The nation is gripped in an opioid epidemic. Overdose deaths have made the news, not just because of their prevalence, but because they can affect all communities. While groups attempt to curb the use of opioids and provide help or treatment to addicts, the possession of opioids without a prescription remains illegal leaving law enforcement to crack down in an attempt to save lives and get illegal opioids off the streets.
Simultaneously, more states are approving medical marijuana (including Florida) and even recreational marijuana for adult use. What does this mean for drug possession laws? Is it ok to possess marijuana but not fentanyl or oxycodone? Is possession of particular drugs punished more harshly than possession of other drugs?
What Are Drug Possession Laws?
Drug possession laws aim to limit the possession and personal use of illegal substances. These controlled substances include both Schedule 1 drugs like heroin, LSD, meth, and ecstasy and even prescription drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl.
It’s important to note that marijuana, though allowed for medical use, is still classified as a Schedule 1 drug at the federal level and considered an illegal substance. In Florida, Amendment 2, which was passed in November 2016, allows for the use and cultivation of medical marijuana for qualifying patients. The law does not allow everyone carte blanche access to marijuana. Rather, it requires that patients apply for a medical marijuana card and imposes purchasing and possession limits to ensure that medical marijuana is not abused.
Outside of medical marijuana, one must have a prescription. If you are in possession of marijuana, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or even a felony, depending on the amount of marijuana you have in your possession.
Who Can Be Charged with Drug Possession?
Individuals who are believed to be in possession of a controlled substance—meaning that a controlled substance has been found on their person, in their vehicle, or in their home—can be charged with drug possession. What an individual is charged with will depend on the type of substance and the amount of the substance. In addition, if the arrest occurs in a particular area, such as being too close to a daycare or school, steeper charges or punishments may apply, including mandatory prison time.
Possession of Cocaine
If an individual is found in possession of less than 28 grams of cocaine, they may be charged with a third-degree felony. If he or she is in possession of 28 grams or more, they may be prosecuted for drug trafficking.
Possession of Marijuana
In Florida, possession of marijuana without a prescription is a criminal offense. Individuals found to have less than 20 grams on their person may be charged with a misdemeanor, while those found with 20 grams or more of marijuana may be charged with a felony. Medical patients are advised to always have their card and their prescription on them when transporting their medication.
Possession of Oxycodone
A prescription painkiller, oxycodone can be found in both OxyContin and Percocet. Individuals found to have less than 7 grams of oxycodone on their person without a prescription may be charged with a third-degree felony. Individuals found to have 7 grams or more may be charged with trafficking.
Possession of Heroin and Possession of Fentanyl
A person found in possession of less than 4 grams of heroin or fentanyl may be charged with a third-degree felony. If an individual is found to have 4 grams or more of heroin or fentanyl, they may be prosecuted for trafficking.
This is not an exhaustive list of all controlled substances. For information about your specific charges, it is always best to consult directly with a skilled Tampa defense lawyer.
What About Drug Paraphernalia?
What if you aren’t found with drugs on your person but have an item on you that is considered to be drug paraphernalia? Use or possession of drug paraphernalia, which includes any object that is intended to be used for the consumption, production, or processing of drugs, can lead to criminal charges. It is a first-degree misdemeanor, even if the individual is not found to be in possession of actual drugs.
What Can I Do if I’m Charged with Possession of Drugs?
If you’re charged with possession, seek the help of a qualified Tampa defense attorney. To prove that you are guilty of drug possession, a prosecutor will need to show that you knew about the drug, were aware that it was illegal, and that you were in control of the substance.
For example, if you’re pulled over by an officer and submit to a search of your vehicle (which you aren’t obliged to allow) and the officer finds a cocaine baggie under your seat, a prosecutor will need to show that you knew there was cocaine in your vehicle, that the cocaine belonged to you, and that you knew the cocaine was illegal under Florida law.
Proving possession of drugs or drug paraphernalia found in common spaces, such as a living room or a vehicle, can prove tricky and provides legal grounds for a challenge. A defense attorney may also choose to challenge the legality of the search that led up to the discovery of the drugs or paraphernalia.
Consult with a Tampa Drug Possession Lawyer
Drug possession charges can impact the rest of your life. If you are convicted of drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia, you may find it more difficult to secure student loans, get a mortgage, or even find a job. Any criminal record can impact your life—even if it seems like it’s for a minor offense.
Take charge of your future with Mike G Law. Together, we’ll work towards getting you the best possible outcome for your case so you can move forward. There are multiple ways to fight drug charges—but to have any chance of success, you must have a skilled Tampa defense attorney on your side. Contact Mike G Law today.