Florida takes a harsh stance when it comes to the use and distribution of controlled substances. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime, you are facing potentially severe penalties.
How are the penalties determined?
In Florida, the penalties associated with a drug conviction depend on the level of the charge, the type and amount of drug and the type of behavior - possession or sale - involved.
Under Florida law, controlled substances, like heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana - and the compounds made to use them - are classified into five schedules. Schedule I drugs are those perceived to be the most dangerous and to have the highest potential for abuse. Schedule V drugs are still illegal, but are seen as the least dangerous and may have some accepted medical use. Charges involving Schedule I drugs will be punished much more severely than offenses involving Schedule V drugs.
For example, possession of a controlled substance can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony charge, depending on the type of drug involved.
Misdemeanor drug crimes are punishable by fines up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail.
Felony drug charges are divided into two degrees. Felony possession in the first degree is punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison. Felony possession in the third degree is punishable by fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
Sale of controlled substances can also be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A misdemeanor drug sale conviction will carry a fine up to $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Felony drug sale charges are divided into three degrees:
- First degree penalties include fines up to $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison
- Second degree penalties include fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison
- Third degree penalties include fines up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison
The penalties don't stop after the fines are paid and time served
Once you are convicted of a drug crime, you will have a permanent criminal record for life. If you were planning to go to college or graduate school, or work for the state or federal government, a drug conviction could make accomplishing those goals difficult. A felony conviction is an even bigger burden to carry. Felony offenders often find it hard to find any type of employment or housing.
What should you do?
The penalties listed above are just general guidelines. The consequences of a drug conviction can range greatly based on the facts of your case, whether you have had any previous criminal convictions and the skills of your defense attorney. The best way to protect yourself against the heavy hand of the criminal justice system is to hire an experienced lawyer as soon as you've been charged.