Drug crimes in Florida vary in severity where some are misdemeanors while others constitute felonies. Specifically, certain drug-related offenses can lead to many years in prison. If you were facing charges for a drug crime in Florida, you need to speak to an attorney as soon as possible.
Without the assistance of legal counsel, you may forfeit certain rights, incriminate yourself, or lose track of evidence that could exonerate you. As noted above, if you are facing charges, you should address the situation head-on with the assistance of a dedicated Florida criminal defense lawyer.
Understanding Florida's Drug Schedules
Florida legislators divided substances into five Schedules. The most severe drugs fall into Schedule I, while those that are least dangerous are in Schedule V. Possession of a Schedule I drug will often lead to more severe consequences than possession of a drug that falls into one of the other categories.
Below is a breakdown have Florida's drug schedule system:
- Schedule I: Drugs that create a high abuse risk and that show no accepted medical benefits. Examples of this type of drug would be GHB and heroin. There are well over one hundred other drugs that also fall into this Schedule.
- Schedule II: These substances present a high abuse risk and might lead to chemical dependency. However, they also have known medicinal purposes. While doctors may prescribe them, there should be strict restrictions on the use and distribution of these drugs. One example of a Schedule II drug is morphine.
- Schedule III: Drugs in this group present a lesser risk of abuse but still have some dangerous potential. Many medications fall into Schedule III, including certain steroids.
- Schedule IV: These chemicals have accepted medical uses and low potential for abuse. Some medications listed as Schedule IV carry a small risk of dependency. One example is diazepam.
- Schedule V: These drugs are the least likely to create abuse risks and are often serve as medication.
The Schedule that a drug falls into is only one factor that will influence a sentence and other consequences. Distribution of a drug and other aggravating factors will also increase potential penalties.
One of the first issues related to drug possession is whether you have actual possession, meaning you are carrying the substance on your person or constructive possession. To prove constructive possession, prosecutors will need to demonstrate that you had control over the drug and knew about the presence of that substance. If someone else left drugs in your house during a party and did not know the drugs were there, you would not have constructive possession.
The penalty for possession of a drug will vary depending on the type of substance and other factors. A small amount of marijuana is likely a misdemeanor with no more than one year of jail or probation and define. However, even in those cases, you might face difficulty obtaining specific jobs, losing your driver's license, and losing eligibility for certain government funding, such as financial aid for tuition.
Distributing, Trafficking, and Conspiracy
There are many different types of drug crimes in Florida. Simple possession is the least severe drug-related charge you might face.
Possession with the intent to distribute is a more severe crime. Florida law and federal law both deemed this a felony. To prove possession with the intent to distribute, prosecutors must demonstrate that:
- You were aware of the substance
- The law defines the substance as controlled
- You possessed the substance
- You intended to manufacture, deliver, or sell the substance
If police find large sums of money on your property, baggies, testing kits, scales, rolling papers, or other paraphernalia associated with the drug trade and other evidence, you might face these charges.
Drug trafficking includes the purposeful sale, manufacture, purchase, delivery, possession, or transportation into Florida. To qualify, you would need to bring a certain amount of the substance. The amount of a drug that will qualify for drug trafficking charge varies depending on the substance involved.
A criminal conspiracy involves more than one person coming together and agreeing to commit a crime. Prosecutors use conspiracy charges to penalize people for plotting to engage in illegal conduct. To convict a person of criminal conspiracy to sell drugs, the prosecutors would need evidence that two or more individuals agreed to carry out a drug-related crime, such as selling a controlled substance. In many cases, conspiracy is a felony.
Florida has strict laws when it comes to drugs. However, many individuals who commit drug-related offenses are addicted to these substances, ever acquire treatment rather than punishment. The legal system is slowly changing to acknowledge the need for more lenient sentencing terms for individuals who commit nonviolent drug-related offenses. It may be possible to seek an alternative sentence and avoid prison time and other severe penalties in some instances.
Some examples of alternate sentencing programs include:
- Drug Court
- Drug Counseling
- Substance Abuse Courses
- Drug Treatment Programs
- Community Service
Only certain individuals will qualify for these programs. If you're facing drug-related charges, you should consult with your lawyer about whether pursuing one of these programs might be beneficial in your case.
Penalties for Drug-Related Crimes in Florida
The penalties for drug-related crimes can range from probation and counseling to decades behind bars. Most Schedule IV and V drugs will lead to misdemeanor charges. If you're facing charges for trafficking in Schedule I drugs, you could face a first or second-degree felony, which will mean anywhere from fifteen to 30 years in prison.
Individuals who sell drugs near schools, churches, parks, who commit their sales as part of their involvement with the gang, and those who have criminal histories, may face even harsher penalties.
Defending Against Drug Charges in Florida
Your attorney will need to carefully review the facts of your case to decide the best way to defend you. If the evidence is weak, your lawyer may seek a voluntary dismissal based on the prosecutor's lack of incriminating evidence.
Other times, your lawyer may review the circumstances of your search, seizure, or arrest and determine whether the police violated your rights. If the search that led to your arrest violated the law, your attorney might seek to remove that evidence through a motion to suppress. It might be the case, but the state will no longer have enough evidence to convict you and will dismiss your case.
Your lawyer may also find that your best option is to seek a plea deal and accept lesser consequences rather than risking a more severe sentence. You will want to discuss each option with your lawyer.
Find a Florida Drug Crimes Lawyer
If you were facing drug-related charges, contact a dedicated lawyer to discuss your case. Never wait to seek legal counsel as you may forfeit certain rights or damage your defense case. Get your case started by calling Musca Law at (888) 484-5057 today!