Drug Possession and Distribution Law Firm in Jacksonville, Orange Park and Daytona Beach
Being convicted of a drug crime, whether possession, transport, or sale, can have long-ranging consequences. These may range from the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license to serving time in jail or prison. Even after you’ve paid your debt to society, you may find it harder to get a job or even rent an apartment because of your prior conviction.
For these reasons, it’s important to seek qualified defense counsel as soon as possible after being charged with a drug-related crime in Florida. Read on to learn more about the criminalization of certain drugs in the Sunshine State, as well as what to do if you find yourself in need of a drug crimes lawyer.
Which Drugs are Illegal Under Florida Law?
Federal law criminalizes a wide variety of drugs, including opiates (without a valid prescription), benzodiazepines, LSD, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, and both medicinal and recreational marijuana. As recently as 2012, federal drug law was amended to include “bath salts,” or mephedrone, as an illegal controlled substance.
Florida’s laws are slightly different. Although Florida has permitted the use of medical marijuana (pursuant to a doctor’s recommendation) since 2016, it also criminalizes drugs that are still technically legal under federal law, including a number of synthetic drugs like “spice.” Like the federal government, Florida classifies drugs into several categories, assessing steeper penalties upon those convicted of possession or sale of the “harder” drugs or those who are charged with selling drugs within a certain radius of a school or daycare.
The federal government has the discretion to criminally charge under its own laws any Florida resident accused of a state drug crime; at least, as long as this crime involves a drug that’s also illegal under federal law. But in general, unless you’re being charged with transporting drugs across state lines, are caught with drugs on federal property, or are the target of a lead provided by a federal informant, you’re more likely to be prosecuted under Florida law.
Defenses to Drug Charges
In order to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecution will need to prove the following factors:
- The drug taken from your possession was illegal, as demonstrated by crime lab testing;
- You knew, or should have known, that the drug was illegal; and
- You knowingly exercised possession of and control over the drug.
For those who are charged with possession with the intent to sell, the prosecutor will need to prove each of the above factors and also prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you had an intent to sell these illegal drugs rather than use them for your own consumption.
This “knowing” requirement is designed to ensure that those who have no knowledge or control over illegal substances in their possession aren’t criminally charged. For example, a driver whose passenger secretly has a stash of heroin in her purse may not face criminal charges if it can be shown that the driver had no actual or constructive knowledge of the drug’s presence.
Although Florida’s drug laws are strict, there are defenses to liability available. It’s important to contact an experienced attorney or law firm as quickly as possible after your arrest so you’ll have time to prepare a strong defense.