Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Attorney Mark O’Mara
Content last updated on: March 23, 2023
If you have been accused of a drug-related offense in Orlando, you could face serious jail time, even if the offense is minor. The U.S. Constitution and the state of Florida guarantee the right of due process under the law.
The criminal defense lawyers at O’Mara Law Group have more than 35 years of experience ensuring defendants receive fair treatment. Our founder, Mark O’Mara, has experience as a prosecutor, which gives him inside knowledge and our clients an advantage.
How can an Orlando drug defense attorney help?
Police are only allowed to make arrests in limited circumstances. Drug arrests often occur as a result of police overstepping their bounds. Zealous prosecutors may pressure you to make incriminating statements they can use against you, whether or not your arrest was valid.
If you have been charged with a drug-related offense, you may have an affirmative defense for one or more of the following:
- Violation of your Fourth Amendment protection against illegal searches and seizures
- Your lack of awareness that a controlled substance was in your possession
- Your lack of knowledge that a substance in your possession was illegal
A 2020 investigative report by WFTV 9 News revealed that black people are two to three times more likely than white people to be arrested in Central Florida for drug offenses, even though they only comprise 15 percent of the population. As many as 32 to 55 percent of arrests that are initiated by law enforcement rather than by 911 calls, involve black people.
Constructive Possession vs. Actual Possession
In the case of Reynolds v. State, actual and constructive possession of controlled substances was differentiated as follows:
- Actual possession – The court must prove the substance was within easy reach and under the control of the person charged.
- Constructive possession – The court must prove that the defendant knew the controlled substance was present and had the ability to exercise control over it.
Drug Trafficking Laws in Florida
The Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act designates which substances are categorized as controlled substances and divides them into categories known as schedules. Drug offenses involving Schedule I and II drugs are the most serious. Charges also become more serious as the quantity increases.
While a small quantity of drugs may result in a possession charge, a larger quantity may result in a drug distribution charge, a third-degree felony.
Possessing controlled substances with the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver is a serious offense in Florida, with the possession of more than 10 grams of any controlled substance classified as a first-degree felony punishable by a prison term of five years up to life, depending on the drug and the quantity.
Penalties may be upgraded if the offense occurs near certain facilities, such as schools, daycare centers, or public housing entities. If the quantity is exceptionally large as defined by statute, the charge can be upgraded to drug trafficking.
Drug trafficking offenses are the most serious and may be applied to anyone who sells, purchases, delivers, manufactures, or brings into the state sufficient quantities of controlled substances.
Marijuana trafficking is a first-degree felony that can be charged when an individual is in possession of 25 pounds of marijuana or 300 or more plants. Penalties start with a mandatory minimum of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Increased quantities command higher mandatory minimums of up to 15 years in prison and fines of up to $200,000.
If you are caught with 28 or more grams of cocaine, you can be charged with trafficking in cocaine, a first-degree felony. This charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence ranging from three to 15 years, depending on the quantity, with fines ranging from $50,000 to $250,000.
If the quantity is 150 grams or more, according to the sentencing guidelines, you are ineligible for discretionary early release programs. If death results from the conduct, or if the quantity is 300 grams or more, the felony is upgraded to a capital felony and subject to the maximum fine of $250,000.
The opioid epidemic has prompted strict trafficking laws with regard to this category of drugs, which are legal when prescribed by a qualified physician.
Trafficking in Illegal Drugs
A person caught with four or more grams of morphine, hydromorphone, opium, or any derivatives including heroin, can be charged with trafficking in illegal drugs, a first-degree felony punishable by mandatory minimums ranging from three to 25 years depending on the quantity, with fines ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.
If the quantity is higher than 30 kilograms, the mandatory minimum is life without the possibility of parole. If another person’s death is caused through the course of this conduct, the charge is upgraded to a capital felony.
If the quantity reaches 60 kilograms or higher, in addition to being a capital felony, a mandatory $500,000 fine will be imposed, whether or not the conduct resulted in a death.
Trafficking in Hydrocodone
A quantity of 28 or more grams of hydrocodone can result in a first-degree felony charge of trafficking in hydrocodone, a charge punishable by minimum mandatory terms ranging between three years and 25 years with fines ranging between $50,000 and $750,000, depending on the quantity.
If the quantity exceeds 30 kilograms, the charge reverts to trafficking in illegal drugs.
Trafficking in Dangerous Fentanyl or Fentanyl Analogues
Selling, transferring, or delivering four or more grams of fentanyl or its derivatives is a first-degree felony punishable by mandatory minimum terms of at least seven to 25 years, with fines ranging from $50,000 to $500,000, depending on the quantity.
Trafficking in Amphetamine
The sale, manufacture, delivery, or introduction into the state of 14 or more grams of methamphetamine, phenylacetone, phenylacetic acid, pseudoephedrine, or ephedrine combined with other chemicals and equipment for the manufacture of methamphetamines or amphetamines is a first-degree felony with mandatory minimums starting at three years and ranging up to the death penalty.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Drug paraphernalia includes any product, equipment, or material intended to be used to grow, harvest, manufacture, store, or introduce into the body controlled substances.
Possession of paraphernalia is a third-degree felony, and delivery of paraphernalia is a second-degree felony. Examples of paraphernalia include but are not limited to:
- Products used to cut or dilute drugs
- Roach clips
- Duct tape
Many of these items are common household items. The prosecution must be able to prove the items are drug paraphernalia and not intended for household use.
Although not as serious as other charges, possession of controlled substances can have serious consequences, including lengthy imprisonment and a record that follows you for life. Even a drug arrest can seriously harm your reputation and your ability to procure employment and living quarters.
Possession of Marijuana
Despite its well-known medical use, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by state and federal law. Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana for personal use is a first-degree misdemeanor.
Is medical marijuana legal?
Medical marijuana is legal in smoking form, but the state is still developing requirements for edibles. Medical marijuana can only be purchased from a licensed marijuana treatment center with a prescription from a doctor.
If you have a valid prescription, you must register with the state and carry an identification card. Smoking medical marijuana in public or purchasing it from any entity other than a licensed treatment center is subject to criminal penalties.
Possession of Heroin
According to the Orange County Government, heroin is a highly addictive opioid that is commonly laced with other harmful drugs, many of which are deadly. This has motivated law enforcement to crack down on this drug.
Heroin is a Schedule I controlled substance under both state and federal law. Possession of heroin is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
Possession of Opiates
Possession of opiates without a valid prescription from a qualified practitioner is also a third-degree felony. It is legal to pick up a prescription for someone else, but it is still possible to be wrongfully arrested in the event you are pulled over with the prescription in your car.
Possession of Methamphetamine, Cocaine, and Ecstasy
These recreational drugs are Schedule I and Schedule II drugs. Possession of any of these drugs is a third-degree felony with penalties of up to five years of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000.
When should I contact an Orlando criminal defense attorney?
The ideal time to speak with a drug defense attorney is before you speak to the police. The less you say to the police, the less ammunition they have against you. One of the most common mistakes defendants make is waiting too long to obtain counsel.
At the O’Mara Law Group, we are guardians of the Constitution, and our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about protecting your rights and remedying the racial disparities that too often plague minorities in Orlando.
If you have been charged with a crime, the time to contact the O’Mara Law Group is now. Let us protect your rights. Talk to a drug defense attorney today.
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