Drug Crimes - Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney
In order to prevent the possession, use or distribution of illegal substances, Florida law has outlined crimes and penalties related to Drug Abuse Prevention and Control. The federal government also has enacted rules restricting access to certain drugs or narcotics. The substances made illegal under both federal and state law are defined within separate categories referred to as Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III and Schedule IV drugs.
If you commit any drug crime, the consequences of conviction will depend on the schedule of the drug as well as how much of the drug you had in your possession. With any drug conviction, you face potential jail time, a criminal record and other penalties including mandatory drug counseling. Therefore, if you are arrested for a drug crime, it is important you seek legal help from a Tampa criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Stechschulte Nell has experience with both federal and state drug cases and can help you throughout your criminal drug case.
Types of Drug Crimes in Florida
In the state of Florida, drug crimes range from minor misdemeanor charges to serious felony charges. For example, you may be charged with:
- Possessing drug paraphernalia. This misdemeanor charge can be brought if you have in your possession certain items that are associated with the use of illegal drugs, such as cocaine cooking kits or bongs used for marijuana.
- Possession of drugs. If you have small amounts of drugs under your control, you can be charged with simple possession. The penalties will depend on what schedule the drug is. For example, if you have less than 0 gams of pot, you face up to a year in jail and a fine up to $1,000. If you have 28 grams or less of cocaine in your possession, you can be jailed for up to five years.
- Intent to sell or distribute narcotics. You do not actually have to sell the drugs to be charged with possession with intent to sell. If you have larger amounts of drugs in your possession, such as 25 or more marijuana plants, no matter what size those plants are, you could go to jail for 15 years.
- Drug trafficking. This is the most serious offense and if convicted, you face 30 years of prison time or even life in prison if a firearm is involved. Again, trafficking can be inferred based on the amount of drugs you have in your possession. For example, if you have just four grams of a controlled substance such as Oxycodone in your possession without a prescription, you can be charged with trafficking, even if you weren’t actually engaged in widespread distribution of the drugs.
Defenses to Drug Crimes
In Florida, drug crimes are taken very seriously and if you are convicted, there is a good chance you will go to jail. Therefore, you should always speak with a St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer to understand how best to handle the charges against you. If you are charged with a Florida drug crime, you can raise a number of defenses including:
- Illegal traffic stops. Law enforcement cannot pull you over without just cause or some reason to suspect that you were violating the law. If they do stop you illegally, you can keep any evidence they collected out of court.
- Illegal searches of your home or property. The Fourth Amendment gives you the right to be free from searches without reasonable cause and/or a search warrant. If law enforcement searches you or your property, including your vehicle, illegally, you can keep evidence collected out of court.
- Joint possession or constructive possession. In joint possession cases, drugs are assumed to belong to an entire group of people who may be in possession of the drugs together. Likewise, in constructive possession cases, law enforcement assumes you were in possession of the drugs based on factors surrounding your search or arrest. If you were not actually in possession and had no control over the drugs, you can defend yourself by arguing lack of control or possession of the drugs.
- Substantial assistance. If you help law enforcement to convict others involved in your drug crime, such as your dealer or someone who you were conspiring with to obtain drugs, you may be able to convince the court to reduce or suspend your sentence. This is not usually the best option but can be appropriate in certain drug crimes cases.
- Miranda rights violations. The Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement must read you your rights before you are taken into custody. These rights include the right to a lawyer and the right to remain silent. If law enforcement does not read you your rights, or those rights were read improperly, then anything you may have said to law enforcement cannot be used against you in court. Review any video taken during the arrest to ensure all rights were read properly.
- Drug Weight Defense: Often, the police will weigh the drugs in a manner that increases their weight. For instance, they may include the pill bottle and/or the container that holds the drugs when weighing it, thus increasing the seriousness of the charges faced. For example, anything over 4 grams in pill weight can lead to trafficking charges, which carry with them a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. To fight this over-charging on the part of the prosecutor, we can have an independent expert weigh the drugs to challenge the police and the prosecutor's drug weight evidence.
- Prescription Defense: If you have a valid prescription for a controlled substance but don’t have it at the time of your arrest, we can present the prescription to the prosecutor and demand that they drop the charges.
- Substance Abuse Treatment Defense: If the evidence against you is strong or not in our favor, we can help you to enter either a Residential or Out-Patient Drug Program as a substitute for jail/prison time.
A Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help With Your Defense
Every case is unique and choosing the right defense can be complicated. The Tampa criminal defense lawyers at Stechschulte Nell can help you navigate the criminal justice system and create the strongest defense to your drug case. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.