Drug crimes are among the most common types of criminal cases in Florida. While arrests are falling in Florida as a whole, arrests, convictions and prison sentences for drug crimes are up and expected to increase over the next decade. Often, charges related to drug possession, distribution and trafficking are fought relentlessly by prosecutors and an aggressive defense is needed to beat the case against you. If you are facing a drug offense, My.Attorney has free evaluations for all criminal cases. Our criminal defense attorneys have been defending clients in Florida for over 25 years and have a proven track record of winning cases by getting charges reduced or dropped entirely. We are aggressive and tough and dedicated to protecting your rights. Contact our office today to get a powerful legal team on your side.
Background on Drug Crimes
The first thing to understand about the drug charge you are facing is that the charge itself, the level of the charge (felony/misdemeanor), and also the possible penalty for the charge varies by:
- The type of substance
- The amount in your possession
Each illegal substance is classified within a Schedule. The Schedule the drug is in will determine how much of it must be possessed to reach higher levels of punishment. A small amount of a Schedule I drug will lead to stiffer penalties than a higher quantity of Schedule III drug, for instance.
The most typical charge is a simple possession charge. However, possession of more than a small amount may result in charges for intent to sell, even if your intent was to consume those drugs yourself and not sell or share them with anyone. You should also be aware that possession of other items with the illegal substance, such as paraphernalia or a gun, may lead to additional charges and harsher penalties. If this is your second or higher offense, you may not be eligible for certain programs or sentencing options.
Schedules follow federal law and each drug is grouped according to the medical uses for the drug and possibilities for abuse. But, while that is the general intent of the law, many drugs are classified in odd ways that lead to unfair sentences and harsh penalties not grounded in science.
Schedule I drugs are considered to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse and include heroin, LSD, ecstasy/MDMA, peyote, and marijuana.
Schedule II drugs have some recognized medical use but a high potential for abuse. These include cocaine, fentanyl, methamphetamines, and oxycodone.
Schedule III drugs have some medical use and low potential for abuse and include ketamine, testosterone, and anabolic steroids.
Schedule IV and V drugs generally have a number of medical uses and low potential for abuse like Valium and Xanax.
Proving Drug Crimes
In every drug case, the state must prove several things. If they cannot prove any one of these things (called elements), no jury can convict you of a drug crime. It is essential that you discuss these elements in depth with your attorney before deciding how to handle your case.
First, the state has to prove the illegal nature of the controlled substance. The prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance is an illegal substance. There must be a scientific test showing what the substance is. It is not enough that it look, smell, or taste like an illegal drug. This element generally requires scientific analysis by a crime lab.
Second, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knew that the substance was illegal. If you did not know that the drugs were there or that they were illegal drugs, the prosecution cannot sustain a conviction. They must establish that you had knowledge of the nature or presence of the substance. Just being in a car, but not knowing there were drugs in the car, is not enough to guilty of a crime.
Finally, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the person charged with the drug crime had control over the location and presence of the controlled substance. A prosecutor likely has a more straightforward case if the defendant had the drugs on the defendant’s body or in a container held by the defendant. But if the drugs were located in another location, not on your body, they must prove that you had access to the drugs and could exercise control over the substance.
This is why getting an attorney involved in your case, as early as possible, can lead to great results. Forcing the state to prove every element of their case is essential and drug cases present unique challenges to the state. In some cases, the prosecution overlooks these necessary elements and when they do, a jury cannot convict.
The other important fact about drug cases is that possessing more quantities of drugs can change the type of charges you are facing. Florida has charges for possession for low quantities of drugs. But if you possess greater amounts of the same drugs, you may be charged with distribution of drugs, or even worse, drug-trafficking. The penalties for each is much higher than the last. You should also know that, while supporting evidence of sale or trafficking is helpful (ledgers, scales, etc.) it is not necessary for you to possess this paraphernalia in order to be convicted of the more serious offenses.
Contact Our Florida Drug Crimes Attorney Today
If you find yourself facing a drug charge, you need to obtain the best possible legal counsel to defend your case. The most serious charges can carry up to 30 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Even less serious charges carry mandatory minimums that must be imposed in every case.
My.Attorney has been defending against Florida drug charges for over 25 years. We have the experience and dedication to handle your potentially life-altering charges. If you are facing drug charges in Florida, please contact our office to obtain a free consultation. You can almost guarantee that the prosecutor will be seeking the absolute maximum penalty in your case. You will need the best possible defense you can get. My.Attorney can help; download the My.Attorney app or call today!