Florida’s drug possession statutes are some of the strictest laws in the country, posing severe penalties for minimal amounts. Due to Florida’s location and close proximity to South American countries known for drug trafficking, the state enacted strict drug possession laws in the 1980s to help dampen the flow of drugs from these foreign locations through Florida.
In Florida, you do not need to be a drug dealer or trafficker to face heavy fines or jail time for possessing a small to moderate amount of drugs. For example, if you are caught while in possession of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or another illegal drug, you could face a felony charge for possession of a controlled substance. A defendant facing drug possession charges for a third-degree felony may be sentenced to prison for a term of five years or less and required to pay up to $5,000 in fines. Additionally, possession of more than 10 grams of heroin constitutes a felony in the first degree and carries a potential 30-year prison sentence and $10,000 in penalties. Other opiate-based drugs carry similar punishments.
Florida treats the possession of certain manufactured drugs like ecstasy, MDMA, and GHB as a second-degree felony charge, which can result in a 15-year prison sentence and $10,000 worth of fines. Unlike many states, Florida’s marijuana possession statutes have not been relaxed. A small amount of marijuana can result in severe fines and penalties, including a misdemeanor criminal offense. Individuals who are caught in possession of 25 or more marijuana plants face a third-degree felony charge and a possible 15-year prison sentence. Additionally, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana constitutes a fourth-degree felony charge, which carries a potential five-year prison sentence and may result in up to $5,000 in fines.
Distribution charges are far more serious than drug possession charges. For example, Florida’s marijuana distribution law imposes much larger fines and longer maximum jail sentences. Drug distribution charges in Florida frequently carry so-called mandatory minimum sentences, which require the judge to sentence the defendant to a predetermined minimum jail or prison sentence.
If you are convicted of distributing between 25 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana, the judge must sentence you to a minimum of three years in prison. For charges involving 2,000 to 10,000 pounds, the mandatory minimum increases to seven years. Large-scale marijuana distributors convicted of selling over 10,000 pounds of marijuana face a minimum of 15 years in prison.
If a defendant has prior felony convictions involving violent crimes, some Florida laws require an enhanced sentence for drug possession or distribution charges. Florida refers to these offenders as “habitual felony offenders” or “career criminals.” If a defendant faces multiple charges, including a felony, a conviction of that felony could lead to enhanced sentencing for any drug-based charges arising from the same incident.
Florida’s drug possession laws are complex, and a prosecutor must carry his or her evidentiary burden in order to obtain a conviction. In general, a prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) the material seized from the defendant’s possession constituted an illegal and controlled narcotic substance; (2) the defendant was aware of the substance’s illegal nature; and (3) the defendant had control over the illegal substance, including its location and presence.
There are many ways to defend against drug possession and distribution charges, including motions to suppress evidence that was obtained in violation of a defendant’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Hoffman Firm has been providing seasoned criminal defense representation to Florida residents facing drug possession charges for several years. Our Miami criminal defense attorney, Evan A. Hoffman, has tried over 100 jury trials and 120 non-jury trials, and he knows what it takes to build a successful defense. If you or someone you know is facing a drug possession or distribution charge, we can help. Call (305) 249-0090 or contact us online to set up a free, no-obligation consultation today.