Federal law as well as Florida law identify heroin as a Schedule I controlled substance. This designation means that there is no recognized medical use, and possession in any amount is illegal. The penalties for possessing Schedule I substances such as heroin can be extremely steep based on the circumstances.
What is Possession in Florida?
In order for a person to be found guilty of possession, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused actually possessed the heroin. The state can prove this under two different legal theories. First, actual possession means that the drugs are possessed by the accused in the traditional sense, in the hands, pockets, fanny pack, etc. This is the theory used when the location of the drugs is immediately clear to be proof the person knew they had them. Second, the state can prove constructive possession, when the accused had dominion and control over the location. This could be a safe that no one else has a code to, a glovebox, a work locker, etc.
Types of Heroin Charges in Florida
Simple possession is classified under Florida law based on the amount present, 10 or less grams of heroin carries less harsh penalties. Florida Statutes § 893.13(6)(a) designates this crime as a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, probation, or a combination. Possession of more than 10 grams or becomes a first degree felony. The penalty structures remains the same, but with an increase in the possible prison time, up to thirty years, and the potential fines increasing to $10,000.
Beyond possession for personal use, the state can also charge Sale, Manufacture, or Delivery of heroin. It is also possible to be charged with Intent to commit any of the above. Selling is the intention to or the act of exchanging heroin for the money or something of value. Manufacture is participating in the creation of heroin, this could mean the growing of the poppy, the derivation of morphine paste, or the conversion to heroin. Packaging or labeling the completed heroin can also be charged as manufacturing. Delivery of heroin is the actual transfer of the drugs, often there is overlap with selling, but does not require any direct exchange of value.
Any of the above charges are punishable as second degree felonies if the amount is less than 10 grams. A second degree felony carries up to fifteen years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, probation, or a combination. If the amount is over 10 grams then it becomes a first degree felony with thirty potential years in prison instead.
Trafficking is frequently charged at the federal level, but Florida Law allows the prosecution to charge individuals at the state level as well. Trafficking is the deliberate selling, purchasing, manufacturing, delivering, possessing or transporting of an amount deemed to be a “trafficking” level. In the case of Heroin, this can be as little as four grams.
- This is normally charged as a felony in the first degree with up to thirty years in prison, fine, probation or a combination.
- If the amount is between 4 and 14 grams, there is a mandatory minimum of three years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
- If the amount is between 14 and 28 grams, the mandatory minimum prison becomes fifteen years, and the fine is increased to $100,000.
- If the amount is between 28 grams and 30 kilograms, the mandatory minimum prison sentence becomes twenty-five years, and the mandatory fine is increased to $500,000.
- If the amount is over 30 kilograms, state law mandates a life imprisonment with no possibility for release outside of medical emergencies and pardons.
- If the trafficking led to the direct death of someone, the death penalty can even be sought.
The penalties for possession of heroin are extremely serious. If you have been accused of any of the above crimes it is crucial to speak to a criminal defense attorney who can begin to work on laying out the appropriate defense.
Defenses to a Heroin Charge
- General Denial – This is utilized when the State cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that each element exists. This could be that the police just arrested the wrong person, or that there is some other factual issue with the charges. Most factual challenges are a variation of general denial.
- Challenge of the Physical Evidence – This could mean challenging whether or not the substance was actually heroin (or a mix) or the weight, in order to seek lower charges.
- Possession – Constructive possession cases are not an automatic win for the state, a skilled criminal defense attorney can challenge the possession element and cast reasonable doubt that you actually possessed anything.
- Constitutional Challenges – Drug cases at some point involve the police finding the alleged drugs. This could be through a search incident to arrest, an inventory search of a vehicle, plain view doctrine, a search warrant, etc. Each method of police finding contraband has its own set of rules and constitutional protections. Police have a difficult time sorting all of these out and sometimes just get it wrong. Physical evidence, or statements can be completely suppressed in some circumstances, resulting in a greatly reduced plea or dismissal.
Jacksonville, FL Criminal Defense Lawyer
Lee Lockett and legal team have the necessary experience and knowledge to apply these defenses to your case. The team at Lockett Law are based out of Duval County, but travel all over North Florida to defend the rights of others. The team is prepared to defend you if you have been accused of any heroin crime somewhere in the state of Florida. Mr. Lockett understands how prosecutors work and how they think, he began his career prosecuting cases for the state, and has brought that knowledge to his practice defending the accused. Call a Jacksonville heroin defense lawyer today at (904) 858-9818 or connect with our team in the chat window on the bottom right of your screen to have an open and free consultation.