Actual vs. Constructive Drug Possession in Florida

Drug possession charges in Florida can have a devastating impact on your life. If convicted, you could face harsh criminal consequences and collateral penalties that haunt you for the foreseeable future.

Luckily, you can challenge a drug possession charge in a variety of ways. A powerful criminal defense attorney can advocate for you and help you prepare a compelling strategy to secure an acquittal. However, the most successful route for your defense depends on whether it’s built on an actual or constructive drug possession charge. Learn the difference and what to expect for your Florida drug case.

Defining Possession in Florida

Under Florida Statute 893.13, you can be charged with possessing a controlled substance if you are found in possession of any illicit drug or controlled substance without a physician’s prescription. Some examples of such controlled substances could include:

● Morphine
● Fentanyl
● Heroin
● Cocaine
Marijuana
● Peyote
● PCP

The extent of the penalties you will face for a drug possession charge in Florida will vary depending on whether you are accused of actual or constructive possession.

Actual Possession

Actual possession describes situations where you are found to have illegal drugs on your person. This could be within your immediate reach, in your purse or other bag, pocket, or vehicle.

Generally, actual possession charges will apply when police do a body search or a pat down. You should not be charged with actual possession if you have a prescription for the controlled substance in question. However, if you are holding onto a prescription medication for a friend, actual drug possession charges might apply.

Constructive Possession

Conversely, constructive possession means you knew and had control over an illicit drug. For instance, if police were conducting a search through a warrant and found a controlled substance in a locked drawer in your bedroom, this would be considered constructive drug possession.

You could also be charged with constructive drug possession if:

● You are found with a controlled substance in your vehicle
● Law enforcement officials found drugs in shared storage space, such as a locker at work
● You have knowledge of a controlled substance on your property

It is important to note that depending on the amount of drugs you are accused of having in your possession, you could also be charged with other types of drug offenses.

Legal Penalties & Consequences of Possession

Whether you are charged with actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance in Florida, the penalties you face could be severe. If this is not your first offense, you can expect harsher consequences. For example, depending on the amount and type of drug in question, you could face time in a county jail or state prison facility. You could also be ordered to pay considerable fines and participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program.

If you are charged with possession of a Schedule l controlled substance, it is more likely that you will face felony charges as opposed to misdemeanor charges. These carry longer prison terms and higher fines. Generally, misdemeanor convictions carry fines not to exceed $1,000, while felony fines can reach up to $5,000.

Consider the impact your drug possession conviction will have on your life. You may find your professional license is suspended or revoked, your driving privileges are taken away, and your career advancement opportunities are lost.

As a convicted felon, you will also lose your right to federal programs such as student aid, housing assistance, heating assistance, and food stamps or SNAP. If you are not a United States citizen, you might face immigration issues or be deported. Additionally, you could find yourself dealing with child custody or visitation issues and have your firearm rights taken away.

Possible Defenses to Possession Charges

Unfortunately, working out a plea agreement or entering a pretrial diversion program is not always possible in drug possession cases. When this happens, you must prepare a compelling defense to be presented in court. Some of the top defenses used to challenge drug possession charges include:

● Having a prescription for the controlled substance in question
● Lack of knowledge that the controlled substance was against the law
● The controlled substances belong to someone else
● Mistake of fact or identity
● Unlawful search and seizure

These are just a few defenses you could use to clear your name of the drug possession charges against you. Your criminal defense lawyer will review your case’s specific circumstances, determine whether any aggravating or mitigating factors are present, and scrutinize the evidence in your case to determine which defense is most likely to produce a favorable outcome.

How a Drug Crime Attorney Can Help

When an experienced drug crime attorney advocates for you, you can rest easier. Although the charges against you carry harsh penalties, when you have a criminal defense attorney on your side, you can prepare a powerful defense. Your attorney can argue that the evidence against you was only obtained via an unlawful search and seizure.

If police conduct a search without a warrant, any evidence they obtain cannot be used against you at trial. If your attorney can challenge whether the elements of the offense have been met, such as a lack of knowledge of a controlled substance, the charges against you could be dismissed entirely.

Your drug crime attorney can also negotiate with the district attorney to get you into a pretrial diversion program. If you complete the terms of the program, the state will dismiss the charges against you or reduce them to a lesser offense. This way, you are not stuck dealing with the severe consequences of a guilty verdict and can get the rehabilitative help you need.

Get Help from an Aggressive Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If your criminal defense attorney can successfully challenge the actual or constructive drug possession charges against you, you could avoid the long-lasting implications associated with a conviction for drug possession.

Ensure you have an experienced Florida drug possession defense lawyer handling your case. Contact Metcalf Falls, Criminal Defense Attorneys, P.A. for a confidential case assessment today by calling 813-258-4800 and learn more about which defenses are most likely to produce a favorable outcome in your case.