Florida has some very tough penalties for drug possession. Perhaps the most overlooked and most onerous is that even a first-time misdemeanor drug possession charge means you will lose your driving privileges for a period of one year. This alone can cause you significant financial damage since you may be unable to get to your place of employment. You need a skilled Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer to assist you in the event you are charged with any type of drug possession.
It is possible to fight back
Too often, defendants give up their rights when they are arrested. For example, if you are stopped for a traffic violation the officer may ask if they can search your vehicle. I always encourage people to avoid giving permission. In effect, the officer is asking you to waive your Fourth Amendment rights and unless they have probable cause to believe you are in possession of a drug, they have no cause to search your vehicle or your person.
Florida prosecutors must prove that you had knowledge that a drug was in your vehicle or your home and the ability to control the substance before they can successfully prosecute you. This is known as constructive possession; for example, if a friend in your vehicle has drugs on his person, you may not necessarily be aware of it, but still may be arrested for possession. While an officer may search your vehicle if they detect the odor of marijuana or see any container they may believe contains and illicit drug, they cannot search otherwise without your permission.
The charges trap
Prosecutors will often offer defendants a deal if they plead guilty or no-contest to a simple charge of possession. What many people do not realize is that unless they later have their record expunged, both of these pleas will dog you forever. Once you have pled guilty you may face jail time and you will lose your driver’s license. A no contest plea is the same as pleading guilty and a judge may sentence you to probation or jail time as well as require random drug testing for a period of one year.
Understanding drug schedules and possession charges
Florida classifies drugs into five schedules based on how harmful the substance is considered to be. The categories are:
- Schedule 5 – Small amounts of specific narcotic drugs that have limited risk of addiction.
- Schedule 4 – diazepam and other substances that are seldom abused and have an acceptable medical use.
- Schedule 3 – steroids are in this class as they are considered to have characteristics that could lead to dependence.
- Schedule 2 – these drugs have a very high potential for dependence; opium and morphine are included in this class.
- Schedule 1 – the most common drug in this class is heroin; these drugs have no medical use and are highly abused.
Keep in mind, any amount of marijuana, will land you in jail facing on possession charges. If you are found with other controlled substances such as cocaine or methamphetamine, the penalties will be far more severe. You never have to allow a drug possession charge create you problems for a lifetime. You can work with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney that understands Florida’s drug laws and will help mount a defense. Even a minor possession charge should be handled by a skilled attorney. If you have been arrested for a drug crime in the Jacksonville area, contact James Davis at (904) 358-0420 to help you with your defense and ensure your driving rights are protected.