If you or a loved one has been accused of or arrested for a state or federal drug (or narcotics) crime, it should be taken very seriously. It doesn’t matter if you’re a drug addict, a recreational drug user, drug/chemical dependent, a juvenile or a first time offender – in the eyes of the law you will face the same legal issues and penalties. Having effective legal counsel to guide you through the process from the beginning will have a definite impact on the outcome of your drug case.
Drug and Narcotics Offenses in Florida
In addition to federal drug laws, each state has its own statutes concerning illegal narcotics and other “controlled dangerous substances” (CDS). A CDS can include any prescription medication, medication without a prescription, pills, so-called “street drugs,” chemicals, natural substances and man-made substances. In Florida, being found guilty of a drug offense can have very serious consequences, including fines, prison time, driver’s license suspension, and/or the inability to pursue certain professions.
Florida Statute, Chapter 893, the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, outlines the types of drugs which are prohibited, the types of activities which are unlawful, and the penalties imposed for convicted offenders. In addition, Florida Statute Chapter 775, stipulates the minimum sentences for each degree of drug offense.
- A Misdemeanor of the Second Degree drug offense can result in a jail sentence up to 60 days and/or a fine up to $500.
- A Misdemeanor of the First Degree drug offense can lead to a jail sentence up to one year and/or a fine not greater than $1,000.
- A Felony of the Third Degree drug offense can result in a prison sentence not more than five years and/or a fine not exceeding $5,000.
- A Felony of the Second Degree drug offense can lead a prison sentence not greater than 15 years and/or a fine not more than $10,000;
- A Felony of the First Degree drug offense can result in a prison sentence up to 30 years and/or a fine up to $10,000.
- A Life Felony drug offense can result in imprisonment up to 30 years or not more than life imprisonment and/or a fine up to $15,000.
Penalties for specific drug offenses can increase if the offender’s crime involves the death or injury of another person, or if he or she is a habitual felony offender, or a violent career criminal. Penalties can also increase if an individual commits a drug offense near a school, a child care center, a public housing or assisted living facility, a public park or community center, a college or university, or a place of worship. Finally, many offenses can also be prosecuted as federal crimes, which often incur even more severe penalties. For example, the federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000, gives government the right to seize one’s assets and property in connection with certain narcotics offenses.
Florida Drug Offenses
Specifically, Florida drug offenses include:
- Drug Cultivation or Manufacturing – Unlike states which have legalized either medical or recreational marijuana, cultivation of cannabis in Florida is still a crime.
- Drug Possession – A state prosecutor must prove that the CDS is one that is defined under Florida law by a scientific analysis; that the defendant knew that the drug was illicit; and that the defendant either had the CDS in his or her physical custody (actual possession), or had control over its location (constructive possession).
- Drug Distribution or Sales – A state prosecutor must prove that a defendant intended to sell or distribute a CDS. This offense is punishable as a felony or misdemeanor offense depending on the type of CDS possessed, where the substance was intended to be sold, and if the substance was possessed with the intent to be sold to, or in front of, a person under the age of 16.
- Drug Importation – This offense is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the type of CDS imported, the amount of the CDS, and where the substance was imported from.
- Drug Manufacturing – A state prosecutor must prove that a defendant was involved in any step of the CDS production process, which may also include the sale of chemicals and/or equipment used. Certain drug manufacturing offenses can lead to mandatory minimum prison terms.
- Drug Manufacturing Equipment Possession or Sales
- Drug Paraphernalia Possession or Sales
- Intent to Distribute
- Possession with Intent to Distribute
- Possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy
- Prescription drugs, anti-anxiety drugs
- Sale of or intent to sell an illegal substance
- Money laundering
Florida Drug Classification
Florida law classifies CDSs according to the following schedule:
- Schedule I substances are associated with a high likelihood for abuse and no known medical purpose. Some examples are heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines.
- Schedule II substances are associated with a high likelihood for abuse, but have common medical applications in the United States. Common examples are opiates, such as codeine and morphine.
- Schedule III substances are associated with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule I or II substances and are commonly used for medical reasons in the United States. Examples include anabolic steroids and testosterone.
- Schedule IV substances are associated with a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III substances and have common medical applications in the United States. An example is diazepam.
- Schedule V substances are associated with the least potential for abuse and are commonly used for medical purposes in the United States.
Typically in Florida, the schedule a certain substance falls into will determine the degree of drug offense an individual is charged with. Also, the amount of a controlled substance involved in a drug offense can alter its schedule classification and also its potential penalties. For example, unless a user has a valid prescription, codeine is a Schedule II drug. However, if no more than 1.8 grams of it is mixed with another active ingredient which is not a CDS, it is a Schedule III drug. Possession of heroin is considered a third degree felony, but possession of over four grams of heroin is considered trafficking and is a first degree felony.
Florida Drug Court
In 1989, Florida instituted the country’s first drug court in Miami-Dade County. Currently, Florida has 102 operating drug courts. Drug courts allow certain drug offenders – those who are non-violent and do not have any prior criminal history – to avoid a prison sentence by participating in a drug court program. Participants are generally required to receive substance abuse evaluation and treatment, perform some sort of community service, and agree to judicial monitoring for a minimum of one year. Those who successfully complete a program can have their drug charges dismissed.
Potential Punishments for Narcotic and Drug Crimes
In 1970, the Federal government passed the Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, creating a uniform federal drug law. Narcotic and drug possession charges are very common in state court. The possession (control over) of any scheduled drug (drug type/classification) without a prescription will qualify you for a felony charge in most jurisdictions. The amount of the drug in your possession will determine how the case is charged and whether the case will be a felony or a misdemeanor. Penalties for drug convictions are severe and can range from prison or probation to community service and/or heavy fines.
Three Reasons to Turn to Dimond Kaplan & Rothstein, P.A. for Defense Against Drug Charges
- Michelle Suskauer is a former Public Defenders in Palm Beach County’s Fifteenth Judicial Circuit. She is respected by and well-acquainted with the individual prosecutors and judges who handle these cases.
- We have litigated thousands of state and federal criminal defense cases and we have the knowledge and experience with U.S. and Florida drug crime laws to develop the best possible strategy for your case.
- Michelle has over 25 years of combined experience serving clients throughout Palm Beach County and South Florida.
If you are charged with a drug offense, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Drug law defense is a highly technical area of law and a skilled attorney will be able to help determine whether or not the charges against you are valid. For example, a knowledgeable lawyer can make sure that any drug arrest is in accordance with the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against unlawful search and seizure, that any seized substance is, in fact, an illicit drug, and/or that you weren’t the victim of police entrapment or drugs planted by someone else.
Florida drug laws are strict and the state prosecutes drug crimes vigorously. We have broad experience in dealing with drug-related offenses, and stand ready to help you by reviewing the evidence and circumstances of your case, and devising the best defense strategy for your day in court.
If you have questions regarding drug or narcotic charges and would like to speak to a criminal defense attorney, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation so we can review your case. We are happy to meet or speak with you anytime.
Our legal team is experienced, aggressive, compassionate, and will fight for your rights!