GHB Crimes in Florida

October 9, 2021 College, Criminal Defense, Drug Charges, Sex Crimes

What is GHB?

GHB, scientifically known as gamma-hydroxybutyrate, is a depressant that affects the central nervous system. It is a common “date rape” or “club drug” used to cause symptoms like euphoria, increased sexual libido, decreased critical thinking, dizziness, loss of consciousness, and hallucinations to those who are drugged. While GHB is a chemical produced in the brain and other areas of the body, it can also be made scientifically in order to produce the above results.

GHB used to be readily accessible to Americans. Before 1990, people in the United States could access GHB as a dietary supplement, but now it has been classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. Due to that classification, GHB is now illegal to possess, make, sell, or deliver.

A prescription form of GHB exists, called sodium oxybate, or Xyrem. It is used to treat narcolepsy. Xyrem is a Schedule III controlled substance, making it legal but in need of a valid prescription and vigilant monitoring by a medical professional.

Possession of GHB

The crime of possessing GHB is codified under Section 893.13 of the Florida Statutes. It states that merely possessing GHB is classified as a third-degree felony.

Possession of GHB Penalties in Florida

The possession of GHB is classified as a third-degree felony, punishable by any combination of:

  • Five (5) years in prison
  • Five (5) years of probation
  • A five-thousand-dollar ($5,000) fine

Those convicted could also lose their driving privileges for under year pursuant to Section 322.055 of the Florida Statutes.

Selling or Delivering GHB

The crime of selling or delivering GHB is codified under Section 893.13(1)(a)(1) of the Florida Statutes. It states that it is a crime to sell or deliver GHB, specifically that individuals cannot sell, manufacture, or deliver any quantity of GHB, or be in possession of GHB with the intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell it.

Sale or Delivery of GHB Penalties in Florida

The prohibition against selling or delivering GHB is classified as a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by any combination of:

  • Fifteen (15) years in prison
  • Fifteen (15) years of probation
  • A ten-thousand-dollar ($10,000) fine

This crime is seen as a “Level 5” offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, meaning that a judge has the authority to punish offenders severely, even imposing all statutory maximum penalties.

Additionally, Section 322.055 of the Florida Statutes states that an individual convicted of selling or delivering GHB will have their driving privileges or licenses suspended for six (6) months by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Furthermore, Section 893.11 of the Florida Statutes states that an individual convicted of selling or delivering GHB will have any professional license issued by the state of Florida that governs the practice of a trade or profession suspended.

Trafficking GHB

Trafficking is the most serious GHB criminal offense in Florida. This offense is codified in Section 893.135(1)(h)(1) of the Florida Statutes and occurs when an individual knowingly buys, sells, possess, makes, delivers, or transports into Florida one (1) kilogram or more of GHB, or a mixture that includes GHB. Penalties for this offense will vary depending on the amount of GHB in controversy, but it is classified as a first-degree felony. Penalties fall as such:

  • Penalties for between one and five kilograms of GHB
    • A minimum sentence of three (3) years;
    • A maximum sentence of thirty (30) years;
    • A fifty-thousand dollar ($50,000) fine.
  • Penalties for between five and ten kilograms of GHB
    • A minimum sentence of seven (7) years;
    • A maximum sentence of thirty (30) years;
    • A one-hundred thousand dollar ($100,000) fine.
  • Penalties for over 10 kilograms of GHB
    • A minimum sentence of fifteen (15) years;
    • A maximum sentence of thirty (30) years;
    • A two-hundred fifty thousand dollar ($250,000) fine.

It should be noted that the maximum sentence can increase if someone dies as a result of the GHB. In that situation, the charge would be a capital felony, punishable by life imprisonment.

Defenses to GHB Charges

While several defenses could be applicable to defend charges of this nature, specifically used and common defenses include:

Personal Use

Most GHB-related criminal offenses require that the defendant had more of the substance than is consistent with personal use, or possession. Therefore, it is a defense to this crime that the GHB obtained was just for personal use. The prosecution would have to bring forth evidence that shows that the GHB was not for personal use. Such evidence could be, but is not limited to,:

  1. Large quantities of the GHB;
  2. The presence of drug scales;
  3. The presence of large amounts of money;
  4. The presence of accounting documents; and
  5. The presence of paraphernalia associated with distribution.

Fourth Amendment Violation

If police officers breached their point of authority in conducting a search or seizure of the GHB, courts must suppress any evidence that came about as a result of the illegal search or seizure. This evidence will be seen as illegally obtained. This can happen when police exceed the scope of a search warrant, coerce an individual into consenting to a search, or arrested the defendant without requisite probable cause. To learn more about the Fourth Amendment, visit our blog post here.

Lack of Knowledge

Lack of knowledge can be asserted as an affirmative defense. In order to do this, defense counsel would have to prove that the defendant did not know the substance they were seen in possession of, selling, delivering, or manufacturing was GHB. The defendant would have to testify that they did not know about the illicit nature of the substance.

Constructive Possession

If the GHB was discovered in a place where multiple people, anyone other than the defendant, had access, the State would have to prove their case theory under constructive possession, meaning they would be required to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction:

  1. The defendant had knowledge of the presence of GHB, and
  2. The defendant had dominion and control over the GHB, meaning that they had some control over the substance other than just the ability to touch it on occasion.

To read more about constructive possession, visit our blog post here.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, GHB crimes in Florida can carry severe and long-lasting penalties. That is why it is imperative to retain a knowledgeable and experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney if you or a loved one has been charged with a GHB-related crime. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have a wealth of experience defending Floridians against controlled substance charges and can ensure every defense possible will be explored. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito

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