Drug crime in Florida is at an all-time high. In fact, according to crime reports from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, there are over 100,000 crimes involving controlled substances across the state every year. Florida also sees some of the harshest punishments for offenders of this nature in the United States.
Punishments for this crime can range from a low-level misdemeanor conviction all the way up to a first-degree felony or even a capital felony depending on exact circumstances. Convictions also come with high fines, prison sentences, license suspensions, and probation for offenders.
So, if you’ve been charged with a drug crime in Port Charlotte, Fl., you’ll need to find legal representation as soon as possible in order to have the best chance of safeguarding your future. Here at The Law Place, our lawyers have a proven track record of winning legal battles and achieving favorable case outcomes for our clients in Port Charlotte and across the State of Florida. We have a number of practice areas in the field of criminal defense, including drug crime, traffic offenses, DUIs, and more.
The attorney-client relationship is important to us here at The Law Place. That’s why we offer a free consultation to all of our prospective clients. We want you to be sure you’re working with the best law firm for you and your case. So, schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced defense attorneys today by calling (941) 444-4444. Phone lines are open 24/7.
The Five Schedules of Controlled Substance in Florida
Drugs in Florida are sorted into one of five drug schedules, which affect the penalties you could receive for possession. Each schedule is based on a drug’s potential for harm and addiction, with Schedule I being the most harmful and Schedule V being the least harmful.
- Schedule I -Drugs in this category are considered the most harmful, with the highest potential for addiction. Schedule I drugs include Marijuana, Crack Cocaine, Heroin, and Ecstasy.
- Schedule II -Drugs in Schedule II have a high potential for harm and addiction, although some of them have strictly controlled medical uses. They include Morphine, Oxycodone, Methamphetamine, and Fentanyl.
- Schedule III -Schedule III drugs still have a potential for harm and abuse as well as a significant risk of withdrawal, they include Ketamine and anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV -Many Schedule IV drugs have medical uses but are controlled less strictly than substances in the other categories. These drugs include Xanax, Valium, Zopiclone, Tramadol, and Loprazolam.
- Schedule V -Schedule V drugs have the least potential for harm, abuse, and addiction and include things like cough medicine with more than 200 milligrams of Codeine per 100 milliliters.
Florida law recognizes that many of the substances in categories two to five have medical uses and can be prescribed by a medical professional. To be charged with possession of an accepted medical drug, you would need to be found without a valid prescription.
More information about the five drug schedules and which drugs are sorted into each category can be found in Florida Statute 893.03.
Penalties for Possession of a Controlled Substance in Port Charlotte, Florida
Drug possession is a serious crime under Florida law and comes with some harsh penalties, which include:
- Mandatory minimum prison sentences.
- A probationary period.
- Attendance at a substance abuse and rehabilitation facility or education center.
- Suspension of your driver’s license.
- Random drug tests.
In addition, you will also receive a felony or misdemeanor charge on your criminal record, which could include penalties such as:
- Second- or third-degree misdemeanor -Being convicted of a third or second-degree misdemeanor means that you will have only committed a fairly low-level crime. The punishments for this include a prison sentence of up to 60 days and a fine of up to $500.
- First-degree misdemeanor -A first-degree misdemeanor is the highest misdemeanor charge and is only one step down from a felony. The penalties for this include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in prison.
- Third-degree felony -Being convicted of a third-degree felony could result in a fine of up to $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison.
- Second-degree felony -A second-degree felony conviction can come with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.
- First-degree felony -A first-degree felony is the highest conviction before a capital felony. It comes with serious consequences, including a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison.
More information about misdemeanor and felony classifications and punishments can be found in Florida Statute 775.083.
Factors That Affect Drug Crime Penalties
Penalties for drug possession in Port Charlotte vary significantly depending on the specifics of your case. According to Florida Statute 893.13, penalties are influenced by factors such as:
- The amount or quantity of controlled substance on your person.
- The schedule of drug you were found in possession of.
- Whether it is likely that you intended to sell or traffic a controlled substance.
- Whether you are a minor or a minor was involved in your drug crime.
- Whether you brought the controlled substances into the State of Florida or purchased them within the state.
- Whether you resisted arrest or withheld information from police officers that you are required by law to provide.
- Whether your drug possession occurred alongside another crime such as possession of firearms.
- Whether the controlled substance was acquired through fraud.
Types of Drug Possession Under Florida Law
In addition to the kind of controlled substance you are found with, your sentence will also be affected by the exact circumstances of your possession. There are four main categories of possession in Port Charlotte, Florida:
If you are charged with actual or active possession, this means that drugs were found directly on your person, i.e., it was in your pocket or bag, or you were holding it. To be charged with constructive possession in Port Charlotte, Florida, the prosecution will need to prove that:
- You had the controlled substance on your person.
- You knew that this substance was on your person.
- You were aware that it was an illegal or controlled substance.
If you are charged with constructive drug possession, this means that you had access to a controlled substance or that you were suspected to be in control of or related to a controlled substance. This could be the case, for example, if drugs were found in your car when there were other passengers or in a property with multiple occupants.
To receive a conviction for constructive possession, it will need to be proved that:
- A controlled substance had been located in a location that belongs to or is linked to you.
- You knew that the drug was illegal or prohibited.
- You had some form of control over the drug as opposed to just being in its proximity.
Possession With Intent to Sell
Being charged with drug possession with intent to sell is a more serious drug crime that comes with more severe penalties, including higher fines and increased prison sentences. You could be facing a possession with intent to sell charge if you were found with:
- A quantity of a drug that suggests it was not intended for personal use.
- Multiple types of controlled substances.
- Plastic drug bags.
- Rolling papers.
- Cut up straws.
- Drug testing kits.
The penalties for possession with intent to sell can increase if you are caught selling drugs in the proximity of:
- A child-care facility such as an elementary school.
- A public or private college.
- A place of worship.
- A public housing facility.
You could be charged with drug trafficking in Port Charlotte if you were found in possession of:
- 25 pounds, 300 plants, or more Cannabis.
- 28 grams or more of Cocaine.
- 4 grams or more of Heroin, or any product containing an opium derivative, including morphine.
- 28 grams or more of Hydrocodone.
- 28 grams or more of Codeine.
More information about what constitutes drug trafficking in the State of Florida, including drug trafficking penalties, can be found in Florida Statute 893.135.
How Can a Port Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney Defend Me in Court?
Possession of a controlled substance can be a worrisome charge to face. Florida law does not operate leniently in the case of drug crimes, offenders of which can face a number of years in prison in addition to hefty fines.
This is why it’s so important to work with a criminal defense attorney who has plenty of experience in this field. You should never assume that you can handle this area of Florida law on your own. In order to safeguard your future and avoid more severe criminal convictions and consequences, you’ll need to work with the right law firm.
By using all available evidence, criminal defense lawyers will be seeking to have your charges reduced or dropped. The right lawyer will have a number of options to defend you in court, including:
Proving Wrongful Arrest
Many individuals are wrongfully arrested for drug possession in Port Charlotte. This could be the case, for example, if drugs were found in your vehicle, but they had been put there by another passenger without you knowing. In a case such as this, a law enforcement officer will likely charge everyone in the vehicle with constructive possession. However, if a criminal defense attorney can prove that you did not, in fact, know that there were present or that you did not know the substance was illegal, you could have your charges dropped altogether.
Questioning the Reason for Your Stop or Search
In Port Charlotte, Florida, law enforcement officers need to have reasonable suspicion that you are committing, have committed, or intend to commit a crime in order to pull you over. If you were caught with drugs but the police did not have a valid reason to stop your vehicle, your charges could be downgraded.
This doesn’t just relate to a pedestrian or traffic stop. It also applies to your property. If the police did not possess a valid search warrant to search your home, it could lead to any evidence becoming inadmissible.
Questioning Officer Conduct
Under Florida Statute 776.05, law enforcement officers are required to conduct themselves appropriately and only use reasonable force in detaining and handling perpetrators. There is no exact definition of what ‘reasonable force’ entails and is largely left to the discretion of the officers themselves. However, if police were excessive in their use of force when you were stopped and arrested, you could receive less severe penalties for your drug possession conviction.
Transferring Your Case to a Florida Drug Court
Simple possession, constructive possession, possession with intent to sell, as well as drug trafficking or manufacturing can come with serious consequences. Judges and juries tend to be less sympathetic towards drug crimes than other offenses, and you could face a severe penalty due to this.
However, by working with a criminal defense attorney who specializes in crimes involving controlled substances, it could be possible to have your case moved to one of Florida’s many drug courts.
Drug courts focus more on the treatment of addiction and narcotics intervention than punishment. After successful completion of a drug-court-ordered rehabilitation program, you could have your criminal charges reduced or dropped altogether. However, you’ll need to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in order to navigate this area of the Florida legal system.
Florida drug courts include:
- Juvenile drug court.
- Adult Drug Pre-trial Intervention Court.
- Post Adjudication Court.
- Marchman Act Drug Treatment Court.
- Veterans Treatment Court.
Facing Drug Charges in Florida? Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer From The Law Place
If you’ve been charged with a drug crime in Port Charlotte, Florida, it’s important to get in touch with a skilled criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you get into contact, the better chance you will have of reducing your charges and achieving a more favorable case outcome.
Here at The Law Place, our team of skilled attorneys work around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to support our clients, defend their rights, and build strong legal cases to defend them in a court of law. We also offer a free case evaluation to make sure you’re confident in your choice of legal representation.
Schedule your free consultation today with a drug crime criminal defense attorney near you by calling (941) 444-4444.