Jacksonville Drug Possession Attorney
Many people make the mistake of thinking possession of a controlled substance is a relatively minor crime, and that the consequences aren’t too serious. However, in Florida, nearly all drug possession crimes are felonies and most will have additional indirect penalties not imposed by the Court. Worse, “possession” may not mean what you think it means.
Penalties for Drug Possession
Within the State of Florida the Possession of a controlled substance, except one that is legally provided or prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider, is typically a felony or the third degree. That means a potential prison sentence of up to five years. Some drug possession charges are even more serious. For example, possession of more than 10 grams of a Schedule I drug or one of many Schedule II drugs is a felony of the first degree. In Florida, a first-degree felony may carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
The 10-gram total can include a mix of different types of drugs. And, many Schedule I controlled substances are compounds containing certain minimum levels of a particular substance. So, it can be difficult to determine whether the drugs in question meet the threshold for a particular crime. Testing of the substances may be required in preparing your defense.
Misdemeanor Drug Possession
There are two types of possession of a controlled substance charges that are not felonies:
- Possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor of the first degree, with a maximum potential jail sentences of one year, and
- Possession of a Schedule V controlled substance is a misdemeanor of the second degree, with a maximum possible sentence of 60 days in jail
Note that even a misdemeanor conviction for drug possession can have serious consequences like impacting your right to drive a motor vehicle. And, the law relating to controlled substances isn’t always straightforward and simple to understand, given the complexity of the compounds and various forms involved.
An experienced Jacksonville drug crime attorney can be the best source of information about why you were charged as you were, whether those charges are likely supported by the facts, and whether you could face more serious charges.
What is Possession of a Controlled Substance?
While Florida law prohibits possession of controlled substances, as mentioned earlier, the definition of possession may surprise you. In Florida to be in possession of an item means that a person knew about the existence of that item and intentionally exercised control over it. What’s more is that the item itself does not even need to be near the person in order to be in possession of it under Florida law.
So what does that really mean? Well it means that not only can a person be found to be in possession of an item found by their feet or in their hand, but they might also be able to be found in possession of an item within their room or in another location even if this person isn’t present. Thus the critical question that will arise for any case involving allegations of possession of a controlled substance will be whether an individual had knowledge of the existence of the item and whether this same individual intentionally exercised control over this item.
Now to prove the crime of possession of a controlled substance in a Florida the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The Defendant possessed the substance, and
- The substance possessed was prohibited by statute.
Further, simply being near illicit drugs may not be sufficient to support a conviction for possession. For instance, if you are receiving a ride from an unknown taxi driver and the driver is pulled over and then found to have drugs hidden within a hollowed out compartment under your seat, in such a scenario it may be difficult for the State to prosecute you for possession, even though you were in close proximity to a controlled substance.
But due to the complexity and ambiguity of such scenarios, it is critical to have an experienced and skilled Jacksonville criminal attorney who understands the nuances of the law regarding possession of a controlled substance in your corner if you or a loved one are facing a charge of possession. An attorney can advise you of your rights, look for potential issues in such a case, and help you fight for the best outcome possible.
What if a Police Officer Asks to Search me or my Vehicle
One of the biggest questions that people ask is do I have to say yes if an officer asks to search me, my purse, or my vehicle. While this is certainly a complicated question, the general answer is that a person always has the right to say no and not consent to a search. Essentially telling an officer you don’t consent to a search doesn’t mean the search won’t occur, but it does mean that the Officer will need some othe valid legal justification for the search in order for anything discovered to be admissible. So know that it is okay to say no and not provide consent to search.
Possession with Intent to Deliver
Possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver is a separate crime from straight drug possession. For many Schedule I and II drugs, possession with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver is a felony of the second degree. That means a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years. For most other controlled substances (with the exception of Schedule V substances), the crime is a felony of the third degree.
Fighting Jacksonville Drug Possession Charges
Florida drug possession charges are serious. Fortunately, an experienced drug possession lawyer may be able to fight the charges in several different ways, including:
- Seeking to suppress evidence against you that may have been secured through an illegal search
- Having substances tested to ensure that you haven’t been wrongly charged or overcharged
- Seeking to suppress any statements you may have made if you weren’t properly advised of your rights, were questioned after asking for an attorney, or your rights were otherwise violated
- Forcing the prosecution to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, which can be difficult in constructive possession cases or cases where the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver is based on circumstantial evidence
- Identifying witnesses and gathering evidence to support your defense
- If it is in your best interest, arguing your case to a jury
Attorney Matthew Lufrano has tried more than 75 criminal cases before Florida juries. He’s a Board Certified Expert in Criminal Trial Law, and has the knowledge and experience necessary to build the strongest possible defense in a drug possession case. To learn more, call 904-513-3905 or fill out the contact form on this site.