Possession of Synthetic Drugs in Florida

Synthetic drugs are designated as Schedule I controlled substances, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and have no currently accepted medical use in the United States.

Synthetic drugs refers to substances marketed as Synthetic Drugs, Bath Salts, K2, or Spice. It is a crime to possess any amount of these synthetic drugs in Florida.

Penalties for Possession of Synthetic Drugs

The penalties for Possession of Synthetic Drugs depends on whether you possess more or less than 3 grams of synthetic drugs.

Possession of less than 3 grams of Synthetic Drugs

The crime of Possession of Less than 3 grams of Synthetic Drugs is classified as a First Degree Misdemeanor.

If convicted of Possession of Less than 3 grams of Synthetic Drugs, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • One year of probation,
  • One year in jail, or
  • A fine of up to a $1,000.

Possession of more than 3 Grams of Synthetic Drugs

The crime of Possession of More than 3 grams of Synthetic Drugs 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 More than 3 grams of Synthetic Drugs, 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 Synthetic Drugs will have their driver’s license or driving privilege revoked for one year by the Florida DHSMV.

Defenses to Possession of Synthetic Drugs

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

Constructive Possession

If the Synthetic Drugs 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 Synthetic Drugs: [1]

  1. Knowledge of the Synthetic Drugs' presence;
  2. Dominion and control over the Synthetic Drugs.

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

Scenario 1: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found Synthetic Drugs in the glove box, they would be unable to convict you of Possession of Synthetic Drugs unless they had some proof that you knew the Synthetic Drugs was present.
Scenario 2: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend takes his personal stash of synthetic drugs and places it at his feet. The police then stop you, see your friend's stash, and arrest both of you. They should be unable to convict you of Possession of Synthetic Drugs because even though you knew the Synthetic Drugs were there, 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 Synthetic Drugs if you can prove that you did not know the substance in your possession was Synthetic Drugs. Importantly, this defense requires you to testify to your lack of knowledge of the substance's illegal nature. [2]

Overdose Defense

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

Temporary Possession

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

Examples of temporary possession are when a person is handed synthetic drugs by the true owner and asked to hide it during a police encounter, such as a traffic stop; when holding synthetic drugs in the presence of a drug dealer for the sole purpose of verifying or testing the synthetic drugs prior to purchasing it; or when passing the synthetic drugs 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 Synthetic Drugs 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. Campbell v. State, 577 So. 2d 932 (Fla. 1991)