Heroin Charges in Florida
In Florida, heroin is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance. According to the Florida Drug Schedule, a Schedule I substance means there is no accepted medical use within the U.S., and it has a high risk of potential abuse. Due to its dangerous nature, the state of Florida has harsh consequences for any person who is caught committing a heroin-related offense.
The United States regularly brings federal charges for possession with intent to sell heroin. However, even the State penalties in Florida are extremely harsh.
South Florida Heroin Attorney
If you have been arrested for heroin possession or other drug-related charges in Florida, you should reach out to a knowledgeable defense attorney. An experienced heroin attorney can review all case details and work towards strategizing a strong defense for your case. Ian Goldstein Law represents clients in Palm Beach, Broward, and the surrounding counties. We also represent individuals in federal court throughout the country. Contact our firm at (561) 600-0950 to receive a free consultation regarding your case today.
Definition of Heroin
According to the DEA, heroin is a narcotic opiate that comes from various poppy plants. It is processed through morphine, and can also be mixed with other substances like sugar or milk. Heroin can be sold in various forms, including a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance which is referred to as “Black Tar Heroin.”
Common street names for heroin include all of the following:
- Big H
- Black Tar
- Hell Dust
A person abusing heroin can use it by injection, smoking, sniffing, or snorting the substance. Heroin affects the body almost immediately. The initial “rush” caused by using heroin is a feeling of euphoria, followed by a mellow, sleepy state. The physical signs of a person using heroin is as follows:
- Hypoventilation (Respiratory Depression)
- Constricted Pupils
- Dry Mouth
- Flushed Skin
- Heavy Extremities
Heroin overdoses are extremely dangerous. According to the American Addiction Center, the most dangerous risk of using an opioid drug is the potential of overdose. When consuming a high enough dosage of heroin, it could affect a person’s system and result in slowed breathing. The risk of toxicity is even higher when mixing substances such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. In addition, since heroin is an illicitly manufactured drug it is never a reliable substance. A person using heroin may not realize it is “cut” or “laced” with other dangerous substances like fentanyl.
The following is a list of symptoms of a possible heroin overdose:
- Hypoventilation (Respiratory Depression)
- Decreased level of consciousness
- Constricted or “pinpoint-sized” pupils
- Drowsiness and lethargy
- Uncontrolled vomiting
- Limp body
- Loss of consciousness
- Inability to gain consciousness despite attempts of stimulus
- Choking or gurgling sounds
- Slowed pulse
- Low blood pressure
- Pale, blue, clammy, or cold skin
- Respiratory arrest
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that heroin-involved overdose death rates decreased by 7% from 2019 to 2020. However, there were still 13,000 drug overdose deaths involving heroin in the United States. That makes it a rate of more than four deaths for every 100,000 people in America. In addition, nearly 20% of opioid deaths involve heroin.
Heroin is an extremely dangerous drug that can negatively impact a person’s physical and psychological well-being. Getting caught in the possession of heroin in Florida can also lead to criminal charges.
Heroin Charges in Florida
In the state of Florida, a person can be charged with several types of heroin offenses depending on the nature of the offense. The most common charges are possession of heroin, possession of heroin with the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, and trafficking in heroin.
For criminal offenses which involve large quantities of heroin, federal agents, or criminal offenses committed on federal property, possession of heroin may result in federal charges as well.
Possession of Heroin
Florida Statute Section 893.13(6) explains that an individual arrested for the possession of less than 10 grams of heroin is classified as simple possession. Simple possession of heroin can result in a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has penalties of up to $5,000 in fines, up to five years in prison, or both.
An individual who is arrested for the possession of 4 or more grams of heroin can be charged with a first-degree felony in Florida, known as trafficking in heroin. A first-degree felony carries penalties of up to $10,000 in fines, up to 30 years in prison, or both. Depending on the quantity of heroin possessed, individuals can face minimum mandatory sentences of four years up to life imprisonment.
Florida law explains that possession can be broken down into two types: actual or constructive possession.
- Actual Possession – An individual found in the actual possession of heroin includes those found by law enforcement to have heroin on their person, such as in their hands, pockets, or other immediate location to which only the offender had access to. An example would be the center console or glove compartment occupied solely by the individual.
- Constructive Possession – Constructive possession includes scenarios where law enforcement found heroin in a location that the alleged offender had primary control over, but is also accessible to others.
Possession with the Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver Heroin
The following is a breakdown of each term and how they relate to criminal charges for heroin in Florida:
- Sell – When an individual transfers or delivers heroin to another person in exchange for something of value including money or the promise of money.
- Manufacture – When an individual goes through the process of production, preparation, propagation, growing, cultivating, or processing of heroin. This can be a direct or indirect extraction from the substance’s natural origin, or the independent means of chemical synthesis. It can also include a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis.
- Delivery – The actual, constructive, or attempted transfer of heroin from one person to another.
Florida Statute Section 893.13 explains that it is unlawful for any individual to sell, manufacture, or deliver controlled substances on the Drug Schedule. If the alleged offender is arrested for any of these offenses with less than 4 grams of heroin, they can be charged with a second-degree felony in Florida. A second-degree felony has the penalties of up to $10,000 in fines, up to 15 years of imprisonment.
Individuals who are arrested for an alleged offense which involves 4 or more grams of heroin, are charged with a first-degree felony in Florida.
Individuals who are accused of dealing in large quantities of heroin are often charged by the federal government, but can also be charged by the State of Florida. The State determines charges for trafficking based on the quantity of heroin in the alleged offender’s possession. Under Florida law, trafficking heroin is considered a first-degree felony in Florida. However, there are increased mandatory minimum sentences and fines based on the following list of quantities in possession:
- 4 to 14 grams of heroin – Mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years and a $50,000 fine
- 14 to 28 grams of heroin – Mandatory minimum prison sentence of 15 years and a $100,000 fine
- 28 grams to 30 kilograms of heroin – Mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years and a $500,000 fine
- 30 kilograms or more – Mandatory life sentence in prison with the inability to receive early release except for pardon, executive clemency, or conditional medical release.
Enhanced Sentencing for Palm Beach County Heroin Charges
The state of Florida has created enhanced sentencing when an individual has been arrested for possession of heroin in certain protected areas. These areas are referred to as “drug-free zones” (DFZ’s), and can include any of the following:
- Public or private elementary, middle, or secondary school;
- Childcare facility;
- State, county, or municipal park;
- Community center which is open to the public (usually operated by a nonprofit or community-based organization for educational, social, or recreational services);
- Publicly owned recreational facility;
- Public or private post-secondary school including a state college, university, or other educational institution;
- Place of worship such as a church or other religious organization which conducts regular religious services;
- Convenience business; and/or
- Public housing facility.
An individual who is caught in the possession of heroin, or is caught selling, manufacturing, or delivering heroin within 1,000 feet of any of the places listed above can face mandatory minimum sentencing, longer maximum sentences, or elevated felony charges.
Defenses to Heroin Charges
Drug charges can be very intimidating due to Florida’s strict laws and penalties regarding heroin and other illicit substances. After an arrest for the possession of heroin, the accused person’s first step should be seeking out a defense attorney to work with. A skilled Palm Beach heroin defense attorney can strategize possible defenses applicable to the heroin case.
Although heroin charges should be taken very seriously, there are still possible defenses that can be used. One of the possible defenses is codified under Florida Statute Section 893.21, which explains that a person who has experienced a drug-related overdose but acts in good faith to seek out medical assistance cannot be charged, prosecuted, or penalized for possession of heroin. This defense can be applied if the evidence of heroin was obtained in response to the person seeking out medical assistance.
In addition, other possible defenses to a heroin possession charge include:
- Alleged substance was not heroin nor did it contain any traces of heroin;
- Heroin belonged to another person;
- Law enforcement completed an illegal search and seizure;
- Invalid or lack of search warrant; or
- Insufficient evidence.
The best way to determine which possible defenses are applicable to a heroin charge is to work with a defense attorney in your area.
Finding a Heroin Defense Attorney in South Florida
If you or someone you know is arrested for a heroin-related crime in South Florida, we highly advise you to speak with a legal representative. A person convicted of a drug charge in Florida can face harsh consequences by both State and Federal law, including expensive fines and lengthy prison sentences.
The attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law have years of experience representing those in Florida who have been accused of drug crimes. We strive to provide top quality legal representation for residents in South Florida, including Palm Beach, Broward, and the surrounding counties. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, contact Ian Goldstein Law at (561) 600-0950 today.