What is a drug offense?
Drug offenses cover a wide variety of crimes, from misdemeanors to first-degree felonies. Florida takes drug offenses very seriously and drug convictions carry many potentially serious consequences. It is important to hire an experienced attorney to best protect your rights.
Simple Possession Charges
They may be referred to as "simple", but there is nothing minor about this class of drug charges. These would include:
Possession of less than 20 grams of Cannabis
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
These are first-degree misdemeanors, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail, one year of county supervised probation, and up to a $1,000 fine. Additionally, a conviction on a Possession of Cannabis charge will require a one-year revocation of your drivers license.
Felony Drug Charges
In Florida, any amount of almost any controlled substance will result in a felony arrest. This includes: heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamines, or certain prescription pills for which you do not have a prescription (such as Xanax, Hydrocodone, or Adderall). Any amount of marijuana over 20 grams will result in a felony arrest as well.
The severity of these charges varies by the amount you possess, as well as other circumstances, such as evidence of your intent to sell the substance. Felony charges range from third-degree felonies to first-degree felonies, with maximum penalties ranging anywhere from five years in prison to thirty years in prison.
In addition to the possible probation, jail, or prison time, as well as possible fines and drivers license suspensions as mentioned above, felony drug charges have the potential to leave you labeled a convicted felon. When a person is convicted of a felony in Florida, he/she loses the right to vote, sit on a jury, hold public office, and possess a firearm.
When facing a felony drug charge, it is important to consult with an attorney to ensure you understand all of the possible consequences you may face, and what can be done to fight your case.
Drug Trafficking Charges
These types of offenses are not only the most serious, but have specific, harsh, mandatory sanctions. Trafficking in drugs in Florida is a first-degree felony, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and/or up to 30 years of state supervised probation. However, drug trafficking charges also carry minimum mandatory sentences, ranging from 3 years in prison to up to 25 years in prison. Drug Trafficking cases also carry separate fines, often $50,000 or higher. The minimum mandatory term is determined by the type and weight of the substance.
What is the difference between the maximum sentence and a minimum mandatory sentence? Under normal circumstances, a judge can sentence you up to the maximum sentence, but does not have to and typically will not. They have discretion. Minimum mandatory sentences, however, are set by law and a Judge cannot sentence a defendant below the statutory minimum mandatory. Even if you have no criminal history, you certainly could be facing prison time - and that's what makes trafficking charges so serious.
Note: There are certain exceptions to these rules, such as if the defendant qualifies as a youthful offender and the judge agrees to sentence the defendant as a youthful offender. You need a lawyer to review the specific circumstances of your case to properly advise you as to the maximum and minimum sentences you will face in your case.
Do I need a lawyer for my drug charge?
A Lawyer Can Evaluate Your Case for Possible Defenses
Depending on the type and specific facts of each case, many defenses may be available to a drug related offense. Like traffic and DUI offenses, a proper defense to a drug charge may include challenging the legality of a traffic stop, the length of the traffic stop, the search of a vehicle, as well as the legality of the stop and detention of the individual, the search of the individual, whether consent to search was given, and if so, whether the consent was given knowingly and voluntarily. In cases where search warrants are used, it is important to review the application for the warrant, determine whether probable cause existed to issue the warrant, and whether the officers’ search exceeded the scope of the warrant.
The way in which drugs are tested should also be scrutinized. If the officer is relying on a "field test" (the drug test kit they carry in their cars), it’s important to question the officer about their training in administering that field test, the specific manner in which the drugs were handled prior to testing, if they are aware of what triggers a false positive, and if they understand the chemical process employed in using that field test. In drug trafficking cases, a thorough defense may include a review the lab’s testing of the substance, including the protocols used and adherence to Florida’s administrative codes. Also, the defense must evaluate exactly how the drugs were weighed, and whether the analyst “co-mingled” individual samples prior to verifying that each sample tests positive for the charged substance. This can lead to weight amounts that are invalid and thus inadmissible.
a lawyer can help to negotiate the best resolution for your case
In addition to legal defenses available to drug charges, some jurisdictions provide alternative sanctions for drug offenders. Both Orange and Osceola Counties offer Drug Court Programs to those in need of treatment, as well as PreTrial Diversion for those who qualify. A successful completion of a diversionary program results in the dismissal of your charge.
a lawyer can ensure you are fully informed of your rights to help you make the best decisions possible
When facing any kind of drug charge, it is important to hire an attorney who understands the depth and complexities involved in these investigations and the legal actions that must be taken to fully protect your rights. Benjamin Wurtzel is a Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorney, and has handled all levels of drug offenses, including drug trafficking cases, and has the skill and experience to navigate and defend your case. Contact Wurtzel Law for a free consultation to learn more about our thorough and detailed defense and how we can use our expertise to help protect your future.