Drug Crimes in Florida – Sarasota Criminal Defense
Thousands of drugs types are manufactured every year. There is a good chance that if a doctor needs to prescribe it, Florida has a law making it illegal to possess it without a prescription. All recreational drugs like cocaine, cannabis (marijuana), MDMA (ecstasy), LSD (acid), and K-2, are illegal in Florida. Depending on the total weight of the drug, persons charged with these crimes face penalties up to life in prison and $500,000 fines!
How do I know if a drug is controlled?
Florida has classified controlled substances into schedules. There are a total of five schedules. Schedules are broken down by their medical necessity or use. So, according to Florida Law, Schedule I controlled substances have no medical use versus Category V scheduled substances which are all have a medical use but are commonly abused.
To find out if your drug is a controlled substance, you will first have to look up the chemical name. For example, a doctor gave you a prescription for Valium. If you look up Valium, you will find out that the chemical name is Diazepam. Diazepam is a Schedule IV substance. A complete listing of all the Schedules can be found in § 893.03, Florida Statutes.
What is the difference between Possession, Possession with Intent to Sell or Distribute, Sale, and Trafficking?
Florida has enhanced penalties for drug offenses based on weight, the associated paraphernalia, and other unlisted factors, such as the amount of money a person is carrying with the drug at the time the person is arrested by the police. Every drug is different, so it is vital to have a competent attorney represent you. The maximum term of imprisonment for each crime is:
- The maximum penalty for Possession of a Controlled Substance is five years of incarceration.
- The maximum penalty for Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell or Deliver is fifteen years of incarceration.
- The maximum penalty for Sale of a Controlled Substance is fifteen years of incarceration.
- The maximum penalty for Trafficking in a Controlled Substance is life imprisonment.
Note: Every drug is different!
Did You know?
- Some drug charges carry minimum mandatory penalties as much as life!
- A person charged with Possessing with Intent or Sale near a school, park, church, or a convenience store may face enhanced sanctions and minimum mandatory prison sentences!
- A person charged with possessing methamphetamine with a child under the age of sixteen in their own home can be faced with a minimum mandatory sentence of five years!
- A person convicted of a drug crime can have their driver’s license suspended for two years.
- A person convicted that has a professional license may have their license suspended.
- A person charged with a drug crime may have his or her vehicle and personal property seized by the police!
As you can see, a person charged with a drug charge has many hurdles to overcome. It is important that you do not admit to any drug charge until you have been advised of the potential consequences. Although this may be a scary time for you, you can be assured with the knowledge that I have handled hundreds of drug cases.
What are My Options?
If you have a drug problem, Florida has encouraged the Courts to make use of Drug Courts and Intervention Programs. In fact, if you score less than sixty points on the Florida Guideline Scoresheet, there is a chance that you may qualify for one of these programs. Before admitting to any crime, contact an attorney to advise you on how to determine your eligibility.
If your vehicle or property has been seized, it is critical that you contact an attorney immediately. Forfeiture proceedings usually begin within days of the seizure. At a minimum, the storage fees will increase every day! Even if you don’t own your vehicle outright (you still are making payments), the police may seize your vehicle! Early intervention is the key to minimizing your loss.
Do I have any defenses to the charge?
Yes! Although every circumstance is different, common defenses include:
- Constructive Possession
- Illegal Search and Seizure
- Lack of Knowledge
What is Constructive Possession?
Constructive possession typically refers to drugs found in a place where a specific person has control of the substance, including hiding the substance. So, if a person does not have actual possession (on your person), the State is assuming that you have constructive possession. Sometimes, this is not always the case.
You are the passenger in a vehicle being driven by your friend. The friend picks you up at your apartment to go out for the evening. The police stop your friend for speeding. As it turns out, your friend did not pay some tickets and is arrested for driving with a suspended license. When they ask you to get out of the vehicle to search it prior to towing the car, the police find cocaine in the glove box. The police charge you with Possession of Cocaine. Based on this scenario, the State would have to prove that you had knowledge that the cocaine was in the glove box. This would be very difficult for the State and you have a viable defense.
What is an illegal search and seizure?
Although most people believe a search warrant is needed in order for the police to search a house, vehicle or person, the law gives many exceptions to the warrant requirement. Sometimes, the police fail to get a search warrant when an exception does not apply. If the judge believes that a search was not valid, then the contraband may not be used in court.
You and your friend are walking to the convenience store. Your friend notices that her shoes are untied and hands her purse to you while she ties her shoes. The police stop at the curb and tell you to get against the wall. As it turns out, the police think that your friend is a notorious drug dealer. The police search you and the purse. Inside the purse, your friend has 20 Xanax pills.
Based on this scenario, the State would have to prove that they had probable cause to stop and frisk you. A competent attorney would question the State’s motives for stopping you and the judge could suppress the pills!
What does lack of knowledge mean?
If the drug is not on your person or in something that you have immediate control of, the State must prove that you had knowledge of the controlled substances. Sometimes, even if you have possession, the State must prove that you had knowledge.
Let’s use the previous example. You and your friend are walking to the convenience store. Your friend notices that her shoes are untied and hands her purse to you while she ties her shoes. The police stop at the curb and tell you to get against the wall. As it turns out, the police think that your friend is a notorious drug dealer. The police search you and the purse. Inside the purse, your friend has 20 Xanax pills.
Based on this scenario, even though you had actual possession, the State would have to prove that you knew of the Xanax. If the State could not prove knowledge, then you would be not guilty of possession.
Did you know that Ordinance 62-351 makes it illegal to sell many of the designer drugs that are commonly found on the shelves of gas stations and convenience stores? “Spice” has been linked to the deaths of several people as well as bizarre behavior. In response, Sarasota enacted an ordinance holding shop owners responsible even though the item may not be a controlled substance! These items have wild looking packages and are labeled in such a manner to entice children with names like: Scooby Snacks, OMG, Mr. Happy, King Kong, Vader Vitamins, and Diablo to name a few.
Many owners of gas stations have spent thousands of dollars on these products with the advice of manufacturers that the items are legal. In turn, the manufacturing companies attempt to alter the chemicals in order to stay off the controlled substance list.
If you own such a business that sells these products, contact me immediately in order to receive the proper advice on your rights.
It is important that you have competent representation. I have evaluated hundreds of drug cases, and I will be happy to assist you through this difficult time. Call me, Michael Fayard, Criminal Defense Attorney Sarasota, now at (941) 306-1310.