Drug Charges Lawyer in Sarasota, FL
Although many states around the country are relaxing some of their drug laws, to the point of legalizing substances such as marijuana, the state of Florida is not one of them.
In fact, Florida has some of the toughest drug laws in the country that impose severe, life-altering consequences on those found guilty.
Drug crimes in Florida range from simple possession to manufacture/sale/intent to sell and drug trafficking. Punishments almost always include jail time and hefty fines, even for simple possession charges.
If you’ve been arrested for any drug-related crime in Sarasota, FL, you need to hire a specialized drug crimes lawyer. They will help you understand your charges and prepare your defense to minimize consequences. At Smith and Eulo, we are drug crimes specialists standing by to help you defend yourself.
Get in touch today, but in the meantime, read more about your charges:
Controlled Substances in the State of Florida
In the state of Florida, there is an extensive list of controlled substances. They are divided into five schedules based on their potential for abuse as well as their potential medical applications.
Schedule 1 drugs are considered to be the most serious because they have the highest potential for abuse and absolutely no known medical application.
Schedule 5 drugs, on the other hand, are considered less severe but are still illegal to have without proper authorization.
The complete list of Florida controlled substances is massive, but here is a quick summary of some of the more common substances found on each schedule:
- Schedule 1 — Marijauana, Ecstasy/MDMA, Heroin, LSD, PCP, Mescaline, Peyote, Psilocybin (magic mushrooms)
- Schedule 2 — Opium, cocaine, morphine, hydrocodone, amphetamine, methamphetamine
- Schedule 3 — Androsterone, Testosterone, Trenbolone, Clonazepam, Methandriol, Phenobarbital, Ethylestrenol
- Schedule 4 — Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Halcion (triazolam), Flurazepam
- Schedule 5 — Tylenol with Codeine, Robitussin (guaifenesin), M-phen (codeine/phenylephrine/promethazine), Poly-Tussin AC (brompheniramine, codeine, and phenylephrine), Lomotil (Diphenoxylate/Atropine), Lyrica (pregabalin)
Drug Crimes in the State of Florida
In the state of Florida, it is illegal to sell, manufacture, deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, a controlled substance.
In this sense, it doesn’t matter how you are handling the drug. You could be a simple, casual user or a small time dealer. In either case, the law deals with you in the same way.
The potential punishments for drug crimes vary based on a number of factors, mainly the substance in question and the quantity.
Any drug crime involving a substance on Schedules 1-4 are processed as a felony. Depending on the specific nature of the case, it can be either a first-, second-, or third-degree felony, leading to anywhere between 5 years and life in prison.
Drug crimes involving Schedule 5 drugs, which are generally considered to be the “least severe” are processed as first degree misdemeanors, which carry jail sentences of up to one year and fines of up to $1,000.
The “least serious” of all drug crimes in the state of Florida is simple possession, though this is still considered a felony in most cases.
The possession of prohibited substances such as cocaine, heroin, MDMA, LSD, methamphetamine, etc. are processed as second degree felonies and can lead to jail sentences of up to 15 years.
For the possession of marijuana, which is technically classified as a Schedule 1 substance, the punishments are slightly less severe. For having or intending to sell 20 grams or less, you would be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. Though not a felony, this can still lead to up to one year of jail time.
Many cities and counties in the state of Florida have voted to lower charges for marijuana possession to civil citations, which often include fines of $100 and no formal arrest. But this is only when the amount in question is less than 20g.
Sarasota is one of these cities, but regular Florida state laws apply to the rest of Sarasota County.
One other thing to note is that possession and ownership are not the same thing. If you are driving a friend’s car or wearing their jacket and drugs are found while you are doing so, you will be the one who is charged, even though, in your eyes, the drugs belonged to your friend.
Possession with the Intent to Sell
Florida statutes include “intent to sell” as part of their blanket description of all drug crimes in the state.
However, in an effort to crack down on the sale and distribution of drugs, prosecutors tend to pursue more severe punishments when they feel there was an intent to sell the drug in question.
Proving intent to sell can be difficult, but things law enforcement agents look for include:
- Large quantities of a controlled substance, more than one person might reasonably consume.
- Paraphernalia such as bags or scales, or individually wrapped packages
- The presence of large amounts of cash
- Presence of ledgers
- Presence of a firearm (which may bring additional charges)
One thing to note is that law enforcement officials often choose to write up “intent to sell” charges, but these are usually difficult to prove in court.
If you’ve been charged with this, work with your attorney to have these charges lowered to simple possession charges, as this can reduce your potential punishment and perhaps even keep you out of jail.
Drug Charges within 1,000 Feet of Protected Facilities
In an effort to protect more vulnerable populations, the state of Florida has imposed additional laws related to the sale of controlled substances near, specifically within 1,000 feet, of certain facilities. These include:
- Public and private universities
- Child care facilities that are clearly marked as such
- Places of worship
- Public housing facilities
- Assisted living facility
If found in possession of drugs, with or without the intent to sell, all related drug crimes will be elevated.
For example, for the sale of Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 drugs normally charged as a second-degree felony, you would be charged with a first degree felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of up to 30 years. Those normally charged as third-degree felonies are upgraded to second-degree, and misdemeanor charges are changed to third-degree felonies, which carries more potential jail time.
The most serious of all drug crimes in the state of Florida is drug trafficking. Those found in possession of large amounts of controlled substances, with an obvious intent to sell and distribute, will face much more serious charges than those holding smaller quantities.
Drug trafficking is a first-degree felony that carries a potential punishment of up to 30 years in prison, and is also a federal crime. However, depending on the amount of drugs in your possession, there are mandatory minimums for drug trafficking.
For example, possession of between 25 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana brings a minimum jail sentence of three years. Possession of more than 10,000 pounds leads to a minimum of 15 years in prison.
Having 28-40 grams of cocaine also brings a three-year minimum, but having more than 28-grams of heroin leads to a minimum of 25 years in prison.
If charged with drug trafficking, you may be able to reduce your sentence by cooperating with law enforcement as an informant or a witness, depending on your involvement in the relevant trafficking scheme to which you belong.
However, never agree to this without first consulting an attorney so that you can be sure you’re properly protected and getting the best possible deal.
Federal Drug Charges
The possession of controlled substances is both a state and a federal crime. Depending on the specific nature of your case, prosecutors may pursue both state and federal charges. This will bring harsher penalties.
Federal charges come into play when you were found with drugs on federal property, crossed state lines with the substance, were involved in a larger organized crime and/or money laundering scheme, used a firearm to further the drug crime, or were being investigated by a federal law enforcement agency such as the DEA.
To give you an idea, possession of 500 grams of cocaine carries a minimum sentence of 5 years but more than 5 kilograms triggers a mandatory minimum of ten years.
If you’ve been charged with a federal drug crime, make sure to contact a drug lawyer who knows how to navigate both state and federal court so that you can craft the best possible defense and minimize or remove any potential consequences.
Possible Defenses for Drug Crimes in Florida
Given the severity of drug crimes in the state of Florida, it’s important you work with an experienced drug crime lawyer to craft your defense. Although the specific approach will depend on the exact details of your case, some potential defenses include:
- Fighting the intent to sell — Getting charges reduced to simple possession can dramatically bring down the potential consequences and even help you stay out of jail.
- Illegal search — For drug crimes to be processed, law enforcement officials must find you in actual possession of the controlled substance. The Fifth Amendment protects US citizens from illegal searches and seizures. So, if the officer in question did not have a warrant or proper probable cause, you may be able to have certain evidence thrown out of court which can lead to a reduction or possible dismissal of charges.
- Coercion — If you got caught up in a larger drug trafficking scheme, you may be able to plead that you were coerced under threat. This may not eliminate all charges, but it could help reduce them. And if you can provide any additional information about said drug trafficking scheme, this may help you even more.
Contact an Experienced Drug Crimes Lawyer in Sarasota, FL
If you’ve been accused of any drug crime in Sarasota, FL, the first thing you must do is hire an attorney. Do not speak to police until you’ve had the chance to consult with legal counsel. From there, your lawyer will help you figure out the best possible course of action to help you stay out of jail and/or minimize your sentence.
The lawyers at Smith and Eulo Law Firm have been handling drug crimes in Sarasota and the rest of the state of Florida for many years and have the experience needed to help you achieve the best possible result in court.
Get in touch today and let’s get started crafting your defense.
* Here are some additional legal resources in the Sarasota area to help you navigate your situation.
In addition to our Sarasota location, we also have offices in: