Understanding A Possession Charge In Florida

July 23, 2019

If you are facing a drug possession charge in the state of Florida, chances are you are well aware of the serious trouble you could be in. Although Florida has one of the lowest rates of drug sentencing for offenders, it does not mean the courts will not bring the hammer down on you. 

Each state has its own guidelines on penalties for drug possession charges. In comparison, Florida is considered as being far harsher than other states. Despite moves from Florida legislature to soften the laws relating to drug offenders, nothing has been done.

If you are facing a drug possession charge, it is imperative that you understand the laws surrounding drug possession in Florida. We will help you form a better understanding and discuss Florida laws, as well as what to expect following a charge for drug possession, and what you can do to help your case.

What Constitutes Possession In Florida?

A person is usually charged with drug possession when they did not distribute, sell, or manufacture the substance. Individuals who engage in any of these activities would be charged with trafficking. Instead, possession merely indicates that an individual likely held the controlled substance for their own personal use.

Under Florida law, drug possession could be considered a felony offense. In Florida, medical marijuana is not considered a controlled substance, but it the list of controlled substances does include bath salts and spice, which were recently added. Individuals can still be charged with a misdemeanor in the first-degree for possession of cannabis in any amount less than 20-grams.

Depending on what evidence a person has at the time of their arrest, they may still be charged with possession with intent to sell. If sufficient evidence is found on the person, the penalties for possession charges can increase significantly.

The prosecutor will need to prove that the defendant had knowledge of and was in control of the controlled substance for a possession charge to stick. Proving possession can be quite difficult simply because of the frequency in which drugs are found in homes and vehicles.

Fortunately, there is also a major difference between actual possession and constructive possession in Florida. Actual possession is a term applicable to instances where drugs are found physically on the body of the individual. They could be hidden away in crevices or skin folds, hidden in pockets or shoes, or even stowed away in a person’s underwear. On the other hand, constructive possession is a term that is argued in cases where drugs were not physically present on the individual. Instead, the evidence shows that the drugs were in control of the individual being charged. This could mean that the drugs were in their vehicle or their home.

Potential Penalties For Drug Possession In Florida

Floridians charged with drug possession can face a variety of penalties, depending on the type of drug they have as well as the amount. Some drug possession charges can be a felony in nature where others are misdemeanors in various degrees.

Individuals who are charged with less than twenty grams of marijuana face misdemeanor charges for drug possession. Offenders can be sentenced to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. Unfortunately, Florida is one of the few states that have done very little to decriminalize marijuana.

Individuals in possession of heroin, cocaine, or other illegal drugs can be charged with a third-degree felony. Third-degree felony charges often come with more severe penalties than misdemeanor drug possession charges. Individuals convicted of third-degree felony drug possession can face up to five years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines. 

Individuals found in possession of chemicals to make GHB, ecstasy, or methamphetamine can be charged with a second-degree felony, which results in penalties up to fifteen years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.

In some instances, individuals can be charged with felony possession of the first-degree. These offenses often come with some of the most serious penalties. These charges are reserved for individuals in possession of Schedule One drugs, including heroin, when amounts are more than ten grams. Individuals caught with a Schedule One drug could face up to thirty years in prison.

In addition to jail and fines, individuals charged with drug possession face suspension of their driver’s licenses and probation. Not only does a drug possession charge have a major impact on your criminal record, but it can make you ineligible for certain jobs, financial aid for school, and some housing. Individuals who have previous drug charges at the time of their arrest face far more serious penalties for subsequent arrests. Individuals who are charged with drug possession should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. 

What To Do If You Are Charged With Drug Possession

Individuals who are charged with drug offenses should take their Miranda rights seriously. Exercising your right to remain silent until you speak to an attorney is imperative. Officers are trained to coerce drug possession suspects into admitting to wrongdoing and whatever they say can be used against them as evidence. It is always better to remain silent instead of trying to talk your way out of an arrest.

Individuals facing misdemeanor possession charges may be able to attend a pretrial intervention program in lieu of a criminal conviction. These programs require offenders to accomplish certain requirements within a specified period after which charges can be dropped. These programs are usually only an option for first-time offenders. Anyone charged with a subsequent offense, or a felony, should consult a lawyer as soon as possible. There may be evidence of unlawful search or seizure by police that can result in your charges being dismissed. Hiring an experienced legal defense attorney will ensure you obtain the best possible outcome.

Florida Criminal Offense Attorneys At Musca Law Can Help

If you are being charged with a drug possession offense, it is imperative to contact Musca Law at (888) 484-5057 as soon as possible. With over 150 years of combined experience, our attorneys work diligently to protect clients’ legal rights in the criminal justice system. We are available by phone 24-hours a day, or you can visit our website to chat or schedule a free consultation at your convenience.