Have you been charged with illegal possession of prescription drugs in Masco County? With the ever-growing numbers in opiate overdoses nationwide, law enforcement at nearly every level is ‘cracking down’ on illegal possession of prescription medications. If you have a pending charge for prescription drug possession in Florida, you will need an experienced drug possession defense attorney in your corner.
Call Thomas C. Grajek to schedule a free consultation about your pending drug charge. I will speak with you about your arrest and the pending charges to find any strategic ways to have the charges dropped or reduced. In the event that any charges remain, I will use every opportunity to show the jury why you should be found innocent.
What Constitutes Illegal Possession of Prescription Drugs in Florida?
In an effort to combat a dramatic rise in prescription drug overdoses in recent years, Florida has taken a tough line approach to illegal possession of prescription drugs, with the potential for long minimum jail terms and large fines. Illegal prescription drug possession can result from possessing or using any prescription medication that you were not prescribed, obtaining a prescription medication through fraudulently means, or engaging in “doctor shopping” in order to acquire multiple prescriptions. Note that possession of any prescription medications that were validly prescribed to you–even if the prescription was written a decade ago–is not illegal.
The severity of any penalty for illegal possession of prescription drugs depends on several factors, including the type of prescription drug and the amount held. Prescription medications fall into two general categories: controlled substances and non-controlled substances. Controlled substances are those that are included on the drug schedules outlined in Florida Statute § 893.03; illegal possession of these prescription drugs is treated the same as the possession of a non-prescription drug, such as cocaine for example, that falls in the same drug schedule. Prescription medications that are not controlled substances are still illegal to possess without a valid prescription, but the charges and potential penalties for doing so are lighter.
How Does Florida Categorize Different Prescription Drugs?
Florida law categorizes all drugs that are regarded as controlled substances into five schedules. Schedule I drugs are deemed the most likely to result in abuse, and with the exception of marijuana, no drugs on Schedule I are considered to have any legitimate medical use. The remaining four schedules, however, contain a number of prescription drugs commonly prescribed to treat pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and other disorders, classified by their potential for abuse and dependence.
Schedule II Prescription Drugs
Drugs that fall under this schedule are judged to carry a high risk of abuse leading to serious physical and/or psychological dependence in combination with limited legitimate medical uses. Examples of Schedule II prescription drugs include hydrocodone, oxycodone (Percocet), meperidine (Demerol), morphine, Adderall, Ritalin and pentobarbital.
Schedule III Prescription Drugs
Included in Schedule III are those prescription drugs that have genuine medical uses and are less likely to lead to abuse and dependence than Schedule II drugs; however, drugs in this category still carry a risk of abuse, moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence. Examples of Schedule III prescription drugs include ketamine, anabolic steroids and certain prescription drugs that contain codeine (such as Tylenol with codeine).
Schedule IV Prescription Drugs
As with Schedule III drugs, prescription drugs under Schedule IV are deemed to have a lower risk of abuse than the schedule above while still carrying the potential for abuse and dependence. Many of the drugs in the category are commonly legally prescribed to treat anxiety, depression or sleep disorders. Common Schedule IV prescription drugs include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Soma and Ativan.
Schedule V Prescription Drugs
The prescription medications included on Schedule V are deemed to have the lowest potential for abuse of all prescribed controlled substances. Included in Schedule V are prescription medications with low concentrations of codeine to non-controlled substances, such as certain prescription cough syrups.
What are the Potential Charges and Penalties for Possession of Prescription Drugs in Florida?
The range of potential charges and penalties for illegal prescription drug possession in Florida varies significantly based on whether or not the medication is a controlled substance, what schedule it is classified under, and the amount found in possession.
Second Degree Misdemeanor
As codified in Florida Statute § 499.03, illegal possession of a prescription drug that is not a controlled substance is a second degree misdemeanor. This charge carries several potential penalties, including a maximum jail sentence of 60 days, fines up to $500 and probation. Note that if intent to sell can be demonstrated, the charge can be increased to a third degree felony.
Third Degree Felony
The possession of a prescription drug on any of Florida’s drug schedules without a valid prescription typically leads to a third degree felony charge. Anyone convicted of third degree felony possession of a controlled substance faces a maximum jail sentence of five years and a fine of up to $5,000. If intent to sell or distribute can be demonstrated, however, second degree or first degree felony charges may apply, depending on the particular medication and amount possessed.
First Degree Felony
Illegal possession of significant qualities of some prescription drugs is generally regarded as trafficking rather than simple possession or intent to sell, resulting in a first degree felony charge. The state has codified the amount of each controlled substance that is needed to be classified as trafficking under Florida Statute § 893.135. For example, illegal possession of seven grams or more of oxycodone can result in a first degree felony charge for trafficking.
First degree felony charges for trafficking of prescription drugs carry mandatory minimum sentences and fines that vary depending on the particular drug and the amount possessed. For example, being found guilty for possession of between seven and 14 grams of oxycodone carries a minimum sentence of three years; this minimum sentence increases to seven years for possession of between 14 and 25 grams of the same medication.
It is important to note that first degree charges for trafficking are based on the aggregate weight of the prescription drug, not just that of the controlled substance. For example, possession of a 90 pill bottle of Vicodin where each pill contains 500 milligrams of acetaminophen to 10 milligrams of hydrocodone will be charged on the entire weight of the medication (45.9 grams), not just the weight of the hydrocodone (900 milligrams).
With the stigma currently associated with opiate abuse, it is imperative to fight illegal possession of prescription drug charges! A conviction on these charges can follow you for the rest of your life, affecting your ability to get a job or rent a home.
Call criminal defense attorney Thomas Grajek today for a free consultation. I will fight to get the best outcome possible for you!