Drug crimes are some of the most common offenses in Florida. Thousands of people are arrested yearly for possessing, distributing, or manufacturing illegal substances. Any conviction can have terrible repercussions for your future, including time in jail or prison. At The Watson Firm, we have the experience you need to fight back against drug crime charges.
No one should lose their freedom or have a criminal record because they made a minor mistake. Contact us to get started planning a defense. Following is our overview of Florida drug crimes below for some idea of the penalties that go with drug crime charges.
What Are The Drug Schedules?
Florida classifies controlled substances based on how dangerous they are, as well as if they have any medical use. In Florida, there are five categories. Those listed on Schedule 1 have the highest risk for abuse with no medical usefulness. Those listed on Schedule 5 have the lowest potential for abuse or addiction and are accepted for medical use.
Here are some common drugs on each schedule:
- Schedule I: Marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, PCP, LSD
- Schedule II: Cocaine, codeine, opium, methamphetamine, oxycodone
- Schedule III: Testosterone and androsterone
- Schedule IV: Common prescription medications like Valium, Xanax, and Ativan
- Schedule V: Robitussin and Tylenol with codeine
These schedules matter because the penalty for many crimes depends on the substance you possess or distribute.
What Are The Penalties For Drug Possession In Florida?
Although some people think all, or most, drug use should be decriminalized, that's not the law in Florida. Our state aggressively prosecutes people for possession, which can be actual or constructive:
- Actual possession: you have the drugs on your person, such as in a pocket or your hand, or else they are in your backpack, which you are wearing.
- Constructive possession: the drugs are near you or are in a common area you have control over, such as in a safe in your basement or the trunk of your car.
The penalties depend on which schedule the drug appears on:
- Possession of most drugs on Schedule I will bring second-degree felony charges. That means the potential for a maximum of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Possession of some Schedule I drugs could result in first-degree felony charges if you have more than 10 grams. That could result in up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
- Possession of Schedule II, III, and IV drugs can result in third-degree felony charges. This means a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
- Possession of Schedule V drugs will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. You are facing a maximum of one year in jail.
What Are The Penalties For Selling Drugs?
Under Florida law, it is a crime to sell, deliver, manufacture, or possess with an intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver certain controlled substances. Generally, the penalties will depend on the drug you were selling and are similar to those for straight possession.
There are some exceptions to the above. Some Schedule I drugs will be charged as third-degree felonies, and some Schedule II drugs are charged as second-degree felonies. Consult an attorney to find out the precise penalties you may be facing.
How Does The State Prove Possession With Intent To Sell?
It is easy to prove distribution or sale if the police catch you in the act. Maybe you sold to an undercover cop, in which case they will arrest you on the spot. Your intent to sell is evident in that situation.
However, you can also face distribution charges even if you aren't caught in the act. The state will rely on other evidence to prove your intent:
- You possess a large quantity of drugs—too much to consume as an individual.
- You have large amounts of cash around you—indicating that you were paid in cash.
- You have bags or packing materials which are frequently used to distribute drugs.
- The police find scales, papers, and mixing materials commonly used by those who sell.
- You admit to an intent to sell or distribute.
What Is Drug Trafficking In Florida?
Trafficking typically involves distribution on a large scale. It can include cultivation or manufacture as well as sale and distribution. If you are caught trafficking drugs, you face severe penalties, including harsh minimum sentences.
The penalties depend on the controlled substance at issue and the amount.
Penalties are based on the weight or the number of cannabis plants:
- From 25 to 2,000 pounds or 300 to 2,000 plants: three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
- From 2,000 to 10,000 pounds or 2,000 to 10,000 plants: at least seven years in prison and a $50,000 fine
- More than 10,000 pounds or 10,000 plants: at least 15 years in prison and a $200,000 fine
Penalties depend on the weight you were caught trafficking:
- From 28 to 200 grams: at least three years in prison and a $50,000 fine
- From 200 to 400 grams: at least seven years in prison and a $100,000 fine
- From 400 grams to 150 kilos: at least 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine
Didn't Florida Legalize Marijuana?
Not yet. Medical marijuana is legal for some people, but the state has not decriminalized the possession of pot. There are many attempts to legalize marijuana. For example, one initiative in 2023 is to allow adults to grow marijuana plants at their homes. It faces an uphill battle to get passed.
Some cities have decriminalized possession of under 20 grams of marijuana. Instead of being charged with a crime, you will get a citation. However, this is not a state-wide rule.
The Watson Firm stays abreast of all proposed legislation. We strongly encourage everyone coming to Florida on spring break to get acquainted with our state's laws. Know the law in the city where you are staying, too. Although marijuana might be legal in your state, that doesn't mean it's legal here.
Does The Federal Government Prosecute Drug Crimes?
Yes. You could also face federal charges for drug crimes. The federal penalties are different, though the state often needs to prove the same things to get a conviction.
Can You Defend Me From Drug Charges?
Yes. Once we dig into the facts of your case, we can identify which defenses to raise. Let's look at a few we have had success with over the years.
Lack Of Possession
Typically, it's much harder for the state to prove a case of constructive possession. The state needs evidence that you had dominion or control over the drugs, which you might lack. For example, the drugs might have been in your basement, but your roommate is the only one with the key.
Lack Of Knowledge
You might have had no idea that drugs were in the trunk of your car when your friend put them there. You can't be convicted of possession unless you knew of the drugs. We often raise this defense when police find the drugs in a borrowed coat, bag, or toolbox.
Illegal Search Or Seizure
The U.S. Constitution limits the ability of police to search a person or their property. Unless you consent to a search, the police need probable cause to believe you are breaking the law.
Some police simply pop open a trunk or trespass on someone's property based on a hunch. If so, we can typically ask a judge to suppress the evidence, which means the prosecutor can't introduce it in court against you. In most situations, a case will fall apart if we win this type of motion to suppress.
The Constitution also limits how police interrogate witnesses. If you are arrested, the police need to give you some version of Miranda warnings, and they can't use physical force to compel a confession. If they break these rules, we can ask a judge to keep out any incriminating statements you made.
Speak With A Florida Drug Crime Lawyer Today
Getting picked up for drugs is a terrifying experience. We've got your back. Contact The Watson Firm today by calling 850-607-2929 or submitting an online form.