A close-up of different controlled drugs

Is Possession of a Controlled Substance a Crime?

  • On behalf of Mike G Law posted in on Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Controlled substances in Florida are subject to strict legal rules and regulations—but they are not always illegal to have in your possession.

But being charged with the possession of a controlled substance that you are not cleared to own can be a serious offense, especially in Florida, which has some of the most stringent drug laws in the country. Possession charges can have severe consequences, including:

  • Fines
  • Prison time
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Difficulties finding employment or housing

But there can be a lot of confusion around what a controlled substance is and who is allowed to own and use them. If you are being charged with the possession of a controlled substance, it is important to understand what rights you have.

Expert criminal defense attorney Mike G has years of history defending people facing drug charges of all kinds. Today, we will look at the definition of a controlled substance and the laws surrounding this complex topic.

What Is a Controlled Substance?

Under Florida law, controlled substances are drugs and other substances that have the potential for abuse and are subject to government regulations. These typically include illegal recreational drugs and prescription medications.

Controlled substances are regulated by law because they may be addictive or harmful when used improperly. It’s important to note that while some medications may be perfectly legal and prescribed by a doctor, they may still be considered illicit if in your ownership without proof of a doctor’s prescription.

Florida Statute 893.03 groups various substances into categories called schedules, which classify substances based on how strictly controlled they are. If you are charged with illegally possessing one of these substances, the severity of your charges will depend on these schedules.

Schedule I

These drugs do not have any legal use, including medical use. Schedule I drugs are considered to have the highest potential for abuse. This category includes substances such as heroin, and possession usually incurs the most severe penalties.

While marijuana is legal in some US states, Florida currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug. It is illegal to possess marijuana even if it was obtained in a state where it is not criminalized.

Schedule II

Schedule II drugs have some limited application for medical use but are considered dangerous without a prescription and restrictions regarding how they are prescribed. Drugs in this category include cocaine, morphine, fentanyl, and narcotic pain killers.

Schedule III

Schedule III drugs are prescription drugs that have a viable medical use but are still at risk for abuse or dependence. This category includes anabolic steroids, ketamine, and testosterone.

Schedule IV

Schedule IV includes a wide variety of medications that have a lower potential for abuse but still require a prescription. These include drugs like Ambien and Xanax.

Schedule V

Schedule V substances have the lowest potential for abuse and are in widespread medical use in the U.S. These include medications like cough syrups with small amounts of codeine or pain medications with small amounts of narcotics.

Potential Charges for Possession of a Controlled Substance in Florida

While Schedule I substances tend to incur the highest penalties, possession of any substance in Schedules I-IV can lead to prosecution as a felony of the third degree. Consequences can include:

  • Fines of up to $5,000
  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • Suspension of drivers’ license for up to 2 years

Charges for this offense can also have lasting effects on quality of life. If an individual gets charged and convicted of possession of a controlled substance, the conviction stays on their record. It may make it difficult to find work or buy a house in the future.

Possession of a Schedule V substance usually results in a first-degree misdemeanor. It also applies to individuals found to be in possession of under 20 grams of marijuana. The punishments for this can be:

  • Fines of up to $1,000
  • Up to 1 year in prison

This charge applies only to Florida law. If an individual gets charged for possession of a controlled substance under federal law, charges can be drastically more severe. Prison sentences will lead to time in federal prisons in this case, and the subsequent impact on an individual’s life may be much harsher.

Actual vs. Constructive Possession

There are two distinct categories of possession in Florida law.

Actual Possession

The term actual possession generally means that the substance is on your person or that you are actively in control of it. If the substance is in your hand or pocket, for example, this would be actual possession.

Constructive Possession

Constructive possession refers to the legal possession of a substance even if it is not presently on your person.

For example, suppose law enforcement found a prescription narcotic in the trunk of your car during a traffic stop. The prosecution could argue that you were aware of the drug’s presence even if the bottle did not have your name on it because it was in your car.

However, it’s also possible that the defendant was not aware. If the defense attorney can successfully argue that the defendant did not know, the charge of constructive possession falls apart. Police also use constructive possession in cases where you may be at a friend’s home and someone there has recreational drugs.

But constructive possession requires the courts to prove you had knowledge and control over a substance, not just that you were near it. A good criminal defense lawyer can help defend you against legal arguments that may try to take advantage of construction possession rules.

How to Fight a Charge of Possession of a Controlled Substance

If you use prescription medicine that is a controlled substance in Florida, the best advice is to keep evidence of prescription. This can save you a lot of hassle.

Several defenses are available for an individual facing charges. They include:

  • Providing evidence of an illegal search. You can suppress evidence that might be used against you in this case. An illegal search may occur when an officer has acted unreasonably and violated your constitutional rights in their search.
  • Lack of evidence. If the prosecution lacks evidence of the presence of a substance or its proximity to your person, you can use that for your defense.
  • Providing evidence of entrapment. This is where an officer attempts to set an individual up to catch them ‘red-handed’ without justification or using dubious means.

Fighting a charge of possession can seem difficult, but you have a higher chance of success when you hire an experienced defense attorney to work with you. Your attorney can advise you of your best options and help you assemble evidence to prove your innocence.

Best Florida Defense Attorney for Possession of a Controlled Substance

At Mike G Law, we have decades of experience defending clients and helping them contest possession charges. If you are being charged with possession of a controlled substance, remember that you still have rights. Contact Mike G Law today.


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