Drug charges, and any criminal charges in general can be a complex situation for the individual accused. Different states have different laws and different consequences for drug related charges. Confusion may arise when the state law and U.S. federal laws don’t impose the same rules. In the U.S. Constitution, Article VI is the Supremacy Clause, which states that federal law shall override state laws when the two conflict. Find out what Florida vs. federal laws are regarding drug charges, and what constitutes a drug-related crime in the sunshine state.
Federal Drug Possession Laws
Federal law states that it is illegal to knowingly and willingly possess illegal drugs. “Illegal drugs” covers the gamut from methamphetamines, cocaine, marijuana, heroin, etc. Further, the law states that it is also illegal to possess certain substances or equipment that are known to be used in the manufacture or use of those drugs.
If someone is charged with a drug crime, in order to face prosecution, it must be proven that the person in question knew that the drug was an illegal substance and that they were the one who was in control of it. Drug crimes on a federal level can be classified as “simple possession” intended for personal use only, or possession with the intention to sell or distribute the drugs. The second offense comes with harsher penalties.
As mentioned earlier, federal law trumps state laws—but a gray area is emerging as some states are beginning to legalize some drugs, such as marijuana. In those cases, the state’s exception is generally followed, and changes are being made constantly in how the two laws are interpreted.
Florida Drug Possession Laws
The 50 states vary on the severity of drug laws, and Florida has some of the strictest in the country. Because of past problems as a focal point for drug trafficking into the country and to different states, Florida officials have cracked down even on small drug possession crimes since the 1980’s drug wave. Any illegal drug possession could result in a felony. The sentence can be life altering—up to 5 years in prison in addition to a $5,000 fine. Some drugs have specific amounts needed to be present in order to constitute a criminal charge. Despite more liberal ideas toward marijuana in other states, possession of even a small amount of it can lead to a misdemeanor offense in Florida. Carrying any amount of chemicals known to make drugs like meth, cocaine, or ecstasy can result in fines up to $10,000 and 15 years in prison, and over 10 grams of heroin can result in 30 years.
In conclusion, knowingly being in possession of even small amounts of illegal drugs, whether intended for personal use or distribution, can be a criminal offense in the state of Florida. Florida has rather strict, specific laws, that fit under the broader federal regulations. A federal offense, or felony, can result if the crime involves one of the following factors: arrest by a federal agent, carrying drugs across state lines, or use of the federal mail system. If none of these are the case, the crime may be tried in the state of Florida. If counted as a federal crime, it could be tried on a federal level. If ever accused of a drug crime in Florida, you should speak with an attorney regarding what court system you will be dealing with.
Whitney S. Boan, P.A. is a highly qualified and dedicated Orlando Criminal Defense Law Firm.