Drug possession charges can derail anyone’s life, and especially so if you are a juvenile. Juvenile drug charges can interrupt your chances of being accepted to college, joining a sports team, or getting a scholarship, as well as create difficulties in finding work in the future.
If you are a juvenile and have been found in possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia, tell your parents right away so that they can find legal representation for you.
If your child has been charged, contact a lawyer to ensure that a good defense can be made. Drug charges can impact your life for a long time, and avoiding a conviction is critical.
Juvenile Drug Possession and Potential Penalties
In Florida, the drug possession charges a juvenile might face will depend on the type of drug that they were found in possession of, as well as the amounts. There is no difference in drug possession charges for juveniles or adults, however, they may face different penalties.
Section 893.13 of the Florida Statutes explains that a person can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor possession charge if they are found with under 20 grams of marijuana. This is the only drug that is a misdemeanor charge – small amounts of other drugs, such as MDMA, methamphetamine, ecstasy, heroin, cocaine, or prescription drugs, will mean that the juvenile is charged with third-degree felony possession.
It is important to know that being found in possession of drug paraphernalia such as syringes, pipes, or other devices for smoking, can also result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge in Florida.
Section 775.083 of the Florida Statutes covers the list of penalties that can apply. A misdemeanor conviction can result in fines of as much as $1,000. In addition, a juvenile can also be convicted of up to a year in jail. Felony convictions can result in 5 years in jail, and fines as high as $5,000. These large fines and jail time can make it hard to complete school and to keep life on track for young people, which is why appropriate and prompt legal representation is so important.
It is important to note that if a juvenile is found in possession of large amounts of drugs, they may face second or first-degree felony charges, which can include fines of $10,000 and imprisonment up to 15 years.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Child?
Minors cannot hire lawyers, so a parent or guardian will have to hire a lawyer to represent the juvenile for their legal defense. If you are underage and have been charged with drug possession, you cannot consent to a contract to hire a lawyer, so tell your parents right away if you are facing charges like this so that they can hire an attorney to help you.
There are three factors that are important in creating your defense:
- Proving that the substance is actually illegal. Before a conviction can occur, it must be proved that the substance is illegal, which means that it will need to undergo testing. If the substance is a prescription medication, it will also have to be proven that the juvenile was not allowed to be in possession of it.
- Proving that the defendant knew that the substance was there, and that it was illegal. If your child or a juvenile did not know the drugs were in their possession, it is also very hard to obtain a conviction. The prosecution must prove that the juvenile knew the substance was a controlled substance.
- Proving that the defendant was in “possession” of the drug. For example, if a child is in the household in a house of parents who have drugs in their possession, the child is unlikely to be seen as “in control” of the location of the drugs, or in control of the fact that the drugs are there. As a result, the juvenile is unlikely to be charged or convicted of drug possession. Another situation could be if the juvenile is in someone else’s car that is found to have drugs in the trunk or inside the car. If the juvenile did not know the drugs were there, and was not in control of the car and did not own it, they are less likely to be convicted.
If this was your child’s first offense, or the amounts are very small, they may be able to go through a diversion program and have the charges dropped. It is also possible that they will be required to undertake a drug treatment or rehabilitation program, counseling, and probationary periods.
Get Help from a Board-Certified Attorney
If you have been charged with drug possession as a juvenile, or your child is facing juvenile drug possession charges, Stechschulte Nell can help. Attorney Ben Stechschulte is a Florida board-certified trial lawyer and is ready to defend your unique case.
Contact our Tampa, FL law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney, or request a free case review online.