Florida’s drug laws are among the strictest in the country, and any charge of possession needs to be taken very seriously. Possessing even a small amount of some drugs can lead to significant penalties – including fines and suspension of driving privileges. Additionally, however, the severity of the defendant’s sentence can increase, based principally on two factors.
The first consideration is “quality” – what type of drug was involved? Under Florida law, certain “controlled substances” are considered more dangerous than others. Florida’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act establishes various drug crimes and their respective penalties. The Act contains a schedule of controlled or illegal substances:
Schedule I drugs are those considered either highly dangerous or very potent, and which have no legitimate medical use. These include heroin, ecstasy, mescaline and – unlike in states in which medical marijuana is legal – cannabis.
Schedule II drugs are drugs that are highly addictive but also have medical uses. Examples include codeine and morphine. Although these drugs may be legally prescribed for pain or other conditions, they are tightly controlled due to their potential for addiction and harm.
Schedule III drugs have valid medical uses and, while less, still have potential for abuse or harm. A common example is anabolic steroids.
Schedule IV drugs are those with a legitimate medical use and a relatively low potential for abuse or addiction. Certain anti-anxiety medications are in this class.
The second factor is quantity. The law deals much more severely with those who appear to be selling or distributing drugs than it does those who only buy and use them. The difference can be dramatic. “Simple possession” is typically the charge when the defendant didn’t manufacture the illegal substance, nor did she or he intend to distribute or sell it to others. Simple possession of most controlled substances may be charged as a third degree felony, sometimes even as a misdemeanor.
The increase in potential sentences for defendants holding larger quantities can be dramatic. For example, the maximum penalty for possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana is up to 1 year in jail and a two-year driver’s license suspension, and there is no mandatory minimum penalty. By contrast, a conviction of possession of between 25 and 1000 pounds of marijuana carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in jail and a $25,000 fine.
If you have been charged in South Florida with possessing even a small amount of a controlled substance, don’t take it lightly. An experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer will help you understand the possible consequences of a conviction and explore possible options for defending yourself. Perhaps you were arrested in possession of prescription painkillers. You cannot ordinarily be charged with possession if you can produce a valid prescription from a licensed medical professional.
Or, depending upon the facts, you may be able to successfully challenge the way in which the search of your person or home was conducted. If so, the “fruits” of the search (that is, the drugs) can’t be used as evidence, effectively ending the case against you. Other alternatives can include a negotiated guilty plea in exchange for a reduced or suspended sentence or alternative disposition, such as mandatory completion of a drug treatment program.
The criminal defense lawyers at Orner Law, LLC have many years of combined experience in representing individuals in drug possession cases. We have offices conveniently located in Boca Raton, and Fort Lauderdale. Call us today at (561) 347-1336 for a free initial consultation.