Drug offenses in Florida may be prosecuted as misdemeanors or felonies depending on many factors, especially based on the amount of drugs involved in the alleged crime. The attorneys at Apfelbaum Law may be able to assist you with your drug offense or any other criminal matter.
Drug possession is the lowest category drug offense, a charge for a person who did not manufacture, distribute, or sell a controlled substance, but only held the substance for personal use. This sounds fairly minor, but it can still carry strong penalties, such as jail or prison time. According to Florida law, possession of most controlled substances may be charged as a third-degree felony.
It’s an unfortunate fact that possession charges are often used against people who are suffering from an addiction. Sometimes, clients tell us they’re not criminals and they’re not trying to sell drugs to other people. The truth is that they just need help and treatment for their addiction. In situations like this, a rehab center or drug detox program may be far more effective at addressing the root cause of the crime than a prison cell. In some of these cases, depending on the drug and the amount they were found to be in possession of, people struggling with addiction may be eligible to go to drug court instead of criminal court.
In most cases, the state’s attorney will decide if a defendant is eligible for drug court. To qualify, the defendant will need to demonstrate that they have an addiction and are willing to seek help. There may be an agreement that the defendant will face a certain amount of jail time if the defendant doesn’t complete the demands of drug court. The defendant may be required to go to counseling, meetings, or other rehabilitative programs, as well as have frequent random drug tests.
If the state’s attorney doesn’t refer you to drug court, you and your Florida criminal lawyer will discuss other options for your defense. A Florida prosecutor will need to firmly establish the elements of drug possession, which may include:
- Whether the accused had actual knowledge of the drug;
- Whether the seized material is actually a controlled substance under Florida law;
- Whether the accused actually had control of the drug;
- In the case of possession with intent to sell, whether all elements of possession were present as well as whether there is evidence of the accused’s intent to sell.
Your Florida criminal defense lawyer will work on ways of defending you, depending on your circumstances. Possible defenses include questioning the validity of the warrant to search your home, office, or car, or a police officer’s probable cause for stopping you and searching your person. Your attorney may argue the search warrant was invalid, or was executed incorrectly. The drug in question may not have been in plain view, or the police may have engaged in an illegal pat down in order to find the drug. If your car, person, or home was searched with the help of a drug dog, the search may not have been legal, or the K-9 alert was inaccurate. You may have been in the same room as the drug, but that doesn’t prove you knew of the substance, or had control over it.
Depending on your case, there may be other possible defenses. In some situations, there may have been violations of your right to counsel, chain of custody problems, or other illegal police activity. More potential defenses to drug possession charges include lack of knowledge that the drug in question was a controlled substance, the possession of a valid prescription from a medical professional, or entrapment by law enforcement.
The State of Florida has very strict drug laws compared to many states, and views drugs as the direct cause of most criminal activity in the state. As serious as possession charges can be, possession with intent to distribute charges are often worse. If you are suspected of selling or distributing drugs, the State of Florida will probably prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. A criminal defense attorney with skill, legal knowledge, and trial experience in these types of cases is essential to your defense.
Some of the most commonly charged crimes involving the sale and delivery of drugs are:
- Sale or delivery of Cannabis
- Sale or delivery of Cocaine
- Sale or delivery of Fentanyl
- Sale or delivery of GHB
- Sale or delivery of Heroin
- Sale or delivery of MDMA (Molly, Ecstasy)
- Sale or delivery of Methamphetamine
Trafficking charges usually refer to a large, organized effort to acquire, distribute, and profit from drugs. They typically involve larger amounts of drugs than sale or delivery charges, and may carry even lengthier jail sentences. Depending on the situation, some of the same defense strategies for sale or delivery may still be good options. There may also be other options for avoiding jail time or receiving a lighter sentence, such as informing for the police or being sentenced as a youthful offender. Your Florida criminal lawyer will go over your options with you and help you formulate the best defense.
If you need assistance with your drug offense case, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida.