Drug crimes have a long history of being divisive in the United States. From the first laws banning opium in San Francisco back in 1875, to the regulation of cocaine and heroin exclusively to prescriptions at the dawn of WWI, to Prohibition in the 1920s, to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, we have had an ever evolving history with what drugs are deemed illegal. Due to that evolving nature, here in Florida, many drugs are still illegal to buy, intend to sell, deliver, manufacture, or possess whether you believe they should be or not. Drugs are categorized based on their potential for abuse, currently accepted medical uses and whether abuse may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence (see F.S. 89303). These illegal drugs are called Controlled Substances and some of them can even get you in trouble if previously prescribed. If you run out of your prescription and borrow one from someone else or if you transferred the pills to a bottle that doesn't have the prescription attached, both can get you arrested for a felony.
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WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON DRUG CRIMES?
OTHER DRUG CRIMES
A person 18 years of age or older may not deliver any controlled substance to a person younger than 18 years of age, use or hire a person younger than 18 years of age as an agent or employee in the sale or delivery of a controlled substance, or use such person to assist in avoiding detection or apprehension. Imposition of sentence may not be suspended or deferred, and the person so convicted may not be placed on probation.
It is a crime for any health care provider to commit fraud in order to provide someone with a controlled substance they do not need for a legitimate medical purpose or a larger dose than necessary.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A CONVICTION FOR DRUGS?
With the exception of Possession of Less Than 20 grams Cannabis, which is a first degree misdemeanor, all other drug crimes are felonies.
A first degree felony is punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and 30 years in state prison or 30 years supervised probation.
A second degree felony punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and 15 years in state prison or 15 years supervised probation.
A third degree felony punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and 5 years in state prison or 5 years supervised probation.
The sentence of certain drug crimes are elevated depending on how much the drugs (or any mixture containing the drug) weigh.
The sentence of certain drug crimes are also elevated when near a K-12 school, college, park, community center, public housing facility, church, assisted living facility, or convenience store. Conviction may also subject you to a minimum mandatory term of imprisonment.
If a person commits any drug crime and the crime results in a serious injury to a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician, paramedic, employee of a public utility, animal control officer or any other local, state, or Federal Government employee injured during the course and scope of his or her employment, the person commits a felony of the third degree. If the injury sustained results in death or great bodily harm, the person commits a felony of the second degree.
BUT I DIDN'T EVEN HAVE THE DRUGS ON ME!
To prove possession of illegal drugs, the State may do so by actual possession OR constructive possession.
Actual possession has been defined by the Florida courts as 1) in the physical possession of a person, or 2) within ready reach. This means if the drugs are in your cup holder, center console, glove box or a door pocket, the State may be able to prove to a jury that you are in actual possession of the drugs.
Constructive possession is a bit more difficult to nail down. There must be 1) dominion and control over the controlled substance, and 2) knowledge that the contraband is in the person's presence. The Florida Supreme Court has equated dominion and control with legal ownership of the container where the drugs are found. Knight v. State, 186 So.3d 1005 (Fla. 2016). This allows the State to prove you were in possession of drugs when they were even farther away, possibly in a different location altogether.
Drug crimes can also be proven by what's called Joint Possession (and that's not a pun). That means both you and all of your buddies can be in possession of the controlled substance at the same time. Unfortunately, each of you can be separately convicted of a crime, even if there is only one baggie/container of drugs.