Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida

Hydrocodone, the generic name for Vicodin, Norco, and Lortab, is listed as a Schedule II drug in Florida.

A Schedule II drug is considered to have a high potential for abuse due to severe psychological or physical dependence and its use is severely restricted in medical treatment.

It is a Third Degree Felony to possess less than four grams of Hydrocodone (as little as one pill) without a valid prescription.

Trafficking Threshold

Possession of 14 grams or more of Hydrocodone is prosecuted as Trafficking in Hydrocodone. The trafficking weight is determined by how much the Hydrocodone pill weighs, not by the pill's dosage.

As a result, a person could have ten Hydrocodone pills with a combined dosage of less than 14 grams of Hydrocodone, but because the combined weight of the pills is more than 14 grams, the person would be guilty of Trafficking in Hydrocodone under Florida law and subject to a minimum-mandatory prison sentence.

And because of the serious consequences for such a simple crime, it is important to know the:

Penalties for Hydrocodone Possession

The crime of Possession of Hydrocodone is classified as a Third Degree Felony and is assigned a Level 3 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

If convicted of Possession of Hydrocodone, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Five years of probation,
  • Five years in prison, or
  • A fine of up to a $5,000.

Driver's License Suspension

Pursuant to Florida Statute 322.055, any person convicted of Possession of Hydrocodone will have their driver’s license or driving privilege revoked for one year by the Florida DHSMV.

Defenses to Hydrocodone Possession

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, specific or common defenses to the crime of Possession of Hydrocodone are:

Constructive Possession

If the Hydrocodone was found in a place where more than one person had access, the prosecutor would have to comply with the law of constructive possession, which requires the prosecutor to prove the following two elements before you can be convicted of Possession of Hydrocodone: [1]

  1. Knowledge of the Hydrocodone's presence;
  2. Dominion and control over the Hydrocodone.

Below are scenarios where it can be argued the prosecutor could not meet their burden of proving constructive Possession of Hydrocodone.

Scenario 1: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police find Hydrocodone in the glove box, they would be unable to convict you of Possession of Hydrocodone unless they had some proof that you knew the Hydrocodone was present.
Scenario 2: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend places a container of Hydrocodone at his feet. The police then stop you, see your friend's container, and arrest both of you. They should be unable to convict you of Possession of Hydrocodone, because even though you knew the Hydrocodone was present, your friend is the only person who exercised dominion and control over it.

Illegal Search and Seizure

More often than not, law enforcement exceed the scope of their authority and require people to submit to a vehicle, home, or body search; or they may coerce a person into agreeing to a search. If we can prove that either instance occurred, the courts will suppress the resulting evidence as having been illegally obtained.

Other suppression possibilities that may present themselves are: if law enforcement obtained a search warrant in bad faith or if you were arrested without probable cause.

Lack of Knowledge

It is an affirmative defense to the crime of Possession of Hydrocodone if you can prove that you did not know the substance in your possession was Hydrocodone. Importantly, this defense requires you to testify to your lack of knowledge of the substance's illegal nature. [2]

Overdose Defense

Any person who is experiencing a drug-related overdose and needs medical assistance, or a person assisting the person that needs medical assistance, is immune from prosecution for Possession of Hydrocodone if it can be shown the evidence was obtained as a result of the overdose and need for medical assistance. [3]

Prescription Defense

While it seems obvious, many people are arrested for possession of Hydrocodone when they are unable to produce a valid prescription or a recently dispensed pill bottle. These arrests usually occur when law enforcement have stopped your for suspicious behavior and discover the Hydrocodone in an unconventional container.

However, if you can produce a valid Hydrocodone prescription that pre-dated your arrest or have a doctor execute a letter that they dispensed a sample amount, you will have an absolute defense to the Hydrocodone charge. [4]

Temporary Possession

The defense of temporary possession can be raised where a person takes momentary, temporary, or transitory possession of hydrocodone from the true owner. Under such circumstances, the person is not considered to be in legal possession of the hydrocodone because the person never exercised complete dominion and control over the hydrocodone. [5]

Examples of temporary possession are when a person is handed Hydrocodone by the true owner and asked to hide it during a police encounter, such as a traffic stop; or when holding Hydrocodone in the presence of a drug dealer for the sole purpose of verifying or testing the Hydrocodone prior to purchasing it; or when passing the Hydrocodone from the owner to a third person.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been charged or arrested with the crime of Possession of Hydrocodone in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. GG v. State, 84 So. 3d 1162 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012)
  2. Florida Statute 893.101
  3. Florida Statute 893.21
  4. Florida Statute 893.13(6)(a)
  5. Campbell v. State, 577 So. 2d 932 (Fla. 1991)