DRUG CRIMES

First and foremost, it has to be said. Florida is a zero-tolerance state when it concerns drugs and illegal controlled substances. There are hundreds of thousands of drug-related crimes prosecuted in Florida each year. These drug crimes can involve many different controlled substances including prescription drugs, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin; as well as synthetic and designer drugs.

The penalties for a drug crime depend on a multitude of factors. The drug itself, the weight of the drug; the geographical location of where the drug is discovered, whether the drug is being sold, purchased, or delivered – all of these things can all influence the maximum penalties. The State of Florida classifies controlled substances into five “schedules,” as found in Florida Statute §893.03. These schedules range from substances found to have a “high potential for abuse” and having “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” to substances which have “low potential for abuse” and “having a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

In addition to criminal penalties, if you are convicted or adjudicated guilty of a drug or controlled substance charge in Florida, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will be ordered to suspend your driving privilege for a period of one year. Even if you were not driving, and even if the drugs were not found in a car, you will still lose your driver’s license for a minimum of one year if you are adjudicated guilty of a drug offense.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, EXPAND THE SECTIONS BELOW.

POSSESSION OF DRUGS

The penalties for possessing drugs in Florida can be far different than the penalties for purchasing, selling, delivering, or trafficking drugs. In order to be convicted of possession of a controlled substance, the State must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • You possessed a controlled substance.
  • You knew of the existence of the controlled substance.
  • You intentionally exercised control over the controlled substance.

In Florida, control can be exercised over a substance whether the substance is carried on a person, near a person, or in a completely separate location. Just because you are in close proximity to a substance does not necessarily mean that you intentionally exercised control over the substance. The State would still need to prove that you knew what the substance was, where it was located, and that you also had the ability to control it.

One of the usual arguments that someone tries to raise when charged with drug possession is that the drugs belong to someone else. Remember, it is “possession of a controlled substance.” It is not “ownership of a controlled substance.” It does not matter who the drugs belong to, it matters only who can possess them – that is, who knows about the drugs, knows where the drugs are, and has the ability to control them.

Possession of a controlled substance may be sole or joint, that is, two or more people may possess a substance. For example, let’s say that a car is travelling down a roadway and is lawfully pulled over by law enforcement. A lawful search of the car is conducted and drugs are found in a clear plastic zip-lock bag sitting on top of the armrest between the driver and front passenger. In that scenario, law enforcement may charge every single person in the car with possession of a controlled substance, including the back seat passengers. The argument from the State would be that the drugs were in plain view, and within reach of each passenger. In other words, because the drugs were in plain view of all of the passengers, each passenger knew where the drugs were, and each passenger had the ability to exercise control over the drugs simply by reaching over and picking the bag up.

The maximum penalties for illegal possession of drugs in Florida typically fall into one of five categories:

  • A first degree felony – Punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and/or up to 30 years of probation, and/or a fine up to $10,000
  • A second degree felony – Punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or up to 15 years of probation, and/or a fine up to 10,000
  • A third degree felony – Punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or up to 15 years of probation, and/or a fine up to $10,000
  • A first degree misdemeanor – Punishable by up to 1 years in the county jail, and/or up to 1 year of probation, and/or a fine up to $1,000
  • A second degree misdemeanor – Punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail, and/or up to 6 months of probation, and/or a fine up to $500
SALE, MANUFACTURE, OR DELIVERY OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE

Florida Statute §893.13 states that “a person may not sell, manufacture, or deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, a controlled substance.” Depending on where and when the sale or delivery occurs, the penalties can vary greatly. The State of Florida has a legitimate interest in protecting property such as child-care facilities, schools, colleges, universities, churches, parks, community centers, public housing facilities. Depending on various subsections in the Statute, if the sale or delivery occurs within 1000 feet of one of those locations, the penalties may be enhanced. The penalties and level of offense can also be enhanced if the sale occurs in the presence of minors under the age of 16.

The maximum penalties for illegal sale, manufacture or delivery of drugs in Florida typically fall into one of three categories:

  • A first degree felony – Punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and/or up to 30 years of probation, and/or a fine up to $10,000
  • A second degree felony – Punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or up to 15 years of probation, and/or a fine up to 10,000
  • A third degree felony – Punishable by up to 15 years in prison, and/or up to 15 years of probation, and/or a fine up to $10,000

Due to the all of the different variables which can influence and enhance the penalties associated with drug offenses, it is extremely important to consult and hire an attorney as soon as possible in the legal process.

DRUG TRAFFICKING IN FLORIDA

Drug trafficking is one of the most heavily penalized criminal charges in the State of Florida. Drug trafficking is the sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, possession, or transportation of a controlled substance in excess of a certain weight. Depending on the weight and the drug or controlled substance, the penalties could include fines up to $750,000 and mandatory minimum prison sentences ranging anywhere from 3 years and up to life in prison without the possibility of parole. These types of sentences are important for one very glaring reason- the term “mandatory minimum.” This means that the Judge has absolutely no discretion in the sentencing, as far as a lesser sentence is concerned. If the State successfully proves beyond a reasonable doubt what the controlled substance is, and that the weight of the controlled substance falls within a range prohibited by the Florida Statutes, then the Court must impose the required mandatory minimum sentence. This even applies to someone who has absolutely no criminal history.

The following penalties are the minimum for each of the drugs listed, based on their weights:

Penalties for Trafficking in Cannabis – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(a):

  • Excess of 25 pounds, but less than 2,000 pounds, or is 300 or more cannabis plants, but not more than 2,000 cannabis plants
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $25,000 fine
  • 2,000 pounds or more, but less than 10,000 pounds, or is 2,000 or more cannabis plants, but not more than 10,000 cannabis plants
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 10,000 pounds or more, or is 10,000 or more cannabis plants
      • 15 years mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $200,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Cocaine – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(b):

  • 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams:
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 400 grams or more, but less than 150 kilograms:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $250,000 fine
  • 150 kilograms or more:
      • Mandatory minimum of Life Imprisonment without the possibility of parole

Penalties for Trafficking in Heroin, Morphine, or Opium – Florida Statute §893.135(1)I(1):

  • 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms:
      • 25 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $500,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Hydrocodone or Codeine – Florida Statute §893.135(1)I(2):

  • 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 28 grams or more, but less than 50 grams:
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 50 grams or more, but less than 200 grams:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $500,000 fine
  • 200 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms:
      • 25 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $750,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Oxycodone – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(c)(3):

  • 7 grams or more, but less than 14 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 14 grams or more, but less than 25 grams:
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 25 grams or more, but less than 100 grams:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $500,000 fine
  • 100 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms:
      • 25 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $750,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Fentanyl – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(c)(4):

  • 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms:
      • 25 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $500,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Phencyclidine (“PCP” or “Angel Dust”) – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(d)(1):

  • 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 200 grams or more, but less than 400 grams:
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 400 grams or more, but less than 150 kilograms:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $250,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Methamphetamine or Amphetamine – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(f)(1):

  • 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams:
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 200 grams or more:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $250,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Flunitrazepam (“Rohypnol”) – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(g)(1):

  • 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms:
      • 25 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $500,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in lysergic acid diethylamide (“LSD”) – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(l)(1):

  • 1 gram or more, but less than 5 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 5 grams or more, but less than 7 grams:
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  •  grams or more:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $500,000 fine

Penalties for Trafficking in Synthetic Cannabinoids (“Synthetic Cannabis,” “K-2,” “Spice,” etc) – Florida Statute §893.135(1)(n)(1):

  • 280 grams or more, but less than 500 grams:
      • 3 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $50,000 fine
  • 500 grams or more, but less than 1,000 grams:
      • 7 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $100,000 fine
  • 1,000 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms:
      • 15 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $200,000 fine
  • 30 kilograms or more:
      • 25 year mandatory minimum prison sentence
      • $750,000 fine
MEDICAL MARIJUANA / CANNABIS LAWS IN FLORIDA

Is the use of marijuana legal in Florida?

It really depends on what you mean by the term “legal.” There are certain areas of the State where municipalities have attempted to “decriminalize” marijuana. This does not mean that it is legal. It means that those municipalities have chosen to give offenders citations with a fine instead of charging them with a criminal offense. You also need to remember that even if those municipalities have chosen to give citations instead of charging someone, it does not prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) or other branches of the Federal government from proceeding forward against someone for a criminal violation. Some of the municipalities which have chosen to issue fines or citations for possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana are as follows:

  1. Alachua County
  2. Broward County
  3. Key West
  4. Miami Beach
  5. Miami-Dade County
  6. Orlando
  7. Osceola County
  8. Palm Beach County
  9. Port Richey
  10. Tampa
  11. Volusia County
  12. West Palm Beach County

In other areas of the State, possession of marijuana continues to be prosecuted. Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana is a first degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in the county jail, and/or up to one year of probation, and/or up to a $1000 fine. Possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana is a third degree felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison, and/or up to five years of probation, and/or up to a $5000 fine. If you are convicted or adjudicated guilty of possession of marijuana, Florida Statutes require the Court to order the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to suspend your driver’s license for one year.

What about medical marijuana?

Individuals who are diagnosed with a qualifying condition and who possess a physician’s prescription may legally purchase, possess, and use medical or medicinal marijuana provided by a dispensary which has a license issued by the State of Florida. Physicians are not allowed to issue a certification or prescription for more than three 70 day supplies of medical marijuana.

  1. What conditions qualify?
      • ALS
      • Cancer
      • Crohn's disease
      • Chronic nonmalignant pain - Defined as "pain that is either caused by or originates from a qualifying medical condition"
      • Epilepsy
      • Glaucoma
      • HIV/AIDS
      • Multiple sclerosis
      • Parkinson's disease
      • PTSD
      • Seizures
      • Terminal illness (patients diagnosed with no more than 12 months to live)
      • Other debilitating medical conditions comparable to those listed

Can I smoke medical marijuana?

Well, the answer is “yes” and “no,”

In March of 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law which allows smoking of medical marijuana. But that comes with a few limitations.

First and foremost, you still have to meet all of the qualifications which would allow you to purchase, possess, or use medical marijuana in the first place. This means that you would have to be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition and a doctor would have to give you a prescription. Second, possession, use, or administration of marijuana that was not purchased or acquired from a State licensed medical marijuana treatment center or dispensary is not legal. In other words, you cannot grow, cultivate, harvest, or manufacture your own marijuana. Third, you also are prohibited from smoking marijuana in certain places, such as any public place, in your place of employment, in a state correctional institution, on the grounds of a school, in a school bus, any vehicle, any aircraft, any motorboat, or any indoor workspace.

Physicians may not prescribe more than six 35 day supplies of marijuana. Patients cannot possess more than 4 ounces of marijuana at any given time, absent the physician being granted an exception, which is granted only on a case-by-case basis.

If you have questions about the medical marijuana laws in Florida, give us a call at 386-269-0440 to set an appointment to get the answers you need.

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