Are you facing drug possession charges in Tampa, or anywhere else in Florida? If so, you have company. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, many people don’t understand drug addiction. There are plenty of people who mistakenly believe that a person becomes addicted to drugs because they are weak, immoral, or are lacking in willpower, and that anyone could quit if they’d just decide to do it.
In reality, substance abuse and drug addiction are much more complicated. The National Institute on Drug Abuse puts it this way, “drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions and strong will.” Research has discovered that drugs change the way our brains operate and in effect, these changes make quitting hard.
Drug addiction is defined as a “chronic disease” in which the user seeks out drugs; the use itself is difficult to control and compulsive, regardless of the dangerous consequences. Usually, the first time someone tries drugs it’s voluntary; however, repeated drug use changes the person’s brain, overcoming the user’s sense of self-control. Ultimately, the individual loses the ability to resist the temptation to take drugs.
Over time, long-term drug use affects the user’s judgement, memory, behavior, and decision-making ability. Even if an individual becomes aware of these negative changes in their mood and behavior, they continue taking the drugs because that’s the effect of addiction.
In light of the above information, we are not necessarily saying that every person who is arrested for drug possession is addicted to drugs. However, there is a strong link between drug use and addiction, so for many of our clients facing drug possession charges, there is an underlying substance abuse problem. If you are facing drug possession charges, let’s take a look at Florida’s drug laws.
Drug Possession in Florida
Under Section 893.13 (6)(a) of the Florida Statutes, it’s illegal for a person to possess a controlled substance, unless he or she has a valid prescription from a licensed physician. In Florida, the offense of drug possession is a third-degree felony, punishable by:
- Up to 5 years in prison,
- Up to a $5,000 fine, or
- Both a fine and imprisonment.
If the offense involves possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana, the offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by up to one year in jail, or by a fine and imprisonment.
Drug Court for First-Time Offenders
In jurisdictions across the country, probation officers and lawmakers have observed that penalizing drug offenders is not very effective. Usually, drug users do not get better after they are sent to jail and fined. In light of that fact, many counties throughout the country have implemented Drug Courts, all of which aim to get to the root cause of the defendant’s drug use so the person can receive treatment and rehabilitation.
Here in Hillsborough County, we have one such program called the Adult Drug Pretrial Intervention Court. This program is for non-violent, first offenders facing drug charges. For eligible defendants, successful completion of the program means they can avoid a felony conviction on their record. In fact, once the defendant proves themselves by completing the program, the State Attorney’s Office drops the charges – doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?
What is required to participate in Drug Court?
- You must admit that you have a drug problem.
- You must be at least 18 years-of-age.
- You cannot have any felony convictions.
- You must desire to receive treatment.
- You must waive your right to a speedy trial.
- This has to be your first time participating in the program.
If you are facing drug-related charges, contact our firm to schedule a free consultation with a Tampa drug possession lawyer. As former prosecutors who have handled more than 7,000 criminal cases throughout our careers, we have what it takes to defend you. Contact Thomas & Paulk today to see how we can help!