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Possession of a Controlled Substance

Possession of a Controlled Substance

Florida has some of the strictest drug laws in the nation. Possession of almost any controlled substance not legally obtained from a licensed doctor could result in felony charges.

When a person is caught with illicit drugs, they may be charged with possession of a controlled substance. However, there are more severe charges for a defendant who possesses over a specific quantity of drugs, implying the intent to either manufacture or sell the substance. Possession charges can also be penalized as both a State and a Federal offense.

If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance in Florida, you can face very harsh penalties. This includes paying hefty fines, getting sentenced to prison, having your license suspended, or being forced to attend drug counseling. The best way to protect yourself and your future is by understanding Florida’s possession law, along with working with an experienced defense attorney who can help fight your case.

Tallahassee Drug Possession Defense Lawyer

We understand that facing criminal charges for an alleged drug offense is both worrying and stressful. If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance or another drug charge, an experienced Tallahassee drug defense lawyer can analyze the particular facts of your case to find potential defenses or circumstances mitigating your charge. The attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm are knowledgeable about Florida’s drug laws and can seek the best possible outcome for your alleged offense.

If you have been charged in Tallahassee, Monticello, Quincy, Bristol,  the surrounding areas, or anywhere across the panhandle and state,  contact our offices to learn more about your defense options. A drug possession charge does not have to mean a lifetime of repercussions. Call (850) 681-7777 to schedule a free consultation


Information About Possession of a Controlled Substance


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What is a Controlled Substance?

A controlled substance is a drug or chemical compound regulated by the government due to its potential to cause dependence and abuse. Each controlled substance is categorized into different ‘schedules’ based on their accepted medical use or level of potential abuse.

Government regulations for controlled substances are put into place to restrict the availability and potential misuse of the substances. These regulations are controlled by both State and Federal law, and a person caught in the possession of a controlled substance may face extensive penalties, varying in severity on the type and quantity of the substance in the suspect’s possession.

Examples of controlled substances include:

  • Opioids
  • Stimulants
  • Depressants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Certain prescription medications

Florida Statute on Drug Possession

Chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes is titled the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. Florida law organizes each controlled substance under varying ‘schedules’ like under federal law.

Under Florida Statute Section 893.13(6)(a), an individual cannot be in actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance, unless such substance was lawfully prescribed by a practitioner.

Actual vs. Constructive Possession of a Controlled Substance

In Florida, possession is broken down into two categories: actual or constructive possession.

Actual possession is defined as having physical control or custody over a controlled substance. The illicit drugs can be found on the person or within their immediate reach. An example of actual possession includes a person found with marijuana in their pocket or in a joint in their hand.

Constructive possession is defined as having the ability to exercise control over illicit drugs, without the drugs being in the person’s physical possession. Examples of constructive possession include finding controlled substances in a person’s bedroom, in their school locker, or another location in the person’s control.

Regardless of whether a person is accused of being in actual or constructive possession, both can result in charges for possession of a controlled substance  in Florida. However, the surrounding circumstances will help determine the exact charges and potential penalties.

The degree of possession can be a mitigating circumstance if someone is charged with possession of a controlled substance. If the prosecution is unable to prove an alleged offender had either actual or constructive possession of the controlled substance, they will be unable to charge the alleged offender with a possession charge. A drug attorney in Tallahassee can fight to prove you were not in possession.


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Florida Drug Schedules

Florida Statutes Section 893.03 categorizes controlled substances into the Florida Drug Schedule. The state drug schedule separates controlled substances from Schedule I to Schedule V. Each schedule indicates a level of severity in penalties, which is based on the substance’s potential for abuse or medical use. Schedule I drugs have the most serious penalties, whereas Schedule V drugs incur very light punishments.

  • Schedule I drugs have a high potential for abuse and no acknowledged medical use in the United States. Some examples of controlled substances in this category are GHB and heroin.
  • Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse and a very limited accepted medical use in the United States. Common examples of controlled substances in this category are opium, cocaine, morphine, Adderall and Vicodin.
  • Schedule III drugs have a potential for abuse, but lower than Schedule I or II drugs and an accepted medical use in the United States. Examples of controlled substances in this category are barbituric acid and anabolic steroids.
  • Schedule IV drugs have a lower potential for abuse than Schedule III drugs and accepted medical uses in the United States. This includes Xanax and Ambien.
  • Schedule V drugs have the lowest potential for abuse and accepted medical uses in the United States. Examples of controlled substances in this category include Lomotil, Parepectolin, and Motofen.

Illegal possession of prescription drugs could result in criminal charges. This means if a person is in possession of a prescription drug, but does not have a valid prescription, he or she could be arrested. If a person has more of a drug than what a prescription calls for, he or she also could face charges.


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Penalties for Possessing a Controlled Substance in Florida

Under Florida Statutes Section 893.13, a person who is charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance in Florida faces a third-degree felony.

However, the specific penalties may be determined based on the schedule of the drug that allegedly was possessed.

A defendant convicted of possession of a controlled substance that falls under Schedule V is considered a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. The penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000. Example: Possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana is considered a first-degree misdemeanor.

A defendant convicted of possession of a controlled substance that falls under Schedule I, II, III or IV is considered a third-degree felony in Florida. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to five years of imprisonment and fines up to $5,000. A defendant convicted of any narcotics possession could also have their driver’s license suspended for up to two years.

Other penalties for a drug possession charge may include:

  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Drug treatment and/or counseling
  • Random drug testing
  • Two-Year license suspension, one year of “hard” suspension

Controlled substances are regulated by both State and Federal governments. That means possession of a controlled substance charge can be prosecuted in state or federal court. Convictions under federal statutes for possession of a controlled substance can be much more severe, and a prison sentence will be served in federal prison.

If a defendant is accused of being in the possession of a controlled substance, and the substance passes a certain threshold, the defendant may be charged with possession with the intent to sell, manufacture, or distribute.

Florida Statute Section 893.13(1)(a) states that it is unlawful for any person to sell, manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, a controlled substance. Penalties for possession with the intent to sell, manufacture, or distribute controlled substance can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.


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Defenses to a Controlled Substance Charge

A possession charge does not have to mean a conviction. After getting charged with a drug-related offense, you may feel as if you do not stand a chance with the evidence against you. However, there are options to fight a charge for possession of a controlled substance offense in Florida. As the circumstances are different for each case, we highly encourage speaking with a defense attorney to discuss your defense options.

One of the main defenses to a drug charge is if the defendant’s constitutional rights have been violated. If the arresting officers conducted an unreasonable search and seizure by illegally searching you, your home, or person, the entire case could potentially be thrown out. A defense attorney may be able to file a motion to suppress and remove the state’s opportunity to presence any evidence of the actual drugs.

Other defense options to fight a possession of a controlled substance charge include:

  • Mistaken identity;
  • Lack of evidence to justify the charge;
  • Entrapment
  • Prescription or lawful authorization; or
  • Inability to show possession of the controlled substance. Proof of possession is one of the most important elements of the case. If there is no evidence, the charges could be reduced or dropped.

As the surrounding facts and circumstances vary on a case-to-case basis, it is imperative that you contact a legal professional to determine your defense options. Contact a skilled North Florida defense attorney at your earliest convenience and receive a free consultation.


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Finding A Drug Lawyer in Tallahassee

If you have been charged with possessing a controlled substance in Leon County, Wakulla County, Jefferson County, or a nearby area, contact Pumphrey Law Firm to discuss the facts of your particular case. The penalties for drug charges in Florida are steep and can impact your life and your future. By working with a defense attorney, you receive non-stop support and knowledge in the legal field throughout your case.

It is important to hire an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney who can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your charge. Don Pumphrey and his team have spent years helping Florida citizens get their charges lessened or dismissed. We are prepared to fight for you and your case. Contact us at (850) 681-7777 for a free consultation.


This page was updated on May 29, 2023

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