What You Need to Know About Drug Crime Laws in Florida

What You Need to Know About Drug Crime Laws in Florida Hanlon Law Sarasota May 23 2024Handcuffs are snapping shut everywhere. Law enforcement agencies made more than 1.5 million arrests for drug abuse violations in 2019. That’s roughly one arrest for every 200 Americans.

Some lawmakers are proposing reforms to drug crime laws. Marijuana and other substances are being decriminalized. Yet Florida drug laws remain restrictive, and you need to be attentive to the charges you could face.

How do drug laws in FL categorize drugs? What do possession and possession with intent to distribute mean? How can you defend yourself from drug charges?

Answer these questions and you can avoid the long arm of the law. Here is your quick guide.

Drug Schedules

Florida has five categories of drugs, called “schedules.” The higher the schedule, the less addictive the drugs are. Statute 893.03 of the Florida Statutes provides the information for Florida’s drug schedules.

Schedule I drugs are highly addictive substances. Heroin, MDMA, and fentanyl derivatives fall under Schedule I.

Schedule II substances are also highly addictive, but they have limited medical uses. Opium and methadone fall under this category. A person can receive a prescription for these substances if they have chronic pain.

Schedule III substances have a moderate risk for addiction. But their medical uses outweigh their risk. Anabolic steroids are the most common substance that falls under Schedule III.

Schedule IV and Schedule V drugs have significant medical uses and a low risk for addiction. Most over-the-counter medications fall into these schedules.


Paraphernalia is the materials used to consume or possess drugs. Bongs, needles, and rolling papers count.

It is not illegal for someone to have a needle in their bag if they have a legitimate reason for it. They may need it to inject insulin or another medication.

It is also not illegal for a person to have a bong or rolling papers for educational purposes. They may need to show paraphernalia to others to educate them about drug use or the history of paraphernalia.

Florida drug crime laws regulate paraphernalia when someone uses it to plant, manufacture, or ingest drugs. The possession of paraphernalia for the purpose of using drugs is a first-degree misdemeanor. Someone can go to jail for up to a year or pay a $1000 fine.

The manufacture of paraphernalia so that others can use drugs is a third-degree felony. Someone may go to prison for up to five years.

A person who gives drug paraphernalia to a minor commits a second-degree felony. An individual can go to prison for 15 years, and they may have to pay a $10,000 fine.

Simple Possession

Simple possession occurs when someone has drugs for personal use. They don’t intend on giving it to others.

The lower the schedule of drugs, the higher the criminal penalties. Simple possession of more than ten grams of a Schedule I drug is a first-degree felony. A defendant may go to prison for up to 30 years.

Possession of more than ten grams of any other drug listed in Statute 893.03 is a third-degree felony. Possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana is a first-degree misdemeanor, not a felony. Yet someone who has more than 20 grams of marijuana can be charged with a third-degree felony.

Possession to Distribute

Possession with intent to distribute is a separate offense. A prosecutor must show that the defendant had willful control over a supply of drugs. No one forced them to buy or possess the drugs.

They then must prove that the defendant wanted to give the drugs to someone else. They can use text messages, eyewitness testimony, and financial statements to prove this.

Intent can be a hard burden for prosecutors to prove. But drug possession laws give prosecutors an out.

If the defendant was found with a large supply of drugs, the prosecutor can infer that they intended to distribute their drugs. People rarely need 15 pounds of a drug for their personal use.

Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it is a third-degree felony. Possession of other highly addictive substances like cocaine is a second-degree felony.

Drug Trafficking

Drug trafficking occurs when someone possesses a very large supply of drugs in order to distribute it. It can also occur if someone transports or manufactures drugs inside Florida.

Someone must exceed a minimum quantity in order to receive a trafficking charge. For marijuana, they must have 25 pounds or 300 plants. For heroin, they must have at least four grams.

The penalties increase if they possess larger amounts. An individual who has 10,000 pounds of marijuana faces 15 years in prison. If someone supplies drugs to someone else and they die of a drug overdose, they face life in prison.


Drug crime laws in Florida side with prosecutors. Yet defendants can assert several defenses, some of which can completely eliminate their charges.


A defendant can prove that they had a prescription for the drugs they possessed. They can show a doctor’s note and provide medical documents that detail their medical needs.


Entrapment occurs when a police officer induces a defendant to commit a crime. The crime would not have happened without the officer’s actions. Someone may be manipulated into possessing drugs and selling them to an undercover cop.

A drug crime lawyer can use several pieces of evidence for entrapment. They can use text messages and phone calls to show that the police asked the defendant for drugs previously. They can point to the defendant’s lack of a criminal record to show they had no knowledge of drugs.

Illegal Search and Seizure

The police need a warrant in order to enter a defendant’s house or car. If they enter a house without a warrant and find drugs, they have committed an illegal search.

Even if the defendant was manufacturing or using drugs, they cannot use evidence from their search at trial. A judge can throw out the entire case because the police did not follow the law.

The Essentials of Drug Crime Laws

Drug crime laws can be a huge burden. Florida has five schedules for controlled substances. Schedule I is the most addictive.

Yet possession of any controlled substance can lead to imprisonment. Even possession of a bong or rolling papers can land a defendant in jail. Possession of marijuana still carries misdemeanor weight.

But a defendant can launch strong defenses. If they can prove entrapment or that the search was illegal, a jury can exonerate them.

You must have a great lawyer in order to defend yourself. Hanlon Law serves Florida residents. Contact us today!

Hanlon Law
1605 Main St Ste 1115
Sarasota, FL 34236
(941) 462-1789

Attorney Will Hanlon
Attorney Will Hanlonhttps://www.criminalattorneytampa.net/
As a native Floridian and criminal defense attorney, my family history in Tampa spans generations. Since being admitted to The Florida Bar almost 20 years ago, I founded Hanlon Law and have gained extensive legal experience in criminal courtrooms in and around Tampa and throughout Florida.

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