Every state has its own laws regarding the possession of illegal drugs, but Florida is known for having some of the toughest drug possession laws in the country. If you are accused of drug possession, you could face serious penalties that will negatively impact your future. This is true regardless of how much of the drug was in your possession or whether or not you are a repeat offender.

Will you be sentenced to jail or prison if you are convicted of drug possession in the state of Florida? How can a Tampa criminal defense attorney help you reach the best possible outcome in your case? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.

What Are the Drug Possession Laws in Florida?

If you are found in the possession of illegal drugs, you could face drug possession charges in the state of Florida.

However, you may face more serious charges if you are in possession of a large quantity of drugs. A drug possession charge could turn into a possession with the intent to sell charge if you possess more than a specific weight of an illegal drug. Both crimes are serious, but possession with the intent to sell carries more severe penalties.

Actual vs. Constructive Possession: What’s the Difference?

The law states that you can face drug possession charges if you are in “actual” or “constructive” possession of illegal drugs. For this reason, it’s important to understand what actual and constructive possession means so you know when you could possibly be charged with a crime.

Someone is in actual possession of a drug when the drug is found on their person. For example, if the police find drugs in your pocket or handbag, this means you were in actual possession of the drugs. You can also be in actual possession of a drug if it is within reaching distance or nearby.

Constructive possession is a bit more complicated. To prove constructive possession, the state must show:

  • The defendant was aware of the drug’s presence.
  • The defendant had the ability to exercise dominion and control over the location where the drugs were found.

For example, if you live alone and drugs are found in your home, you may be charged with constructive possession of the drugs. This is because the state will argue that you are the only person who has dominion and control over your home and you must have known about the drug’s presence since they were in your home.

You will face the same charges regardless of whether you were in actual or constructive possession of illegal drugs. 

What Are the Penalties For Drug Possession in Florida?

The penalties for a drug possession conviction will vary depending on a number of factors, including the nature of the crime and the defendant’s prior record.

Most drug possession charges in Florida are third degree felonies. If you are convicted of a third degree felony drug possession charge, you could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. The court could also order you to pay up to $5,000 in fines.

You can face first degree felony charges for the possession of 10 grams of more of certain drugs listed in Schedule I. If you are convicted of first degree felony charges, you could face decades in prison in addition to up to $10,000 in fines.

Some drug possession charges are classified as misdemeanors rather than felonies. For example, the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis is a first degree misdemeanor. If you are convicted of this crime, the maximum penalty you could face is one year in jail in addition to $1,000 in fines.

The possession of any controlled substance included in Schedule V is a second degree misdemeanor. If you are convicted of this crime, you could face up to 60 days in jail and $500 in fines.

What is Drug Court in Florida?

Most drug possession charges carry severe penalties, including potential time in jail or prison. But if you meet certain eligibility requirements, you may be able to avoid incarceration by participating in Florida’s drug court program. The goal of Florida’s drug court is to rehabilitate rather than incarcerate drug offenders.

If your case is moved to drug court, you will be required to meet certain terms and conditions. For instance, the court may order you to attend counseling sessions, receive substance abuse treatment, and submit to random drug tests throughout the program. You will also be required to meet with a probation officer and review the status of your progress with a judge on a regular basis.

You must comply with the program’s terms and conditions. If you fail to comply, the court can impose additional penalties on you, including community service and incarceration.

But if you successfully complete the program and comply with all of its terms and conditions, the court will dismiss the charges against you. This means you will no longer face other legal penalties, including jail, prison, or substantial fines as long as you complete the drug court program.

Drug court offers certain non-violent drug offenders the opportunity to avoid jail and prison and receive the substance abuse treatment they need to make positive changes in their lives.

Let A Criminal Defense Attorney Fight Your Charges

No one should face drug charges in Florida alone. If you have been accused of drug possession, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney at Carlson Meissner Hart & Hayslett. Together, our attorneys have over 125 of combined legal experience. Our team has helped over 15,000 clients protect their rights and fight their criminal charges. Now, let us go to work for you.

Call our law firm today to schedule a free consultation with our team regarding your case.