Drug Possession

Tampa Drug Possession Attorneys

Fighting Florida Drug Possession Charges Since 2001

Drug possession is the criminal act of possessing illegal drugs for personal use, distribution, sale, or other activity. Florida takes a tough stance on drug crimes. If you are found to possess an illegal drug, you can expect to face strict penalties. These penalties will vary depending on the type of drug and the amount, but you could face fines, jail time, or even years in state prison if convicted. You must exercise your right to legal counsel by involving a competent attorney as soon as possible.

At Thomas & Paulk, we’re committed to helping people going through the most challenging situations in their lives — facing possession and other drug charges. Our attorneys are former prosecutors who have over 40 years of collective experience. We know how to preserve our clients’ rights and interests. 

As each situation is unique, it is always advised that you contact a Tampa drug possession defense attorney! Your initial consultation with our firm is free and private.

Drug Possession Charges & Penalties in Florida

Drug possession charges may involve such controlled substances as:

To illustrate how penalties can vary, consider this: if you are found with 20 grams or less of marijuana, you will face a first-degree misdemeanor and up to 1 year in jail along with a $1,000 fine. For 20+ grams, however, you may be charged with a third-degree felony and face up to 5 years in jail along with $5,000 in fines.

Florida penalties for drug possession include:

  • Cocaine: Up to 5 years in prison for those possessing up to 28 grams
  • Ecstasy: Up to five years in prison for possessing up to 10 grams of ecstasy
  • Methamphetamine: Up to five years in prison for those possessing any amount of meth

Importantly, these are just the starting point for drug possession crimes in Florida. As many states have decriminalized or legalized the possession of marijuana, Florida still has heavy-handed punishments. In fact, the state has received criticism for its harsh approach to drug crimes.

Florida Drug Possession Turning into Trafficking Charges

In some cases, drug possession charges can be escalated to drug trafficking charges. This may happen when a person sells, manufactures, imports, or purchases drugs above a specific amount. These charges are often much more serious than those for typical possession and carry significant mandatory minimums. For example, a person with 200 to 400 grams of cocaine can face a minimum of 7 years in prison and $100,000 in fines. 

Get the Help You Need from Our Tampa Drug Possession Lawyers

If you are facing any drug-related charges, contact our firm to schedule a free consultation with a Tampa drug possession lawyer. As former prosecutors with decades of successful results who have handled more than 7,000 criminal cases throughout our careers, we have what it takes to defend you. Depending on your circumstances, you could face severe and long-lasting consequences for possession or possession with intent to sell. 

Contact Thomas & Paulk today by calling (813) 221-4200 to see how we can help! Our Tampa drug possession lawyers are prepared to offer our experienced guidance.

Drug Possession Charges in Tampa, FL

Drug Possession Schedules

Controlled substances are divided into schedules (categories) based on their potential for abuse and whether they have any medicinal value. Schedule I drugs, including LSD and heroin, are considered the most dangerous and have a high potential for abuse with no accepted medical value. Schedule II drugs, including cocaine and morphine, have a high potential for abuse but some accepted—and restricted—medical uses. Schedule III drugs, like anabolic steroids, have an accepted medical use but a potential for abuse. Schedule IV and Schedule V drugs have a lower potential for abuse and accepted medical applications.

The following felony drug possession penalties apply in Florida:

  • >10 grams of a Schedule I substance—first degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
  • >10 grams of a Schedule II, III, IV, or V controlled substance—third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.
  • >20 grams of marijuana—third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

How Do I Get Tampa Possession Charges Dismissed?

Defendants under specific circumstances could qualify for Florida's innovative Pre-Trial Intervention Program. PTI is a supervised program similar to probation—defendants will be required to report to a supervisor every month, complete community service and counseling or treatment, and pay specific supervisory fees.

If the defendant completes the Pre-Trial Intervention Program, their drug possession charges may be dismissed.

However, PTI is only available to specific defendants. If you were arrested for drug possession, you're only eligible for PTI if you're either a first offender or have only one non-violent conviction on your record. Additionally, at most, the charge must be a second- or third-degree felony possession charge—no first-degree felony charges will be eligible for PTI dismissal. If you meet those conditions (and you convince the judge to allow you into the program), you may be able to get your charges dismissed.

Dismissal of your charges protects your job and your ability to find a job in the future. It protects your ability to find safe, affordable housing, get an education, and advance your career. Dismissal protects your future. If there's a remote chance that you could get a dismissal, you should fight tooth-and-nail to take that opportunity.

The key here is convincing the judge of your eligibility—something a Tampa drug possession lawyer can handle. Understanding the law, the court, and even the judge in your case is vital to getting a dismissal or a lower conviction. Your best chance for survival, whatever it is, is more likely with a drug possession attorney at your side.

Possession Charges & Addiction in Florida

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 lack willpower and that anyone could quit if they decide to. 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 these changes make quitting hard. Drug addiction is defined as a “chronic disease” in which the user seeks out drugs. The use itself is challenging 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.

Over time, long-term drug use affects the user’s judgment, memory, behavior, and decision-making ability. Even if individuals become 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 arrested for drug possession is addicted. However, there is a strong link between drug use and addiction, so there is an underlying substance abuse problem for many facing drug possession charges.

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.

How Florida Drug Courts Work

Here in Hillsborough County, we have a program called the Adult Drug Pretrial Intervention Court. This program is for non-violent, first offenders who are facing drug charges. 

For eligible defendants, successful completion of the program means avoiding a felony conviction on their record. 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?

To participate in a Florida 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 must be your first time participating in the program.

Possession with Intent

In Florida and nationwide, the mere possession of certain controlled substances is enough to warrant a criminal charge. 

When coupled with the intent to sell, drug possession charges may yield steeper fines and longer prison sentences. To convict a person of possession with intent to deliver, the prosecution must prove the defendant possessed the desire, ability, and/or equipment to distribute an illegal substance, and that the defendant possessed the drug in question.

Any of the following can be used to prove intent to sell in Florida:

  • Expressed intention to sell
  • Presence of weapons
  • Presence of money
  • Paraphernalia or packaging

If you have been charged with possession with intent to distribute illegal substances (PWID), get in touch with an attorney from Thomas & Paulk. Despite the evidence required for such a conviction, a capable attorney can often take several avenues to develop a strong defense. In some cases, our team may be able to demonstrate that you did not have a drug or related substances. In others, we can show that your rights were violated in some way. We provide unwavering representation to combat aggressive PWID charges in Tampa and beyond.

Our skilled attorneys will ask the right questions, such as:

  • Did law enforcement have a warrant or probable cause to search your person/property?
  • Was there another reason bags, scales, or cash were present on your property?
  • Were your rights violated in any way?
  • Was evidence mishandled?
  • Were the drugs actually yours? Did you have knowledge of their presence?

What Should I Do If I’m Arrested for Felony Possession?

The most important things to remember if you’re arrested for drug possession—or any crime—are your right to remain silent and your right to an attorney. Be polite, but exercise your right to remain silent and ask for an attorney. By trying to answer their questions, you could unintentionally say or do something that could be used against you.

We can offer the following tips if you or someone you love is arrested for felony drug possession:

  • Remain silent.
  • Remain calm and polite.
  • Do not resist arrest or try to argue with the police.
  • Make it clear that you will not answer any questions without your attorney present.
  • Do not post bail without an attorney’s counsel.

At Thomas & Paulk, we are dedicated to helping people who’ve been arrested for felony drug possession in Tampa and throughout Florida. From the very beginning, we can work to protect your rights. We can consider whether your bail can be lowered or eliminated entirely, securing a release on your own recognizance. Our intervention can even prevent formal charges from being filed in the first place, and we can handle complex matters like drugs that aren’t yours, illegal searches, or other violations of your constitutional rights.

Accused of drug possession in Tampa? Call (813) 221-4200!