Attorney’s Guide to Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida
The possession of hydrocodone in Florida is a grave legal matter that carries severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines, and other long-term consequences like a criminal record. This comprehensive guide aims to offer a detailed overview of the laws, penalties, and potential defenses related to hydrocodone possession in the Sunshine State. Whether you’re an attorney, a defendant, or simply someone interested in understanding the complexities of Florida drug laws, this guide is designed to provide you with valuable insights.
Legal Framework: Sec. 893.13, Florida Statutes
Elements of the Offense
Under Sec. 893.13 of the Florida Statutes, the elements required to prove Possession of Hydrocodone are:
- A person knowingly possessed hydrocodone; AND
- The hydrocodone was not lawfully obtained through a practitioner or a valid prescription.
- Definition: The term “knowingly possessed” refers to the state of awareness that an individual must have regarding their possession of hydrocodone.
- Legal Implications: To secure a conviction, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was fully aware that they were in possession of hydrocodone. This element can be particularly important when considering defenses, as lack of knowledge can serve as a viable legal argument against the charge.
- Examples: If hydrocodone is found in a person’s pocket, and they were aware it was there, that constitutes “knowingly possessed.” On the other hand, if someone else placed hydrocodone in their bag without their knowledge, they may not have “knowingly possessed” it.
- Definition: A “practitioner” refers to a healthcare professional who is authorized by the state to prescribe medications. This can include doctors, nurse practitioners, and in some cases, dentists and veterinarians.
- Legal Implications: A prescription for hydrocodone must be obtained from a qualified practitioner for it to be considered lawful possession. The credentials and qualifications of the prescribing practitioner may be scrutinized in court to determine the legality of the prescription.
- Examples: If you have hydrocodone that was prescribed by a licensed medical doctor for a legitimate medical issue, such as chronic pain, then you have lawfully obtained it from a “practitioner.”
- Definition: A “valid prescription” is a prescription for hydrocodone that has been lawfully obtained from a licensed practitioner for a legitimate medical purpose.
- Legal Implications: Possessing hydrocodone with a valid prescription is lawful under Florida law. However, the prescription must meet certain criteria, such as being current and not forged, to be considered valid.
- Examples: A prescription for hydrocodone that is outdated, forged, or obtained under false pretenses would not be considered a “valid prescription.” On the other hand, a prescription that is current, obtained from a licensed practitioner, and issued for a legitimate medical reason would be considered valid.
By understanding these key terms and their legal implications, you can better navigate the complexities of hydrocodone possession cases in Florida. Whether you’re building a defense or trying to understand the charges against you, these definitions serve as a foundational element in the legal process surrounding hydrocodone possession.
Penalties for Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida
Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida is a serious offense classified as a third-degree felony. The penalties can range from probation to imprisonment, along with substantial fines. Additionally, a conviction can result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Below is a detailed breakdown of the penalties and other consequences you may face if convicted.
Severity and Points Under Criminal Punishment Code
- Severity Level: The charge of Possession of Hydrocodone carries a severity level of 3 under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code.
- Points: The offense is assigned 16 points, which can influence the length and type of sentence you may receive.
No Minimum Mandatory Sentence
Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances such as prior criminal convictions, there is no minimum mandatory sentence for Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida. This means that while the judge has the discretion to sentence you up to the maximum allowed, they are not required to impose any prison time.
Detailed Penalty Breakdown
|Possession of Hydrocodone
||Up to 5 years of prison or probation, and a $5,000 fine
The charge carries a severity level of 3 (or 16 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Assuming there are no aggravating circumstances (such as prior criminal convictions), there is no minimum mandatory sentence. This means that even though the judge can sentence you up to the maximum allowed sentence, the judge is not required to order any amount of prison time.
Driver’s License Suspension
Under Sec. 322.055 of the Florida Statutes, the court is required to suspend your driver’s license for 6 months upon conviction for Possession of Hydrocodone.
Restricted Business-Purposes-Only License
However, the court may grant you a restricted business-purposes-only license if there is a “compelling circumstance” that warrants it. This could include the need to drive for work, medical appointments, or educational purposes.
- Criminal Record: A conviction will result in a permanent criminal record, which can affect employment opportunities, housing applications, and more.
- Asset Forfeiture: In some cases, assets related to the offense may be seized.
- Community Service: The court may also order community service as part of your sentence.
Being convicted of Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida can have far-reaching consequences beyond imprisonment and fines. It can affect your driving privileges and have a lasting impact on various aspects of your life. Therefore, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced attorney to understand your legal options and potential defenses.
Defending Against a Charge of Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida
Being charged with Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida is a serious matter that can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and fines. However, there are various defenses that can be employed to challenge the State’s case against you. This section delves into some of the most common and effective defenses that can be used in such cases.
According to Section 893.13(6)(a) of the Florida Statutes, possession of a controlled substance is lawful if it has been obtained from a practitioner or pursuant to a valid prescription.
If you can prove that you had a valid prescription for the hydrocodone in your possession, then you have not committed a crime, and the charges against you should be dismissed. Documentation from the prescribing practitioner and pharmacy records can be crucial pieces of evidence in this defense.
Actual or Constructive Possession
- Actual Possession: The controlled substance is found on your person, such as in your hand, pockets, or within your immediate reach and control.
- Constructive Possession: The controlled substance is found in a location over which you have control, and you are aware of its presence.
If the State cannot prove that you had either actual or constructive possession of hydrocodone, then you cannot be found guilty of the charge. Surveillance footage, eyewitness testimony, and other forms of evidence can be used to challenge the State’s claim of possession.
Legal Disposal Defense
Florida law allows for a “legal disposal” defense, stating that temporary possession of a controlled substance for the sole purpose of disposal is not a crime.
This defense can be particularly useful if you can demonstrate that you had taken steps to dispose of the hydrocodone, such as heading to a police station or a drug disposal facility.
Lack of Knowledge Defense
Florida law offers an affirmative defense if the defendant was unaware of the illicit nature of the controlled substance in their possession.
Burden of Proof
It’s important to note that the burden of proof lies with the defendant in this case. You would need to provide evidence or testimony to establish that you were unaware that the substance you possessed was hydrocodone or that it was illegal.
Other Potential Defenses
One of the most effective defenses is to challenge the legality of the search and seizure that led to the discovery of hydrocodone. If your constitutional rights were violated, the evidence against you may be thrown out.
Lack of Supporting Evidence
Another strategy is to show that there is insufficient evidence to support the charge. This could involve questioning the reliability of tests used to identify the substance, or challenging the credibility of witnesses.
Defending against a charge of Possession of Hydrocodone in Florida requires a nuanced understanding of the law and a strategic approach to challenging the State’s case. From prescription defenses to challenging the legality of the search and seizure, there are multiple avenues that can be explored to protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome.
What does ‘possession’ mean in a drug charge?
In the context of a drug charge, ‘possession’ refers to having control over the substance. This can be either actual possession (the substance is on your person) or constructive possession (the substance is in a place you control and you are aware of its presence).
What is the penalty for possession of hydrocodone in Florida?
Possession of hydrocodone is a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 5 years of prison or probation, and a $5,000 fine.
Can I fight a charge of possession of hydrocodone?
Yes, there are several defenses that can be employed to fight a charge of possession of hydrocodone, including challenging the legality of the search, lack of knowledge about the substance, and more.
What is a motion to suppress?
A motion to suppress is a legal maneuver used to exclude or ‘suppress’ evidence from the court proceedings. This is often used when the evidence was obtained illegally or without proper procedure.
What is an alibi defense?
An alibi defense is used when the defendant claims to have been elsewhere when the alleged crime took place. This defense requires substantial proof, such as video footage, witness testimonies, or other forms of evidence that can corroborate the defendant’s claim.
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