The short answer is “yes, absolutely.” Florida has harsh drug laws, with high mandatory minimum sentences. Even a first-time offender carrying a small amount of a low-level drug like marijuana can face a wide array of penalties, up to and including a year in prison. However, prosecutors in Florida have many options available to them other than incarceration; having the right people on your team can mean the difference between jail time and avoiding court all together through Florida’s pre-trial intervention program.
Florida has not followed the national trend towards decriminalization of marijuana
In many parts of the country, the trend has been towards marijuana decriminalization or full legalization, such as in Colorado. Unfortunately, Florida has not followed suit, and possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana – a little more than half an ounce – is a first-degree misdemeanor, which means penalties can go up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines. Possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana – one ounce – or small amounts of harder drugs will be considered a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in jail. (Possession of 25 pounds of marijuana or more, or larger amounts of hard drugs, becomes a first-degree felony… and on top of that it will be hard to convince the court you’re a “first-time offender” when you have a truckload worth of marijuana!)
What if it’s my first offense?
The first offense doesn’t automatically give you any advantages under Florida law – the same penalties and sentences are available to the prosecutors. However, for first-time offenders, prosecutors do have an array of options which can keep you out of jail or even out of court entirely. For example, Florida has a pretrial intervention program, which – instead of a conviction – creates an agreement between the offender and the state which keeps the offender out of court if they successfully complete the requirements which may include drug counseling, community service, and restitution.
The crime of drug possession is a very different crime from intent to sell. Penalties for possession with the intent to sell are far harsher; make sure your attorney is well-versed in the differences.
Contact an Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyer for More Information
When grappling with the potentially life-altering consequences of an arrest for drug possession, be sure to contact a law firm that has experience in this kind of case and equipped with the resources to fight for you. The Khonsari Law Group has spent years serving as criminal defense attorneys in the St. Petersburg and greater Tampa Bay area. If you have been charged with a drug offense, contact us today for a FREE, no-risk consultation at (727) 269-5300.