The “War on Drugs” often appears to be a war on our citizens and on every right guaranteed by our State and Federal Constitutions. Drug offenses, including prescription drug law violations, are relentlessly pursued by law enforcement, targeted by prosecutors, and often harshly punished in our courts of law. The public is largely unaware, and jurors are actually shielded from, the harsh mandatory penalties imposed by our laws. “Trafficking” statutes impose lengthy mandatory prison sentences for the mere possession of otherwise lawful, prescription amounts of commonly prescribed drugs. From simple possession of drugs (including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, Oxycontin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, opiates, LSD, extacy, mushrooms or some other substance), to sale, manufacturing and cultivation, your future may depend on the skills of your attorney to know the law, apply the law, investigate your case, and/or find alternatives to incarceration and permanent societal disability.
Given the large disconnect between the way our society legally views drugs and the actual availability and ubiquity of both recreational and therapeutic drugs, “justice” often depends on the experience and legal acumen of your legal representative. Early involvement of legal counsel is key and should occur from the very first contact a person has with law enforcement authorities. What you do not know can hurt you, as law enforcement is allowed to present false information in applying “investigative technique.” Each attorney at DeThomasis and Buchanan, P.A. has more than twenty-five years practicing criminal defense in Gainesville, Florida, and is experienced in successfully defending drug allegations from simple possession or prescription fraud to trafficking in prohibited substances.
Marijuana Offenses, Possession, Delivery or Cultivation
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, pot or weed, is one of the most widely consumed illegal substances in the nation, including Florida. Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature has classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug, meaning the substance has “high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use”. See Florida Statute 893.03(1). Some of the most common marijuana offenses include misdemeanor marijuana possession, felony marijuana possession, marijuana trafficking and marijuana cultivation. Anyone convicted of a marijuana offense can face severe penalties, including jail or prison terms, court costs, fines, driver’s license suspension, and a permanent criminal record.
Misdemeanor marijuana possession occurs when a person possesses less than 20 grams of any part of the cannabis plant, including seeds and stems. Possession includes both actual or constructive possession. Constructive possession means the person knows about the controlled substance and has the ability to control the substance, even though it may not be in the person’s actual possession. A conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession carries a maximum penalty of one year incarceration and a $1,000 fine. Felony possession of marijuana occurs when a person possesses 20 grams or more of marijuana, either through actual or constructive possession. A conviction for felony marijuana possession carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
Cultivation of marijuana occurs if a person cultivates, produces or grows marijuana. The offense of cultivating any amount of marijuana less than 300 plants carries a maximum penalty of five years incarceration and a $5,000 fine. Trafficking in marijuana occurs if a person possesses, sells or distributes marijuana in excess of a twenty-five pound quantity or cultivates more than 300 cannabis plants. If a person possesses, sells or distributes between 25 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana or cultivates between 300 and 2,000 marijuana plants, they can sentenced up to thirty years in prison and must be sentenced to a mandatory minmum three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. If an individual possesses, sells or distributes over 2,000 pounds of marijuana or cultivates more than 2000 cannabis plants additional mandatory minimum penalties apply. See Florida Statute 893.135(1).
Collateral Consequences for Drug Convictions
In addition to incarceration and fines, convicted drug offenders can face serious collateral consequences, such as:
• A lifetime ban from possessing firearms for convicted felony drug offenders;
• Ineligibility to obtain certain professional licenses, permits or certifications;
• A driver’s license suspension for up to two years;
• Ineligibility to work in certain Florida governmental occupations;
• Ineligibility to receive some educational scholarships and related financial aid;
• A ban from adopting or becoming a foster parent in Florida;
• A ban from renting or residing in public housing.
Student and Juvenile Drug Possession
Young people face special penalties if enrolled in pre-college or college level education. Some of those penalties are unrelated to the criminal penalties imposed and can include expulsion or exclusion from educational opportunities.
As parents, your concern for your child is both physical and developmental. Young people often make mistakes but those mistakes should not lead to a lifetime of work, educational, and social disenfranchisement. Our goal at DeThomasis and Buchanan is to resolve a drug arrest with the criminal consequences, medical, and long term life consequences in mind. Whether it is representation before educational authorities, or guidance toward treatment and sobriety options like Drug Court, the attorneys at DeThomasis and Buchanan can assist you in the defense and resolution of these matters. For more information about the University of Florida Student Disciplinary Process click here.