Florida Law on Methamphetamine Possession
The state of Florida classifies methamphetamine, sometimes called crystal, speed or meth, as a controlled substance. Possession of any amount of methamphetamine up to 14 grams is a third degree felony. A conviction will also result in a mandatory two-year suspension of the defendant's driver's license.
Possession of 14 or more grams of methamphetamine is considered drug trafficking. Even if the drug is "cut" with additives, law enforcement counts the total weight of the mixture. The courts penalize drug crimes in Florida with mandatory sentencing laws. This means that a judge has little discretion when sentencing defendants who are guilty of methamphetamine possession or sales. The courts must order certain minimum penalties according to state law.
For possession of methamphetamine, a judge can sentence a person to any or all of the following consequences: a maximum fine of $5,000, five years in prison and five years of probation. Probation carries its own penalties with it, such as home arrest, curfew, additional court fees, strict supervision, drug testing, community service hours and residential or out-patient counseling. This is in addition to the driver's license suspension already imposed.
In some criminal cases, law enforcement personnel do not follow proper legal procedures, such as reading a person their rights. A reputable attorney can bring up several additional defenses to methamphetamine possession. These can include a valid prescription, illegal search and seizure or insufficient evidence. Doctors rarely prescribe methamphetamine, so that defense usually does not work.
If the police pressure a person into a search or overstep their bounds in a search, the evidence, such as confiscated methamphetamine, will be suppressed in court. They must obtain a search warrant in "good faith" with concrete evidence backing their request. For example, they cannot ask for a search warrant based on an anonymous tip. The police must also have probable cause or facts in order to arrest a person. Probable cause keeps law enforcement from arresting people just because they don't like that person or based on flimsy excuses. Solid reasons for probable cause in arrests can include physical observation, circumstantial evidence or testimony from others.
A defendant must be in actual possession or constructive possession of methamphetamine in order to be convicted. Actual possession means that the drug was physically on the defendant. Constructive possession means that the defendant had access to the drug, such as in the kitchen of a residence. This is more difficult for a prosecutor to prove because he must show three elements. First, the defendant had to know the drug was present. Second, the defendant had to know the drug was methamphetamine. Finally, the defendant had to be in charge of the drug, also called dominion and control.
For example, if you rent a room from a friend and the police find drugs hidden in the living room, they would need proof that you knew the methamphetamine was present. Even if you saw the drug and knew it was present, they would need to prove that you knew it was methamphetamine. If the drug was found in your landlord's room, you would not be arrested because you did not have access or dominion and control over it.
If you are charged with possession of methamphetamine, you will need a criminal defense attorney in order to reduce or avoid the potentially serious legal penalties you could face. Your lawyer will aggressively protect and defend your rights in court.
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