to establish such a defense. Then again, perhaps not. It all depends on exactly what that footage shows.
Illegal Search and Seizure
Suppose, for example, that the police searched your home without a search warrant when no exception to the warrant requirement existed. In this case, you could suppress the use of the drugs as evidence against you. With no evidence, the prosecutor will almost certainly drop the charges.
The entrapment defense applies if the police deliberately enticed you into committing a drug crime just so they could arrest you for it. For this defense to work, you cannot be the type of person who was already inclined to commit the offense.
The Substance Is Not an Illegal Drug
Gray-market chemists are creating new drugs faster than legislatures can write laws prohibiting them. If the substance the police caught you with is one of these, you will probably walk free.
Time Is Against You
Criminal prosecutions move quickly. If Florida has charged you with a drug crime, you will have to do the same. The criminal defense attorneys at Moses and Rooth have over 35 years of combined experience in representing defendants charged with drug crimes. Some of our lawyers used to work as prosecutors. This fact is particularly valuable when it comes to understanding how the other side thinks.
Call us at (407) 439-1762 or contact us online for a risk-free consultation.