Defending the Rights of the Accused for 30 Years


Drug Crimes Lawyer

Jim kontos
By James Kontos

What Should You Know About Florida’s Drug Laws?

The legalization of medical marijuana in Florida has called into question some of the state’s other drug possession and distribution laws. But while Florida residents can no longer be charged with a crime by consuming legally-prescribed marijuana, those who consume non-prescription marijuana—or spice, opiates, amphetamines, or a wide range of other controlled substances—can still face stiff penalties.

What Constitutes a Drug Crime Under Florida Law?

Florida’s drug crime laws can be placed into two broad categories: possession and manufacture or distribution. In general, the penalties for possessing a controlled substance are less harsh than the penalties for growing or producing this substance or selling it to someone else.


“Bath salts” and “spice” were both recently added to the state’s list of controlled substances, joining hard drugs like heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, barbiturates, ecstasy, and amphetamines. Florida law also criminalizes the possession of most prescription drugs when possessed by someone other than the person to whom they were prescribed.

Although the simple possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana is a first-degree misdemeanor, any drug conviction on your record can have serious consequences. Possession of other controlled substances is generally a felony, with the potential for more serious consequences.

Manufacture and Sale

Prosecutors will usually choose to elevate a simple possession charge to “possession with intent to sell” when circumstances suggest that the drugs were not being kept for personal use. In other cases, defendants who possess packaging materials and large amounts of cash, or whose text messages reveal communication with prospective customers, may be subject to this charge even if the amount of drugs in their possession is a relatively small one.

Drug manufacture can be a different offense entirely. Proving this claim will require prosecutors to show that an accused defendant purchased or possessed precursors to drug manufacture, illegally grew cannabis, or took other conscious steps to create a controlled substance, whether for personal use or with the intent to sell.

Often, a series of seemingly innocuous events (like purchasing large quantities of pseudoephedrine or certain farm chemicals), when taken together, can provide the probable cause needed for a search warrant. Any evidence seized pursuant to this warrant can then be used to support subsequent drug charges.

What Are the Potential Sentences For Florida Drug Crimes? 

Marijuana possession (without a prescription and without the intent to sell) is usually a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a 1-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $1,000.

Other drug crimes can range from a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, to a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Third-degree felony drug crimes usually involve possession or possession of a relatively small amount with the intent to sell. Individuals caught with less than 28 grams (or around one ounce) of cocaine, less than 10 grams of MDMA or ecstasy, less than 1 gram of LSD, or up to 4 grams of heroin or other opiates may be subject to third-degree felony charges.

Meanwhile, those with more than 25 pounds of non-medical marijuana or more than the third-degree felony limits of other controlled substances may be charged with a first-degree felony, trafficking in controlled substance. Each trafficking in controlled substance charge carries a minimum mandatory prison sentence, ranging from 3 to 25 years in prison.

What Must Prosecutors Prove for a Drug-Related Conviction?

In order to prove a defendant guilty of a crime involving a controlled substance, prosecutors must establish three factors beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The illegal nature of the controlled substance;
  • The defendant’s knowledge of the drug; and
  • The defendant’s control of the drug.

Without one of these three essential factors, the claim will fail. For instance, if you’re found in possession of a controlled substance but can show that you didn’t have knowledge of the substance (for example, if it was found in your vehicle after you lent it to a friend), you may not have the requisite knowledge for a conviction. By that same token, someone who is riding in a vehicle in which controlled substances are found but who had no control over the drug, even if they had knowledge of it, may not be found guilty.

Defense Strategies for Florida Drug Charges

While the penalties for drug crimes under Florida law can be severe, a conviction isn’t a given. There are several potential defenses that could be available, including:

    • Lack of knowledge that the material at issue was a controlled substance
      Occasionally, an individual may come into possession of a controlled substance without even realizing it. Without the “knowledge” component of possession, a conviction cannot stand.
    • A valid prescription from a medical professional
      Physicians can legally prescribe quite a few controlled substances, including opiates and many types of amphetamines. As long as you have a valid prescription for a certain drug, you can’t be prosecuted for possessing it.
    • Constitutional violations
      Entrapment, Fourth Amendment search and seizure violations, and other situations that infringe upon your Constitutional rights may taint any evidence seized. If a police officer is found to have violated your rights while seeking or executing a search warrant (or by performing a warrantless search), any evidence that is found during this search may be inadmissible in a later court proceeding.

Other defenses may be available depending on the specific facts of your case. An experienced defense attorney can work with you to determine which of these defenses are most viable and should be pursued.