Possession of Cocaine
In the State of Florida, the criminal charge of possession of cocaine is a third-degree felony. Cocaine is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance because of its severely restricted medical use and a high potential for abuse due to severe psychological or physical dependence. In Florida, crimes for the possession of cocaine can include both crack cocaine or powder cocaine. The possession of powder cocaine in Tampa, FL, has increased sharply in the past few years while the number of cases involving crack cocaine has continued to decline.
At least for cases prosecuted under Florida Statute Section 893.13(6)(a), the penalties for cocaine possession can include a $5,000 fine and up to 5 years in Florida State Prison. After an arrest for possession of cocaine, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Hillsborough County, FL, take up to 21 days to decide whether they will formally file charges. In some cases, especially when the search or seizure of evidence was illegal, the criminal defense attorney might be able to convince the prosecutor to drop or reduce the charges during those first 21 days after the arrest.
If the prosecutor decides to file formal charges for possession of cocaine, the case will be sent to drug court for the arraignment. Many of our clients have no desire to enter a drug court diversion program. We can help you decide the pros and cons of moving your case to a regular trial division where your criminal defense attorney can aggressively fight the charges by filing all of the viable motions.
Motions can include a motion to dismiss when insufficient evidence exists to show that you were in actual or constructive possession of the controlled substance. A motion to suppress can be filed when the arresting officer conducted an illegal search or seizure of the evidence, especially when the officer did not secure a warrant before conducting the search.
Attorney for Possession of Cocaine Crimes in Tampa, FL
The criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm fight cases involving the possession of controlled substances (including possession of cocaine) throughout the City of Tampa and the County of Hillsborough. The courts and prosecutors take these cases extremely seriously even for a tiny amount of cocaine.
In some cases, the arresting officer takes shortcuts when investigating a drug crime. As a result, if the search or seizure of the drugs was illegal, the court might suppress the drugs during a motion to suppress hearing. Even before the motion hearing, the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office might be willing to make an offer much better than typical just because of a pending motion.
The goal in many of these cases, especially for a first-time offense, is being eligible to seal or expunge the criminal history record and mugshot at the end of the case. Call our drug defense attorneys to learn more about the best ways to fight a criminal charge for possession of cocaine throughout the courthouse in Tampa, FL, in Hillsborough County.
Call (813) 250-0500 today to speak to an experienced drug crime attorney at Sammis Law Firm in Tampa, FL.
Penalties for Possession of Cocaine in Tampa, FL
Under Florida Statute Section 893.13(6)(a), if an individual knowingly possesses a quantity of cocaine that is less than 28 grams, the person may be charged with cocaine possession (often called the “simple possession of cocaine”) as a third-degree felony. The crime of possession of cocaine is a third-degree felony which is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a fine of up to five years in Florida State Prison. The crime of cocaine possession is assigned a severity ranking of Level 3 under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. Additionally, a conviction comes with a two-year suspension of your driver’s license.
If you are charged with possession of less than 28 grams of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver, the crime can be charged as a second-degree felony under Florida Statute 893.13(1)(a). A second-degree felony is punishable by up to 15 years in Florida State Prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
If you are accused of possessing 28 grams or more of cocaine, you might be charged with the serious criminal offense of “trafficking in cocaine.” The penalties for trafficking in cocaine can result in up to 30 years to life in prison, along with fines ranging from $50,000 to $250,000.
The extreme penalties for the possession of larger quantities of cocaine occur because of an underlying assumption that the drugs were not possessed for personal use, but because the defendant was a drug dealer. Keep in mind that the weight of the cocaine seized as evidence is not determined by how much pure cocaine is in a mixture. Instead, the prosecutor will decide the charges based on how much the mixture containing the cocaine weighs.
If you are accused of possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine in Tampa, FL, or in Hillsborough County, then you can be charged with trafficking in cocaine, a first-degree felony that is punishable by up to 30 years in prison under Florida State Statute 893.135(1)(b).
For trafficking in cocaine cases, the mandatory minimum penalties that can be imposed under Florida Statute Section 893.135(1)(b) include:
- at least 28 grams but less than 200 grams comes with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 3 years and a fine of $50,000;
- at least 200 but less than 400 grams comes with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 7 years and a fine of $100,000;
- at least 400 grams but less than 150 kilograms comes with a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and a fine of $250,000; or
- 150 kilograms or more comes with a penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The penalties are more severe if you were charged with armed trafficking of cocaine or the importation of cocaine into the State of Florida.
Defenses to Cocaine Possession Crimes in Florida
The elements of cocaine possession that must be proven at trial according to the Standard Jury Instruction 25.7 include:
- The Defendant either actually or constructively possessed a substance;
- The substance was cocaine;
- The Defendant knew of the presence of the substance.
The most common defenses to cocaine possession charges in the State of Florida involve any of the following:
- a motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence of cocaine possession;
- a motion to suppress because of an illegal search and seizure of cocaine evidence;
- lack of knowledge of the presence of the cocaine or its illicit nature;
- cocaine overdose defenses that grant immunity from prosecution;
- temporary possession of cocaine not involving dominion or control;
- possession of cocaine for purposes of a legal disposal of the evidence.
Federal Charges for Possession of Cocaine
Although the vast majority of cocaine cases are prosecuted in state court, charges for possession of cocaine can also be prosecuted in federal court.
In the federal criminal justice system, charges for possession of cocaine is subject to federal penalties found in 21 U.S.C. Sections 841 and 851. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 repealed the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine.
For the possession of cocaine, the sentencing guidelines now provide for:
- A five-year minimum mandatory term in federal prison for 28 grams of crack or 500 grams of cocaine; or
- A 10-year minimum mandatory term in federal prison for 280 grams of crack or 5 kilograms of cocaine.
If you have a prior qualifying conviction, then the penalties in federal court for possession of cocaine offenses include:
- A 20-year minimum mandatory term in federal prison if you have one prior qualifying felony drug conviction; or
- A mandatory life term of imprisonment in federal prison if you have two or more prior felony drug convictions.
Finding a Cocaine Possession Lawyer in Hillsborough County, FL
People often ask us the following question: “Is posession of cocaine a felony or a misdemeanor?” A charge for posession of even a tiny amount of cocaine is charged as a third degree felony. Any drug possession crime (other than for possession of less then 20 grams of marijuana) is a felony.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you fight charges for cocaine possession under Florida Statute Section 893.13(6)(a). Being charged with any felony drug charge comes with life-changing consequences. A drug defense attorney in Tampa, FL, can help you minimize those consequences as you fight for the best possible result in your case.
Contact the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm. When you call, ask to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss the charges pending against you, the penalties that typically come with that charge, ways to avoid the typical penalties, and the best ways to fight for the best result.
We also represent clients on related charges for possession of cocaine with intent to sell, delivery of cocaine, or cocaine trafficking. Our cocaine defense attorneys in Tampa, FL, can help you build an effective defense so that your future can be protected. Let us put our experience to work for you.
Call (813) 250-0500.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, February 6, 2018.