Florida has a very low tolerance for drug-related crimes. Thus, facing a drug possession conviction might carry severe fines, imprisonment and even the loss of some civil liberties. Given the impact that these charges can have on your life, it is important to understand what drug possession is in Florida.
In Florida, drug possession is the offense of illegally and knowingly holding or possessing a controlled substance. Simple possession implies that the drug was meant for personal use without the intent to sell. The charges for this offense can range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a first-degree felony.
If you have been charged with a drug possession crime in Florida, you need to understand what your charges mean, the possible penalties that you could face as well as some defenses that your drug attorney might use.
What is a Drug Possession Charge in Florida?
As its name suggests, in Florida, drug possession implies that a person is believed to be in possession of an illegal substance. A person can also be charged with drug possession if she or he is found holding a controlled substance without a valid prescription.
Usually, a simple charge for possession implies that the controlled substance found was meant for the defendant’s personal use. When it comes to possession of drugs, there are two concepts that you should keep in mind:
- Active possession: the defendant was in physical possession of the drugs, meaning that the substance was found in your pocket, bag, or hand.
- Constructive possession: the defendant did not have physical possession of the drugs, but knew about the drugs and had control over that location. For example, your car, your house, etc.
In Florida, the penalties for this offense depend on different factors such as the type and amount of drug, and the defendant’s previous convictions. If you or a loved are facing charges, you might want to retain a lawyer. Speak to our drug crime attorneys in Pinellas County to learn more about your charges.
What is drug possession with intent to distribute?
In Florida, a simple drug possession offense can be charged as drug possession with the intent to deliver if the defendant had the intention to deliver, sell or transfer the drugs to another person. Depending on the type of drug involved, the defendant might face a misdemeanor or a felony charge.
Intent is what sets apart a simple drug possession charge for possession with intent to distribute. In this case, ‘distribute’ means that the defendant planned to sell or hand over the controlled substance to another person. In fact, having a substantial amount of drugs might be enough to face a charge for possession with intent to deliver since such an amount will not likely be for personal use.
Under Florida law, depending on the type of drug involved, a person accused of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver can face charges that range from a first-degree misdemeanor to a felony in the first-degree.
The defendant might face an enhanced sentence if he or she was arrested within 1,000 feet of a school, any child care facility, community center, recreational facility or state, county, or municipal park.
Related Resource: Drug Trafficking in Florida
Federal possession with the intent to distribute
In both state and federal law, holding a controlled substance without a prescription is illegal. As a result, if a person is accused of drug possession with intent to deliver, he or she might face federal charges.
Overall, a federal crime carries more severe penalties than Florida. Usually, at the federal level, this type of offense is charged as a felony which can result in longer jail sentences among other punishments.
A person can be charged with a federal crime if he or she broke a federal law or committed a crime in a U.S. military base, federal property, or federal waters under U.S. protection.
Penalties for Drug Possession in Florida
In Florida, the penalties for a drug possession offense vary and depend on different factors such as the type and amount of controlled substance involved, and the defendant’s previous offenses. A drug possession offense can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, but it can escalate to a first-degree felony.
A simple drug possession charge implies that the drug found was for the alleged offender’s personal use. But if the amount of controlled substance is more substantial, you might face harsher penalties.
Here are some penalties associated with drug possession offenses:
|Type of controlled substance||Charge||Maximum imprisonment||Maximum fine|
|Less than 20 gr of marijuana||1st degree misdemeanor||1 year||$1,000|
|Schedule V drugs (i.e. codeine-based cough syrups, Lomotil, Parepectolin)||1st degree misdemeanor||1 year||$1,000|
|Schedule IV & III drugs (i.e. Xanax, Valium, anabolic steroids)||3d degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Less than 4 gr of heroin||3d degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|20 gr or more of marijuana||3d degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Possession of cannabis with intent to deliver||3d degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Less than 28 gr of cocaine||3d degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Less than 14 gr of meth||3d degree felony||5 years||$5,000|
|Possession of cocaine with intent to deliver||2d degree felony||15 years||$10,000|
|+10 gr of heroin||1st degree felony||30 years||$10,000|
In addition to these penalties, being convicted for drug possession can also affect some of your civil rights such as losing your right to vote, your driver’s license and being prohibited from owning a firearm.
Related Resource: Florida Schedule of Drugs
What is the penalty for possession of drug paraphernalia in Florida?
According to the DEA, drug paraphernalia is any equipment, product, or tool whose purpose is to be used for the production, consumption, compounding, processing, or manufacture of a controlled substance. Some examples include pipes, carburetion devices, smoking masks, hashish heads, and chillums.
In Florida, a charge for possession of drug paraphernalia is classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. Thus, the penalties for this offense include up to 1 year imprisonment or probation, and a maximum fine of $1,000.
Federal penalties for drug possession with intent to distribute
At the federal level, sentencing is slightly more complex since the judge has to take into account different factors. As a result, the penalties for federal crimes are not as straightforward as Florida’s penalties.
Below there are some federal penalties for possession with intent to distribute. These sentencings are based on frequently used federal drug statutes. Beware that this is general information and that a sentence varies depending on each case. For specific information about your case, you should retain a drug attorney in Pinellas County.
5 year mandatory minimum and maximum 40 years:
- 5 grams or more of actual meth
- 1 gram or more of LSD
- 500 grams or more of cocaine
- 50 grams or more of a mixture containing meth
- 10 grams or more of PCP
- 40 grams or more of fentanyl
- 100 grams or more of heroin
- 100 kilograms or more of marijuana / 100 or more plants
10 year mandatory minimum and maximum life
- 50 grams or more of actual meth
- 10 grams or more of LSD
- 5 kilograms or more of cocaine
- 500 grams or more of a mixture containing meth
- 100 grams or more of PCP
- 400 grams or more of fentanyl
- 1 kilogram or more of heroin
- 1000 kilograms or more of marijuana / 1000 or more plants
If the defendant has a previous felony drug conviction or is a career offender, penalties can increase. If you are facing federal charges for a drug-related offense, you should enlist the help of an experienced criminal attorney.
How to Beat a Drug Possession Charge in Florida?
Drug-related crimes are taken very seriously in Florida. Nevertheless, an experienced criminal attorney can use different defenses to beat a drug possession charge. Some of the strategies that the lawyers at Goldman Wetzel use may include:
- Lack of knowledge: in drug possession offenses the prosecutor needs to prove that the defendant not only owned the drugs, but he or she also knew about them. For example, if a friend left drugs in your car, but you did not know, your attorney might be able to get your charges dismissed.
- Violation of your rights: if law enforcement violated your rights while looking for a controlled substance, the evidence against you may no longer be admissible in court. Some situations where your rights could have been violated include an illegal arrest and searching without probable cause or permission.
- Lack of control over the drugs: your drug lawyer may be able to gather evidence that proves that you did not have access or control over the drugs. If the prosecutor cannot prove that you were in possession or have control over the location where the drugs were found, your charges may be dropped.
Contact a Drug Possession Lawyer in Pinellas County
A drug possession offense in Florida can result in different penalties that can affect your life and your freedom. Since these crimes are taken very seriously, you may want to retain the help of a drug crime lawyer.
Goldman Wetzel is a criminal defense law firm that represents clients facing charges for drug-related crimes in Pinellas County, Tampa, Bradenton, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Hillsborough County and surrounding areas.
If you or a loved one has been charged with drug possession, contact our criminal attorneys. Schedule a free no-obligation consultation with our attorneys by sending us a message via our contact form or call us at 727-828-3900.