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Understanding Your Rights: Strategies for Defending Against Drug Possession Charges in Florida

Home » Blog » Understanding Your Rights: Strategies for Defending Against Drug Possession Charges in Florida

Understanding Your Rights: Strategies for Defending Against Drug Possession Charges in Florida

by | May 15, 2024 | DUI, Florida Laws

Caught a case for a drug crime and wondering how to get drug possession charges dropped?

If you’ve been caught with a controlled substance in Florida or are facing a simple drug possession offense, you could be facing some serious felony drug charges and a possible mandatory minimum prison sentence.

However, the severity of the drug crimes charges depends on a few things. Read on to understand drug possession charges in Florida and what you can do to beat them.

Types of Drug Possession Charges in Florida

In Florida, drug possession charges can range from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony or a first-degree felony. It all comes down to the type and amount of drug involved.

Simple possession of a small quantity might be a third-degree charge. But if you’re caught with a larger amount or a substance classified as “drug trafficking,” you’re looking at felony charges with much heftier penalties and fines, years behind bars, and a criminal record that follows you for life.

Factors Affecting Drug Possession Charges

So, what determines the severity of your charges? A few key elements:

  • The type of controlled substance
  • The quantity of the drug
  • Whether you have any prior convictions
  • If the possession coincided with other crimes like DUI or intent to sell

Where you were caught with the drugs also matters. Possession in a school zone or other “drug-free” area can result in higher charges.

The bottom line is that if you’re facing possession charges in Florida, get an attorney involved immediately.

Florida “Drugged” Driving

You are guilty of a DUI in Florida if you drive under the influence of any controlled substance and your normal facilities are impaired (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 316.293 (1)(a) (West 2010). This means you can’t see, hear, walk, talk, judge distances, drive a car, use your judgment, perform in an emergency, or do everyday activities Id. § 316.1934 (1).

You should also know that anyone operating a motor vehicle within Florida has given implied consent to submit to a urine or blood drug test to detect any chemical or controlled substance. (Id. § 316.1932 (1)).

If you refuse the test, you will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, which can result in up to a year in jail (Id. § 775.082(4)(a)).

Florida also allows sobriety checkpoints for random stops.

Ultimately,  if you’re high and you’re driving, you are considered impaired in the eyes of Florida law, with legal and monetary consequences. Driving under the influence of a controlled substance is always illegal, regardless of whether or not you have a prescription for the drug.

It’s essential to have an experienced drug crime lawyer like Florida Ticket Firm on your side if you’ve been driving under the influence.

Penalties for Drugged Driving

You incur harsher penalties for drug offenses and drugged driving with multiple offenses:

First Offense Id. § 316.193(2)(a)

  • A fine of $500 to $1,000
  • Jail for up to 6 months
  • License suspension of 180 days to 1 year
  • 50 hours of community service (or possible buyout at $10/hour)
  • 10-day vehicle impoundment/immobilization

Second offense Id. § 316.193(3)

  • A fine of $1,000 to $2,000
  • Jail for up to 9 months
  • Mandatory ignition interlock
  • License suspension of 180 days up to 1 year
  • Mandatory 1-year probation
  • Psychosocial evaluation required
  • 50 hours of community service (or possible buyout at $10/hour)
  • 10-day vehicle impoundment/immobilization

Third offense Id. § 316.193(3)(b)(2)

  • A fine of $2,000 to $5,000
  • Jail up to 12 months
  • Mandatory ignition interlock
  • License suspension of 1 year
  • Mandatory 1-year probation
  • Psychosocial evaluation required
  • 50 hours of community service (or possible buyout at $10/hour)
  • 90-day vehicle impoundment/immobilization

Third offense (within 10 years of the second felony) Id. § 316.193(3)(b)(1)

  • A minimum fine of $2,000, up to $5,000
  • Jail for a period of 30 days to 5 years
  • Mandatory ignition interlock
  • 10 year mandatory license suspension
  • Mandatory 1-year probation
  • Psychosocial evaluation
  • 50 hours of community service (or possible buyout at $10/hour)
  • 90-day vehicle impoundment/immobilization

Fourth offense 3rd-degree felony Id. § 316.193

  • Penalties of up to $5,000 in fines
  • 5 years in prison
  • Penalties imposed for the third offense

Common Defenses for Drug Possession Charges

Just because you’ve been slapped with a drug possession charge doesn’t mean it’s game over. You still have rights and potential defenses that could make all the difference in your case.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

One of the most powerful defenses is proving that the evidence against you was obtained illegally. If the cops searched you without probable cause or a warrant, anything they found could get tossed out of court—no evidence, no case. Police need probable cause to conduct a search in most situations. If they violated your Fourth Amendment rights, that’s a strong defense.

Dispute Actual Possession of Drugs

Another common defense is arguing that you didn’t know the drugs were in your possession. Maybe someone else left them in your car or house without your knowledge. If you can show you were unaware of the presence of the controlled substance, you might be able to beat the charges. It’s all about proving that crucial element of intent.

Possession of a Valid Prescription Drug

Do you have a legitimate prescription for that pill bottle in your pocket? Then you could have a solid defense against possession of a controlled substance.

Chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes is the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. It lists numerous drugs that are considered “controlled substances” and regulated by the federal and state governments.

In Florida, possession of a controlled substance is a felony unless a doctor prescribes the medication to the person in possession, such as Valium, Xanax, OxyContin, or Vicodin.

Street drugs like marijuana, LSD, or cocaine are also considered controlled substances under § 893. Except for marijuana, possession of any amount of these prescription or street drugs is a felony.

If you can provide valid proof from a medical professional that the prescription drug was legally prescribed to you, the charges may not stick. Just make sure you’ve got your Rx paperwork handy.

Insufficient Evidence or Probable Cause

It’s all about what the prosecution can prove. If there are holes in the evidence or the case against you is flimsy, that’s a problem for them. Insufficient evidence, lack of probable cause, or shoddy police work can all be grounds for getting the charges reduced or dropped altogether. A skilled criminal defense attorney will scrutinize every shred of the case to find those weak spots.

Enroll in Drug Court Programs

Another potential path is enrolling in a drug diversion program. These programs help first-time or low-level offenders avoid jail time and a permanent record. You’ll typically have to complete substance abuse treatment, classes, and drug testing. However, if you play by the rules, your charges will be dismissed.

The catch? Drug court works best for a repeat or major drug offender with serious addiction issues. If you’re a first-timer who slipped up, it might be overkill.

Negotiate a Plea Bargain

Another strategy is to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecution. This means pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for reduced penalties.

It’s not a “get out of jail free” card. You’ll still face some consequences. But it beats the alternative of fighting the original charges and risking a harsher prison sentence. Your defense attorney will be vital in striking the best deal possible. They know how to navigate the system and push for a favorable outcome.

Challenging the Evidence

Challenging the evidence against you is another way to get the charges dropped or reduced. A savvy defense lawyer will pick apart the case to find any holes or inconsistencies. If the evidence was obtained illegally, they’ll file motions to suppress it. If the chain of custody is questionable, they’ll raise reasonable doubt.

The goal is to chip away at the prosecution’s case until it crumbles. The ultimate goal is to seek a dismissal, but even getting the charges reduced to a lesser offense is a win.

Hire an Experienced Drug Possession Attorney

Every drug possession case is unique. A skilled attorney from the Florida Ticket Firm team will analyze every aspect of your case in the criminal justice system to mount the strongest defense possible.

Whether that involves fighting the charges head-on, negotiating a plea deal, or pushing for alternative sentencing, having a battle-tested advocate in your corner is critical to getting you the best outcome—including getting drug possession charges dropped.

Don’t skimp on legal representation. Your future is on the line. Call the attorneys at Florida Ticket Firm to go to bat for you and beat a drug possession charge.