Possession of a Controlled Substance in Florida

The state of Florida has strict regulations in place to combat drug abuse and maintain public safety. If a person is caught with drugs in their possession, they can face criminal penalties for possession of a controlled substance

While possession of a controlled substance may seem straightforward, the legal implications surrounding it can be complex. With drug cases, the penalties can vary depending on the type and amount of the controlled substance in the defendant’s possession. This is where a skilled defense attorney can provide help. 

If you have been accused of possessing a controlled substance, it is important to understand Florida’s drug charges, penalties, and your options for defense. 

South Florida Drug Charges Attorney 

If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance in Palm Beach, Broward, or the surrounding counties, you should prioritize speaking with a South Florida criminal defense attorney. Getting convicted of a drug charge can severely impact your future. By working with an experienced attorney, you can work on getting the charges against you reduced or dismissed. Ian Goldstein Law Firm has decades of experience helping Floridians fight criminal charges. You can receive a free consultation with our firm by contacting (561) 600-0950 today. 

What are Controlled Substances?

A controlled substance is a drug or chemical substance whose possession, manufacture, distribution, and use are all regulated by the government. 

Controlled substances are classified into different schedules or categories based on their potential for abuse and recognized medical value. The state and federal regulations for controlled substances aim to prevent misuse, abuse, and addiction, along with ensuring the safe and legitimate use of such substances for medical or scientific purposes. 

The varying types of controlled substances include the following: 

  • Depressants
  • Hallucinogens
  • Opioids
  • Prescription Medicine 
  • Stimulants

Drug schedule 

Florida Statute Section 893.03 lists the State Drug Schedule, which categorizes each controlled substance into five different schedules based on the accepted medical use and potential for abuse. 

Schedule I controlled substances have no currently accepted medical use in the United States and have a high abuse potential. Examples of Schedule I controlled substances include heroin, LSD, and marijuana. 

Schedule II controlled substances have a limited accepted medical use and high potential for abuse, however a lower potential than controlled substances in Schedule I. Examples of Schedule II controlled substances include cocaine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl. 

Schedule III controlled substances have some accepted medical use and some potential for abuse, but a lower potential than controlled substances listed in Schedule I and Schedule II. Examples of Schedule III substances include ketamine, codeine, and anabolic steroids. 

Schedule IV controlled substances have commonly accepted medical use with some potential for abuse, but a lower potential than controlled substances in Schedule I, II, and III. Examples of Schedule IV controlled substances include diazepam, alprazolam, and tramadol. 

Schedule V has the most accepted medical use and has the lowest potential for abuse. Examples of Schedule V controlled substances include Motofen, Lomotil, and cough medicines containing codeine. 

Florida’s Drug Possession Statute 

In Florida, it is unlawful to be in the possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. As codified under Statute Section 893.13(6)(a), a person cannot be in actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance. The exception to this law is if the substance was lawfully prescribed by a medical practitioner.

Actual vs Constructive Possession 

When a person is charged with possession of a controlled substance, they have been accused of being in the actual or constructive possession of an unlawful drug. 

The difference between actual versus constructive possession is that actual possession is when the substance is on the defendant’s person, such as in their pocket or in their hand. Constructive possession is when the person exercises control over the substance without it being on their person, such as in their room or other secured location. 

To convict a person of constructive possession, the State must prove: 

  1. The defendant knew of the presence of a controlled substance;
  2. The defendant knew the substance in question was unlawful; and
  3. The defendant had or maintained control over the unlawful substance or the location where it was stored. 

It does not matter whether you were caught in actual or constructive possession, as both violations can result in being charged with possession of a controlled substance. It is the surrounding circumstances such as the type of substance or quantity in the person's possession that can determine the specific penalties. 


With the exception of misdemeanor possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams) possession of a controlled substance in Florida is a third-degree felony. The specific penalties for a third-degree felony include: 

  • Up to $5,000 in fines
  • Up to 5 years in prison
  • Up to 5 years of probation 

It is important to note that the specific penalties may be dependent on what type of controlled substance is found in the defendant’s possession. 

For instance, a person who is caught with not more than 20 grams of marijuana can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. In Florida, the penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include: 

  • Up to $1,000 in fines
  • Up to one year in jail
  • Up to one year of probation

A person in possession of 10 grams or more of a Schedule I controlled substance can be charged with the crime of trafficking, a first-degree felony. In Florida, the penalties for a first-degree felony include: 

  • Up to $10,000 in fines
  • Up to 30 years in prison
  • Up to 30 years of probation 

More severe drug charges can be brought against a person accused of possession of a controlled substance where there is evidence of the intent to sell, deliver, or distribute. The most severe penalties are for those who are accused of drug trafficking. When a person is caught in the possession of a controlled substance, law enforcement will weigh the substance to determine the appropriate charge.  Keep in mind that even if the controlled substance is mixed with other lawful substances, the combined weight will be counted. For example, a mixture of one gram of cocaine and 27 grams of baking soda will be charged as possession of 28 grams of cocaine (i.e. trafficking).  The purity of the controlled substance is irrelevant to the charge.

Defenses to a Drug Charge in Florida 

Getting accused of a drug charge should not be taken lightly. If convicted, even a first-time drug offense can result in steep penalties. This is why it’s imperative that you reach out to a skilled defense attorney to discuss your options. Possible defenses to a possession of a controlled substance charge include: 

  • Lawful medical prescription or authorization; 
  • Lack of evidence to prove the defendant was in actual or constructive possession;
  • Mistaken identity; 
  • Unlawful search and seizure by law enforcement; or
  • Entrapment. 

It’s important to point out that the defense options may vary depending on the circumstances of your case. Contact Ian Goldstein Law today to discuss your best defense. 

Contact a South Florida Defense Attorney 

Facing criminal charges is a scary experience for anyone. The state of Florida prosecutes drug cases harshly, with convictions leading to hefty fines and lengthy imprisonment. If you or a loved one has been arrested for the possession of a controlled substance, we highly recommend reaching out to a Palm Beach criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

The attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law can provide help in strategizing a defense for your case and help ensure that all your rights are protected throughout the legal process. If you need defense, our firm is prepared to fight for you. Contact our office today at (561) 600-0950 and receive a free consultation regarding your case.

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