Crack cocaine, or crack, is a free base form of cocaine that is highly addictive. While chemically similar to cocaine, crack has a different formulation and results in a different effect or “high.” Many states have stiffer penalties for crack possession than for cocaine. However, Florida does not differentiate between the two substances; the courts treat powder cocaine and crack the same when it comes to charges and penalties.
If you have been charged with possession, sale, or trafficking of crack or cocaine in St. Petersburg, your freedom and future are at stake. Call a criminal defense lawyer at Goldman Wetzel to discuss your case and possible defenses: 727-828-3900.
How does Florida law classify crack cocaine?
Florida maintains a schedule that classifies controlled substances according to their potential for abuse and user dependence. Schedule I drugs are the most addictive and have the highest penalties, while Schedule V drugs are the least addictive and have the lowest penalties.
Florida classifies cocaine, and any derivative of cocaine such as crack, as a Schedule II drug under Florida Statutes § 893.03.
What are the penalties for possession of crack cocaine in Florida?
Possession of crack is a serious offense in Florida. If officers find you with less than 28 grams of the substance, you may face second-degree felony charges, which includes the following penalties:
- 15 years in prison; and/or
- $10,000 fine
The courts may also mandate drug counseling or substance abuse classes, and perhaps include additional penalties such as probation and community service. If you were caught selling crack within 1,000 feet of a school or park, you may face upgraded first-degree felony charges, which increases the penalties to up to 30 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
Note: If you were charged with possession of a small amount of crack and it is your first offense, you may be eligible for a diversion program in lieu of prison. We can help you explore and fight for these options.
What are the penalties for crack cocaine trafficking in Florida?
If officers find you with 28 grams or more of crack, the offense is trafficking and automatically escalates to a first-degree felony. First-degree felonies typically mean up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. However, with crack cocaine trafficking, the statutes mandate a minimum prison sentence and enforce much higher fines.
Pursuant to Florida Statute § 893.135, the penalties you face depend on the amount in your possession:
- At least 28 grams, but less than 200 grams: Mandatory minimum: three years. Fine: $50,000.
- At least 200 grams, but less than 400 grams: Mandatory minimum: seven years. Fine: $10,000.
- At least 400 grams, but less than 150 kilos: Mandatory minimum: 15 years. Fine: $250,000.
- 150 kilos or more: Life imprisonment and no option for early release
Do federal crack cocaine charges result in the same penalties?
The federal government may impose harsher penalties than Florida. Like Florida, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies cocaine and cocaine mixtures like crack as Schedule II drugs.
In 2010, the federal government passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which increased the amount of crack necessary for a mandatory minimum sentence while increasing the fines for all trafficking offenses. Where it once took only five grams of crack cocaine to trigger a five-year minimum sentence, it now takes 28 grams.
If your case is tried in a federal court, the following guidelines will apply:
- 28 to 279 grams – First offense: A minimum sentence of five years and up to 40 years. If death or serious bodily injury was involved, the sentence is 20 years to life. Fine: Up to $5 million if an individual/$25 million if not an individual. Second offense: A sentence of 10 years (minimum) to life. If death or serious bodily injury were involved: life imprisonment. Fine: $8 million if an individual/$50 million if not an individual.
- 280 grams or more – First offense: A sentence of 10 years (minimum) to life. If death or serious bodily injury were involved: 20 years to life. Fine: $10 million if an individual/$50 million if not an individual. Second offense: A sentence of 20 years to life. If death or serious bodily injury were involved: life imprisonment. Fine: $20 million if an individual/$75 million if not an individual.
Are there any possible defenses I can use?
Yes, but the defense we use depends on your specific case. We might be able to defend against charges by proving that you did not know the crack was in your possession (i.e., a friend left it in your car), you did not know what it was, or that it was not yours (i.e., the drugs belong to your roommate).
Does Goldman Wetzel accept crack cocaine cases in St. Petersburg?
If you have been arrested for a drug crime, call our office for a free consultation with one of our drug crime defense attorneys in St. Petersburg: 727-828-3900. We can explain the criminal process, possible defenses, and how to approach your case for the best possible outcome.