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Florida Drug Charges, Penalties, and Defenses

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Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Break Down the Types of Drug Charges in Florida

Florida has a reputation for coming down hard on people accused of drug crimes.

Prosecutors often attempt to pile on charges after an arrest and push for maximum sentencing. In fact, about 20 percent of the state's prison population is doing time for drug-related offenses.

Florida is so strict that first-time offenders are routinely imprisoned. About 60 percent of the overall prison population is there for a first offense.

The state's hardline on drugs makes it important for those being investigated for or charged with a crime involving controlled substances to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on their side.

In the meantime, here is some general information about Florida drug charges, penalties, and how an attorney can defend your rights and protect your freedom.

Florida drug charges

Florida drug charges are specific to substances, but in general, fall under the categories of:

Trafficking - The state defines drug trafficking as the deliberate selling, purchasing, manufacturing, delivering, possessing, or transporting a "trafficking amount" of an illegal drug. Typically, it is a first-degree felony. Trafficking charges are usually reserved for big cases. In general, the more of a substance a person is accused of selling or attempting to sell, the greater the penalty.

Distribution - Although sometimes used interchangeably in casual conversation, trafficking and distribution are not the same. Trafficking charges are triggered by the weight of the controlled substance at hand. Distribution focuses on how drugs are being moved. The charge is often applied when the amount of drugs involved is small. You can be charged with both trafficking and distribution for the same alleged incident.

Capital trafficking - This charge is levied when someone dies using the drugs the suspect allegedly sold them. You can also be charged if you are accused of killing, ordering, or facilitating the death of another in relation to illegal substances. Conviction of capital trafficking can result in a lifetime prison sentence with a very limited possibility for release.

Possession with intent to sell - This is a lesser charge (third-degree felony) than trafficking. The penalties for possession with intent to sell are frequently lighter than sentences doled out for distribution. Intent to sell carries a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and up to $5,000 in fines.

Possession - In some situations, a drug defense attorney can invalidate the selling or dealing part of the prosecution's case and get the charges reduced to possession. Possession of any of the nearly 200 substances listed as a "controlled substance" in Florida's Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is a felony. The only exception is for marijuana. Having less than 20 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor.

Drug distribution penalties

Florida requires the following minimum penalties for people convicted of distributing various drugs. In addition to imprisonment and fines, drug convictions are also often punishable by probation, community service, suspension of driving privileges, counseling, and random drug testing. The following are minimum sentences for drug dealing as it relates to specific drugs. These are general estimates and individuals may be facing more severe penalties due to additional charges, past criminal record, or judge's order.

Marijuana (cannabis) - at least 3-15 years imprisonment, $200,000 in fines

Cocaine - 3 years-lifetime imprisonment, $50,000-$250,000 in fines

Methamphetamine - 3-15 years imprisonment, $50,000-$250,000 in fines

Opioids (heroin, fentanyl, morphine) - 25 years imprisonment, $50,000-$500,000 in fines

Drug charge defenses

In general, a Florida prosecutor's drug trafficking case has to prove two things: the accused knowingly participated in drug trafficking and the legally seized item(s) is indeed an illegal controlled substance.

There are many strategies a criminal defense attorney can use to fight drug distribution charges. Your lawyer can find evidence and make arguments to invalidate the prosecution's case based on:

  • Lack of probable cause (to justify a search or arrest)
  • Illegal search and seizure
  • Rights violations
  • Lack of evidence on the part of the prosecution
  • Expired statute of limitations
  • Coercion
  • Entrapment
  • Intention (drugs were for personal use, not for sale)

Don't take chances with your freedom

A drug conviction in Florida can do more damage than the extreme penalty of imprisonment and big fines. Oftentimes, having such a mark on your record can limit your educational, living, work, and certification options. That's why if you're facing drug charges in Clay County, it's in your interest to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney about your legal rights and options.

Located in Northeastern Florida, Aguilar & Sieron, P.A. is a criminal defense law firm with a reputation for aggressively defending people facing drug charges. Our attorneys understand the high stakes our clients face, and we are committed to getting you the best possible outcome.

If you have been charged or expect to be charged with a drug-related crime in Clay County or the surrounding area, contact our law firm for a free case evaluation. We can answer your questions and explain how we can help you. Based in Green Cove Springs, we serve all of Clay County and Northeastern Florida. Contact us today.

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