Drug possession is a charge that is leveled against someone who has drugs but is not the manufacturer or distributor of the substance and has no intent to sell it. In general, this refers to having an illicit drug for the purpose of personal use. Possessing a controlled substance in Florida is a very serious crime which can result in a third degree felony conviction. Here is an overview of the penalties associated with drug possession in Florida.
Establishing Drug Possession in Florida
To establish the crime of drug possession, the prosecutor must demonstrate several elements beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements are as follows:
- The controlled substance was an illegal drug as defined under Florida law. This often requires the results of a scientific lab analysis.
- The defendant knew or should have known that the illicit substance was on their person or in their vehicle, and knew that the substance was illegal to have.
- The defendant had control over the presence and location of the drug. If the substance was in the glove box of the car or in the defendant's pocket, for example, control is established. If a passenger had the substance and the defendant was unaware, control may be harder to prove.
Drug Possession Penalties
The penalties for drug possession are very serious in Florida. While possession of a small amount of marijuana or illicit prescription drugs can result in just a misdemeanor charge, many controlled substances are felony convictions. These carry a range of punishments ranging from $5,000 and imprisonment of up to five years, to fifteen years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. If you are deemed a repeat offender, career criminal or habitual offender, the penalties may be increased even further.
In addition, if you are driving when caught with the illicit drugs, you will likely see your driver's license suspended or even revoked. The length of suspension will depend on the nature of the drug and how many offenses you have had. It can be as little as 30 days to as much as six months, or even permanent loss of your driving privileges.
Defending Against Drug Charges
There are several valid defenses you may pursue if you are charged with possession of an illicit substance in Florida. These include the following:
- You were not aware the drug or material was classified as a controlled substance;
- You hold a valid prescription for the substance from a licensed medical professional;
- Deliberate police entrapment;
- Violation of your Fourth Amendment protections from unlawful search and seizure (the police had no warrant or probable cause).
If you are arrested in the state of Florida for a drug possession charge, you should never try to defend yourself. The laws are complex and any mistake can be costly. Instead, immediately call an expert criminal defense attorney. If you have been charged with possession of an illicit substance while driving in North Florida, don't wait. Take some time to read over the services we provide, and give us a call for a consultation today or email us through our contact page.