Heroin charges can range from a third-degree felony to a first-degree capital felony in the most extreme cases. Charges largely depend on the amount in your possession, whether you were distributing or trafficking drugs (and where you were doing so), and the presence of any additional circumstances.
Read on to learn more about heroin possession and trafficking laws in Florida. And if you are facing charges already, call a drug charge defense lawyer in St. Petersburg from Goldman Wetzel: 727-828-3900.
How does Florida law classify heroin?
Both federal and state law groups controlled substances into five categories, commonly referred to as schedules. These schedules are based on each substance’s currently accepted medical uses, potential for abuse, and likelihood of physical and psychological dependency. Schedule I substances are the most dangerous and Schedule V the least.
Where does heroin fall on the schedule? Florida’s controlled substance schedule, found in Florida Statute § 893.03, lists heroin as a Schedule I substance. This means that heroin has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Further, there is a high probability of both physical and psychological dependence for heroin users. Because of its Schedule I classification, you face the most severe consequences if charged with a heroin-related offense.
What are the penalties for heroin possession?
If law enforcement officers find a small amount of heroin on your person and believe it is solely for your own personal use, you will likely face simple heroin possession charges.
Pursuant to Florida Statute § 893.13(6)(a), if law enforcement officers find you in possession of less than four grams of heroin, you may face third-degree felony charges, which carry a potential five-year prison term and a $5,000 fine.
What are the penalties for sale of heroin?
While heroin possession penalties are no laughing matter, if law enforcement officers find evidence that you intended to distribute the heroin, the penalties are considerably harsher. This evidence does not need to be extensive; it could simply be that you have a large quantity of heroin or had divided it into smaller quantities. In many cases, this particular charge comes after the defendant sells heroin to an undercover officer.
As with any controlled substance, the amount you possess often indicates the charges you face. If officers find you in possession of less than four grams and saw you selling it (or believe you intended to sell it), you may face second-degree felony charges, which carry penalties of up to 15 years of imprisonment and/or fines of up to $10,000. [Florida Statute §893.13(1)(a)]
If officers charge you with distributing within 1,000 a school, child care facility, public housing facility, park, community center, or publicly owned recreational facility, you will likely face escalated charges.
What are the penalties for heroin trafficking?
According to Florida Statute § 893.135(1)(c), “Any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of 4 grams or more of … heroin … commits a felony in the first degree, which felony shall be known as ‘trafficking in illegal drugs.’”
The penalties for this offense vary by the amount of heroin involved:
- Four grams or more, but less than 14 grams: You face a mandatory minimum imprisonment of three years and a $50,000 fine.
- 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams: This charge brings a minimum mandatory prison term of 15 years and a $100,000 fine.
- 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms: Penalties include a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 25 years and a $500,000 fine.
- 30 kilograms or more: You face life in prison with no eligibility for early release.
In addition to the penalties described above, your charge will escalate to a capital felony (i.e., death penalty or life imprisonment, maximum fine allowable), if officers can prove that any of the following are true:
- You intentionally killed someone/had someone kill someone.
- Committing the act led to “a natural, though not inevitable, lethal result”
- Officers found you in possession of 60 kilograms or more of heroin.
What are possible defenses against heroin charges?
Goldman Wetzel will review your case and all of its circumstances to identify possible defenses and fight the drug charges. Several defenses may be relevant to you, including:
- Challenging how law enforcement officers obtained the evidence: If officers found the drugs as the result of an unlawful search and seizure or there was a lack of probable cause, we may be able to get the evidence thrown out.
- Duress or coercion: We may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed if someone forced you to carry the drugs by threat of serious injury or death.
- Chain of custody problems: If officers lost or temporarily misplaced any evidence, we may call the reliability of the evidence into question and potentially invalidate it.
Every case is unique and other defenses may be applicable. So be sure to contact an attorney at Goldman Wetzel to review your case. For a free consultation, contact us today at 727-828-3900.