Whether you or a loved one has been arrested, or charged with possession of a controlled substance, it is critical to consult with an experienced Miami possession of a controlled substance attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected. You need the counsel of an experienced lawyer to guide you through the process and maximize your chances of resolving your case with a favorable outcome.
Simple possession of a controlled substance is rarely prosecuted as a federal crime. Almost all controlled substance possession prosecutions take place in state court.
What is a Controlled Substance?
Florida law classifies many commonly known drugs like cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin as controlled substances, as well as the ingredients (“compounds”) that people use to manufacture them.
While some controlled substances are illegal to possess under any circumstances, many others can be legally possessed with a valid prescription, like Xanax or Oxycodone.
Florida divides controlled substances into five categories which are called “schedules,” The substances are classified as belonging to a certain category based upon the likelihood they will be abused:
- SCHEDULE I (Examples: Heroin, LSD, MDMA, PCP, GHB) – A substance that has a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use.
- SCHEDULE II (Examples: Opium, Cocaine, Hydrocodone, Fentanyl, Meth) – A substance that has a high potential for abuse, has a currently accepted but severely restricted medical use, and abuse of the substance may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.
- SCHEDULE III (Examples: Ketamine, anabolic steroids) – A substance that has less potential for abuse than Schedules I and II substances, has a currently accepted medical use, and abuse of the substance may lead to moderate or low physical dependence, high psychological dependence, or physical damage.
- SCHEDULE IV (Examples: Xanax, Rohypnol) – A substance that has a low potential for abuse compared to Schedule III substances, has a currently accepted medical use, and abuse of the substance may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence compared to Schedule III substances.
- SCHEDULE V – A substance that has a low potential for abuse when compared to Schedule IV substances, has a currently accepted medical use, and abuse of the substance may lead to limited physical or psychological dependence compared to Schedule IV substances.
See Florida Statute Section 893.03 for a full list of all substances in each schedule.
How Does the Law Define Possession?
Under Florida law, possession or control mean either actually and knowingly possessing the property (“actual possession”) or the situation where a person knows that the item is present on his or her property and the person has the ability to maintain control of the item (“constructive possession”).
- The substance is in the person’s hand, or
- The substance is in a container in the person’s hand or otherwise on the person (e.g., purse, backpack), or
- The substance is so close to the person that it is easily within their reach and under their control.
Just because a person happens to be close to the substance, however, does not prove that the person has control over it unless the person controls the place (e.g., house, car).
Constructive possession applies when:
- The person has control over the place where the substance is present (e.g., apartment, car, etc.), or
- The person has concealed it.
If you are being prosecuted based on constructive possession, the State is required to prove the following two things:
- That you had dominion and control over the substance and
- You knew that the substance was in your presence.
Furthermore, if the substance is present in a place that the person does not control (e.g., public restroom, park, street), the State has to prove the following three elements to establish constructive possession:
- Control over the substance;
- The person knew that the substance was in their presence; and
- The person knew that it was a controlled substance.
There is also something in the law called “joint possession” which occurs when two or people exercise control over the substance. In this circumstance, each person is considered to be in possession of the substance.
Regardless of whether you are being charged with actually or constructively possessing a substance, it is extremely important that your attorney has the knowledge and experience in drug crimes cases to both evaluate your case and raise the right defenses.
Punishment for a Possession of a Controlled Substance Conviction
In Florida, possession of a controlled substance is a third-degree felony. According to Florida law, a third-degree felony is punishable by up to five (5) years in state prison, up to five years of probation, and a maximum fine of $5,000. More serious charges such as drug trafficking or possession with intent to sell carry harsher penalties.
It’s important to point out that the State can prosecute simple possession of certain quantities of controlled substances as drug trafficking. For example, possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine becomes a trafficking offense punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a minimum-mandatory prison sentence.
Other Possible Consequences of a Conviction
A conviction for possession of a controlled substance can impact your life long after your sentence is served. A conviction can negatively affect your:
- Driver’s license;
- Industry-specific license
- State and Federal benefits
- Parental rights
- Ability to obtain bank loans
- Right to possess firearms
- Immigration status
What are Possible Defenses to Possession of a Controlled Substance?
Possible defenses include:
- Possession of a valid prescription
- Lack of possession (this defense can be raised when there is an issue as to the person’s “dominion and control” over the substance)
- Lack of knowledge (this is also known as “unwitting possession”)
- Substance is not what is alleged
- Illegal search and seizure
- Drugs were planted
First-Time Offenders, Drug Court, and Drug Diversion
Some first-time offenders are eligible for “drug court” which allows them to plead not guilty, complete treatment, and have their case dismissed after approximately a year. In Miami-Dade County, there is also a less intensive diversion program called “drug diversion” where the case remains in front of the assigned judge and is dismissed after approximately three months. Some other common dispositions to possession of controlled substance cases are pleas of no contest with varying terms of probation. A more intensive type of supervision called “drug offender probation” is often imposed on defendants who have a history of drug abuse and includes elements of substance abuse treatment and random drug testing.
Florida Statute 893.13 – Florida statute criminalizing the possession of controlled substances.
Possession of a Controlled Substance Jury Instructions – Jury instructions in Word format.
Contact an Experienced Miami Drug Possession Attorney
Over the years, we have represented hundreds of clients in possession of controlled substance cases. There is a good chance that we have dealt with your type of case and have represented clients who shared similar needs and concerns that you may have. Feel free to browse through the results section of our site for a representative sample of some of our past cases, and the results we have achieved for our clients.
By taking the immediate action of hiring an experienced drug possession attorney to defend yourself, you are minimizing the chances that your criminal case will have lasting consequences for your career, personal life, and reputation. CALL US NOW for a CONFIDENTIAL CONSULTATION at (305) 538-4545, or simply take a moment to fill out our securely encrypted intake form. The additional details you provide will greatly assist us in responding to your inquiry.
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ALWAYS INVESTIGATE AN ATTORNEY’S QUALIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE BEFORE MAKING A DECISION ON HIRING A LAWYER IN A POSSESSION OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE CASE