Drug Possession Attorney
If you are facing charges of drug possession or possession of a controlled substance in Pinellas County, the penalties can be particularly severe even for a trace amount.
Fortunately, there are many defenses to these charges and we are often successful in getting the State not to prosecute. Some common defenses are to challenge the search or the State’s ability to prove knowledge and possession of the drug. It is highly recommended to get support from an experienced drug possession attorney for a realistic shot at defending your future.
What is Considered Drug Possession in Florida?
In Florida, drug possession is when a person is found to be in ownership of a controlled or illegal substance for personal use only. The offense does not apply to someone who manufactures, sells, distributes or possesses with intent to sell.
Drug Possession Defense Attorney in Pinellas County
Sean McQuaid has been successfully defending people charged with crimes for over 19 years. Mr. McQuaid is a named partner at Battaglia Ross Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., which for over 60 years has been providing the Tampa Bay area with exceptional legal assistance. McQuaid is highly respected by the State and the Judges at the Pinellas Justice Center and has received a perfect rankings from numerous review sources from his peers, the judges he practices in front of, and his clients.
If you need a Drug Possession Defense Lawyer in Pinellas County, please contact Sean McQuaid today for a free consultation service.
Types of Possession
Actual Possession is when the illegal substances are found on you. For example, in your hand, pocket or bag.
Constructive Possession is when a substance is found stored in a place in which you have control over. The most common examples are in your home or car. In the car, we often find allegations from the police that narcotics were found under a seat or in the center console.
This is when two or more people have shared ownership of the same illegal substance.
Common Types Of Drugs and Illegal Substances in Florida:
Both state laws and federal laws ban possession of many substances. In Florida, these commonly include cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, GHB and ecstasy. Prescription drugs may also be possessed illegally; these usually include hydrocodone, oxycodone, and xanax to name a few.
The State also commonly charges people with crimes even when they have a prescription for the substance, but not the correct dosage of the pill.
You can see the full list of banned substances here: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0800-0899/0893/Sections/0893.03.html
Florida Drug Schedules
Florida statute 893.03 classifies substances into different rankings, known as ‘Drug Schedules.’ Knowing which substances fit into which schedule allows you to understand your potential penalties.
- Schedule I
This is the most severe ranking. These drugs have no medical use and have a high potential for abuse. Heroin and LSD are typical examples.
- Schedule II
These drugs have a high potential for abuse but have accepted medical use under strong restrictions. Abuse of Schedule II drugs can have severe psychic and physical dependence. They include crack, cocaine, morphine, oxycodone and opium.
- Schedule III
These drugs have a potential for abuse that is considered less than Schedule I or II drugs. They have accepted medical use, and abuse may lead to low or moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence. Includes anabolic steroids.
- Schedule IV
These drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs, an acceptable medical use, and abuse may lead to limited psychological and physical dependence. A typical example is Diazepam.
- Schedule V
These drugs have the lowest potential for abuse, accepted medical use, and low risk of physical or psychological dependence. Common examples include medicines that contain small amounts of specified narcotic drugs.
Penalties for Drug Possession in Florida
The severity of punishments for Drug Possession in Florida depends on the amount of the substance found and the schedule classification.
- Possession of an illegal substance is a Felony of the third-degree, punishable up to 5 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
- Marijuana possession of up to 20 grams is a first-degree misdemeanor with up to 1 year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
- Marijuana possession of over 20 grams is a Felony of the third degree and punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of $5,000.
Any previous drug possession charges are likely to result in higher penalties.
Drug possession convictions also include a mandatory driver’s license suspension.
Defense for Drug Possession Charges
Even if you have been arrested, there are realistic opportunities for defense with the help of a criminal defense lawyer. These include:
- Unlawful Search and Seizure
The most successful method of defense that drops all charges is proving that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated through an unlawful search. For example, if the police had no valid reason to stop and search your car or home, then it was an involuntary search which is illegal (even if drugs were found).
- Lack of knowledge that a controlled substance was present
As mentioned in the above, often drugs are found in a car under a seat, in the center console, in the trunk, or in the glove compartment. It is a complete defense if the State cannot prove that you knew the substance was there. So, if you had recently loaned your car to someone, or you are driving someone else’s car, or there are other passengers in the car, the State’s ability to prove you knew the drugs were there is much more difficult and increases the chances that we will get the charges dropped. Often, the amount of the drug is so small, no one would have ever have noticed that is was even there.
Is Counseling or Rehab a Possibility?
Frankly, often those found in possession of a controlled substance have a drug problem or have made a series of bad choices to end up in this situation. I constantly represent young men and women who have never been in trouble before, but have been spiraling out of control for some time. I often meet with defendants and their parents to discuss the problems their families have faced over drugs.
It is simply not realistic to believe that everyone caught with drugs is innocent. I often find young people and their families are more interested in getting help rather than spending vast sums in attorney’s fees to try and beat the charges. Drug addiction is a rampant problem throughout Pinellas County and it affects people across socio-economic and racial lines.
While it is obviously better to get help voluntarily rather than be ordered by a court, sometimes people need a wake up call and the drug possession arrest is what breaks the cycle. In these cases, there are ample resources to help people get clean and stay clean. I have a list of recommendations of treatment providers in the area and know the costs and options for virtually every program. Pinellas County also has a successful Drug Court (Division N) run by Judge Dee Anna Farnell. I practice in front of her on a weekly basis, and know all of the steps that she and the State will expect. The goal on every drug case is to keep you out of jail, preserve your record and get you help if you need it.
Why Should You Hire a Drug Possession Attorney in Pinellas County?
In Florida, the system is set up that once you are in it, it is very hard to get out of. Positive drug tests, VOPs, missed counseling appointments are just few of the ways that people get stuck in a never ending cycle of supervision. You need an attorney as soon as possible to guide you through the process. I always tell my clients to do something that distinguishes you from all of the other cases, including all of the Public Defender cases, that come through the system every day. Do something to earn yourself leniency and get some benefit from the efforts you put in.
St Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Sean McQuaid has helped countless people through these difficult times and unlike most criminal attorneys, actually cares about your future.
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