Drug Offenses in Florida
It is illegal to possess, manufacture, sell, purchase, or deliver a number of different drugs in the state of Florida. The most common drug offenses concern marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and some prescription medications. Possession of a drug can be proven in two ways: actual or constructive possession. Actual possession occurs where the individual is found with the drugs on his person. Constructive possession occurs where the drugs are within the control of the person and the person has knowledge of their existence, even though they are not actually found on the person. The penalty is the same regardless of which type of possession is proven. The penalties for these various offenses depend on the type of substance involved, the amount of the substance involved, and the activity involved (for instance, sale or trafficking may carry a greater sentence than possession).
Generally, as the amount of the substance increases, so do the maximum penalties. Often, there are mandatory minimum prison sentences that must be imposed for drug offenses. These mandatory minimum sentences typically arise in cases where the government has chosen to charge the individual with trafficking in the substance. Trafficking does not necessarily mean sale. Under Florida law, trafficking can consist of simply possessing a certain amount of an illegal substance. A mandatory minimum sentence is a sentence that must be imposed upon conviction for the crime (i.e. the judge does not have any discretion to not impose the sentence), and it must be served day for day (the individual being sentenced is not entitled to any gain time as a matter of law). A judge does have discretion to impose a sentence greater than the mandatory minimum; however, the individual would be entitled to gain time on any part of the sentence beyond the mandatory minimum. Convictions for drug offenses also result in a 1 year driver’s license suspension, and certain trafficking offenses carry mandatory fines.