First-time drug offenders can go to jail in Florida as the state takes these crimes very seriously. Pinellas County is in the top 5 counties for most drug arrests in Florida. The severity of punishment depends on various factors, including the type of drug offense and the type of illegal substance involved.
If you’ve been arrested for a first-time drug offense in Florida, you can work with a St. Petersburg criminal defense lawyer to fight for your innocence, get your charges reduced and get help with any addictions that are spiraling. We welcome you to contact us today for a free consultation.
Penalties for First-Time Drug Offenders in St. Petersburg, FL
Although repeat drug offenders face a high severity of punishment, you can still face life-changing penalties and jail as a first-time drug offender in St. Petersburg.
The severity of your penalty depends on the amount of the substance found and the schedule classification.
- Drug possession is when someone is found in possession of a controlled or illegal substance for personal use only.
- This is the most common type of drug crime in St. Petersburg.
- It can include:
- Actual Possession (when the drugs are found on you).
- Constructive Possession (when the drugs are found in a place you have control over, such as your car).
- Joint Possession (when two or more people have a shared ownership of a drug).
Can I Go to Jail for Drug Possession in St. Petersburg?
Yes. Here are the following common penalties:
- Possession of an illegal substance:
- Felony of the third-degree
- Punishable up to 5 years in prison
- And/or a $5,000 fine.
- Non-medical Marijuana Possession of up to 20 grams:
- First-degree misdemeanor
- Up to 1 year in jail
- And/or a $1,000 fine.
- Non-medical Marijuana Possession of over 20 grams:
- Felony of the third-degree
- Up to 5 years in prison
- And/or a fine of $5,000.
Drug Sales and Trafficking
Drug Trafficking is when someone is found to knowingly have sold, purchased, manufactured or delivered drugs. Many people are surprised to find they’re charged with trafficking, as you don’t even need to sell a drug to qualify for it.
Can I Go to Jail for Drug Sales or Trafficking in St. Petersburg?
Yes. These crimes are taken very seriously, especially with high substance quantities. Sentences can range from between 3-25 years in prison. You may also face federal drug crime charges. Alongside the following, you can also expect fines of between $25,000 and $500,000.
- Cannabis Drug Trafficking:
- 25-1,999lbs: 3 years in prison.
- 2,000-9,999lbs: 7 years in prison.
- 10,000 or more: at least 15 years in prison.
- Involvement of a firearm can result in life imprisonment.
- Opium Drug Trafficking:
- 4-13 grams: 3 years in prison.
- 14-27 grams: 15 years in prison.
- 28 or more grams: 25 years in prison.
- Cocaine Drug Trafficking:
- 28-199 grams: 3 years in prison
- 200-399 grams: 7 years in prison.
- 400 grams to 15kg: 15 years in prison.
Source: Florida Statute 893.135
What Will Happen if You’re Convicted for a First-Time Drug Offense?
After an arrest, you will be given a court date to present your defense. If convicted, the sentencing phase will begin and a punishment will be given – this will include both incarceration time and the total fines and fees. Even if you are a first-time drug offender, you can go to jail. You may also be given mandatory drug treatment programs and counseling, as well as community service obligations.
You will also have a permanent stain on your record. This can have a huge impact on your future ability to make a living, gain education, housing and insurance.
What Can I Do to Avoid Jail Time for a First-Time Drug Offense in St. Petersburg?
You always have the right to defend yourself. Our St. Petersburg Drug Crime Defense Attorneys often help people get their charges dropped or reduced. Here are some examples:
Getting Charges Dropped
Unlawful Search and Seizure
If your Fourth Amendment rights were violated, your charges could get dropped entirely. An unlawful search violates these rights. For example, if a police officer stopped and searched your vehicle with no valid reason for the stop (such as a traffic infringement) then it is an unlawful search – even if they found drugs.
Lack of Knowledge a Controlled Substance was Present
Sometimes, defendants can get their charges dropped if they had no idea the drugs were actually in their car or home. For example, if you recently had a passenger in your car and they dropped the drugs under the seat by accident, how would you know? The state must prove you knew and that can be hard for them.
You Have a Medical Marijuana Card
If you were arrested despite being in possession of a medical marijuana card, please contact our Pinellas County criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible.
Read Related: Will a Medical Marijuana Card Get You Out of Trouble?
Getting Your Charges Reduced
Rehab and/or Counseling
If you’ve made a mistake with a first-time drug charge, you need to gain control of your relationship to illegal substances. Rehab or counseling is suggested for men and women who have been spiraling out of control.
Showing you’re taking responsibility can also be very impactful in your case’s outcome. We regularly practice in front of Pinellas County’s Drug Court (Division N) run by Judge Dee Anna Farnell, and know that she expects and appreciates when defendants are working to cut out their issues. Doing this can help you avoid jail and crucially, get the help you need.
In some unique cases, you may also be able to get your charges dropped or reduced via a Plea Bargain. Plea Deals allow the state to reduce the amount of court time and resources required for drug crimes.
In these cases, you could be offered the chance to plead guilty to a lesser charge or the completion of a drug treatment program.
Can My Child Go to Jail for a First-Time Drug Offense in St. Petersburg?
A child will not go to adult prison. But they can face juvenile detention or home detention.
If your child is facing a drug offense charge in St. Petersburg, FL you must act fast to get your child back on track and to fight for their future.
In most cases, as child will face one of the following penalties:
- Juvenile Arbitration
- Juvenile Diversion Alternative Program (JDAP)
- The Walker Plan
What Happens Next?
- After their arrest, a juvenile is taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC).
- They will be questioned on key information.
- They can be released once a parent is informed.
- They will face a Detention Hearing the next day, where a judge will decide on their release or need to be held in custody. This may include:
- 21 days in a secure detention
- Home detention
- Investigations will follow and determine if the child should stay in juvenile court or go to an adult court.
- Children over 14 years old may face adult court in severe cases, such as those involving firearms.
Read Related: How to Defend a DUI for Prescription Drugs in Florida
Examples of Our Successful Drug Cases:
Jail Avoided for Drug Possession and DUI
Our client was arrested after losing control of their car in St. Petersburg. The police found over 100 grams of marijuana in his car, and he failed to complete a sobriety test. He was charged with felony possession of marijuana and a DUI and leaving the scene of an accident.
We quickly got to work on negotiating with the prosecutor, helping our client to avoid jail time. In exchange, he enrolled in DUI school and performed the necessary substance abuse treatment.
Felony Drug Charge Reduced to Misdemeanor
Our client was arrested after the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office found him with a bong under the driver’s side floorboard. He failed to provide a breath sample and was arrested, before the police found a small amount of xanax.
Facing a Felony drug charge and DUI, he smartly hired us early in his case to get the charge dropped. We told the prosecutor that the search was improper and that a felony charge for a minor amount of xanax was too severe. They agreed, allowing our client to enter the D.R.O.P program to reduce his DUI charge. In the end, he didn’t get convicted of a single misdemeanor charge. Our client was delighted.
25-Year Prison Sentence Avoided
A young 25-year-old man was arrested for selling hydromorphone pills and crack cocaine to an undercover detective. This occurred after a warrant was issued for his arrest on 10 charges. But our client had no idea there was a warrant or that he was selling the drugs to a law enforcement officer.
Facing felony trafficking charges that carry a 25-year prison sentence, he hired our team for an aggressive defense. As a soon-to-be father, his future was in our hands.
We immediately suggested an evaluation at Solutions Behavioral Healthcare Consultants. He responded very well to the program and he soon got himself a job.
These efforts were vital in proving to the judge that he was taking responsibility for his life. This in addition to our arguments against the nature of the arrest helped us earn what some people described as ‘the deal of the century’.
- See the full list of prohibited substances in Florida
- Pinellas County Human Services
- Free addiction resources
- Find a Rehab center near you
- SAMHSA National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Service: Free and confidential information in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues.
Pinellas County Drug Crime Statistics
Drug Arrests Per 100,000 People:
- 2022: 565.5
- 2021: 529.6
- 2020: 459.9
- 2019: 715.3
- 2018: 822. 3
Drug Crime Defense Lawyer in St. Petersburg, FL
If you’ve been arrested for a drug offense in St. Petersburg, FL, please contact our criminal defense lawyers for a swift and aggressive response.
Our experienced team regularly helps people charged incorrectly, unlawfully or in need of a strong defense, to gain a future free from the consequences of prison and a criminal record. We can also prioritize saving your license, which may be suspended after a drug arrest.
Our Pinellas County criminal defense attorneys at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., are part of one of Tampa Bay’s most prestigious law firms. We have the reputation and connections to make things happen.
Contact us today for a free consultation to get started or CALL (727) 381-2300