Criminal Defense LawyerLakeland, Tampa, FL

Prescription Drug Charges in Florida

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With the ever-growing numbers of opiate overdoses nationwide, law enforcement at nearly every level is ‘cracking down’ on illegal possession of prescription medications.  If you have a pending charge for prescription drug possession in Florida, you will need an experienced Lakeland defense attorney in your corner.

Call Thomas C. Grajek, Attorney at Law to schedule a free consultation about your pending drug charge. I will speak with you about your arrest and the pending charges to find any strategic ways to have the charges dropped or reduced. If any charges remain, I will use every opportunity to show the jury why you should be found innocent.

What constitutes illegal possession of prescription drugs in Florida?

In an effort to combat a dramatic rise in prescription drug overdoses in recent years, Florida has taken a tough line approach to illegal possession of prescription drugs, with the potential for long minimum jail terms and large fines. Illegal prescription drug possession can result from possessing or using any prescription medication that you were not prescribed, obtaining a prescription medication through fraudulent means, or engaging in “doctor shopping” to acquire multiple prescriptions. Note that possession of any prescription medications that were validly prescribed to you – even if the prescription was written a decade ago – is not illegal.

The severity of any penalty for illegal possession of prescription drugs depends on several factors, including the type of prescription drug and the amount held. Prescription medications fall into two general categories: controlled substances and non-controlled substances. Possession of controlled substances are those that are included on the drug schedules outlined in Florida Statute § 893.03; illegal possession of these prescription drugs is treated the same as the possession of a non-prescription drug, such as cocaine, that falls in the same drug schedule. Prescription medications that are not controlled substances are still illegal to possess without a valid prescription, but the charges and potential penalties for doing so are lighter.

How Florida categorizes prescription drugs

Florida law categorizes all drugs that are regarded as controlled substances into five schedules. Schedule I drugs are deemed the most likely to result in abuse. Except for marijuana, no drugs on Schedule I are considered to have any legitimate medical use. As such, there is no such thing as a Schedule I prescription drug (again, apart from medical marijuana). The remaining four schedules, however, contain several drugs commonly prescribed to treat pain, anxiety, sleeplessness and other disorders, classified by their potential for abuse and dependence.

Schedule II prescription drugs

Drugs that fall under this schedule are judged to carry a high risk of abuse leading to serious physical and/or psychological dependence in combination with limited legitimate medical uses. Examples of Schedule II prescription drugs include hydrocodone, oxycodone (Percocet), meperidine (Demerol), morphine, Adderall, Ritalin, and pentobarbital.

Schedule III prescription drugs

Included in Schedule III are those prescription drugs that have genuine medical uses and are less likely to lead to abuse and dependence than Schedule II drugs; however, drugs in this category still carry a risk of abuse, moderate physical dependence and high psychological dependence. Examples of Schedule III prescription drugs include ketamine, anabolic steroids, and certain prescription drugs that contain codeine (such as Tylenol with codeine).

Schedule IV prescription drugs

As with Schedule III drugs, prescription drugs under Schedule IV are deemed to have a lower risk of abuse than the schedule above while still carrying the potential for abuse and dependence. Many of the drugs in the category are commonly legally prescribed to treat anxiety, depression or sleep disorders. Common Schedule IV prescription drugs include Valium, Xanax, Klonopin, Soma, and Ativan.

Schedule V prescription drugs

The prescription medications included on Schedule V are deemed to have the lowest potential for abuse of all prescribed controlled substances. Included in Schedule V are prescription medications with low concentrations of codeine to non-controlled substances, such as certain prescription cough syrups.

Charges and penalties for prescription drug crimes in Florida

The range of potential charges and penalties for illegal prescription drug possession in Florida varies significantly based on whether the medication is a controlled substance, what schedule it is classified under, and the amount found in possession.

Second-degree misdemeanor

As codified in Florida Statute § 499.03, illegal possession of a prescription drug that is not a controlled substance is a second-degree misdemeanor. This charge carries several potential penalties, including a maximum jail sentence of 60 days, fines up to $500, and probation. Note that if intent to sell can be demonstrated, the charge can be increased to a third-degree felony.

Third-degree felony

The possession of a prescription drug on any of Florida’s drug schedules without a valid prescription typically leads to a third-degree felony charge. Anyone convicted of third-degree felony possession of a controlled substance faces a maximum imprisonment sentence of five years and a fine of up to $5,000. If intent to sell or distribute can be demonstrated, however, second-degree or first-degree felony charges may apply, depending on the particular medication and amount possessed.

First-degree felony

Illegal possession of significant qualities of some prescription drugs is generally regarded as drug trafficking rather than simple possession or intent to sell, resulting in a first-degree felony charge. The state has codified the amount of each controlled substance that is needed to be classified as trafficking under Florida Statute § 893.135. For example, illegal possession of seven grams or more of oxycodone can result in a first-degree felony charge for trafficking.

First-degree felony charges for trafficking of prescription drugs carry mandatory minimum sentences and fines that vary depending on the drug and the amount possessed. For example, being found guilty of possession of between seven and 14 grams of oxycodone carries a minimum sentence of three years; this minimum sentence increases to seven years for possession of between 14 and 25 grams of the same medication.

It is important to note that first-degree charges for trafficking are based on the aggregate weight of the prescription drug, not just that of the controlled substance. For example, possession of a 90-pill bottle of Vicodin where each pill contains 500 milligrams of acetaminophen to 10 milligrams of hydrocodone will be charged on the entire weight of the medication (45.9 grams), not just the weight of the hydrocodone (900 milligrams) – which is the difference between a simple possession charge and a trafficking charge with a seven-year mandatory minimum.

Prescription drug charges FAQ

What does “doctor shopping” mean?

Doctor shopping means visiting several different doctor´s offices to obtain multiple prescriptions for the same condition. Or for drugs that would be illegal if they were to be taken without a prescription. Being caught doing this could lead to serious charges. You should, therefore, ask an attorney to review your case and put together as effective a defense as possible.

My prescription was written in the 2000s, is my prescription still legal?

Under Florida law, a prescription for a controlled substance must be filled within 6 months of it being issued, and it cannot be used more than five times. If you use a prescription that is older than that or try to fill it too often, you are breaking the law. The laws surrounding the issuing of controlled substances under prescription are regularly updated and getting stricter.

Is it a felony to share prescription drugs?

Yes. Sharing your prescription drugs is illegal, and it may result in you being fined or jailed. The penalties you will receive depend on the amount and type of the substance you are sharing. If you are caught sharing certain substances, you may receive jail time of more than a year.

Is it illegal to carry prescriptions in a pillbox?

It is not illegal to carry prescription drugs in a pillbox. However, if the police see that you have prescription drugs in your pillbox and don’t have the pertinent papers, they can arrest you until you prove that they are really for you. If you need to take these drugs during the day, it is best to place them in the original bottle and always bring your prescriptions as proof.

Can prescription drugs be shipped overseas?

Yes. Prescription drugs can be shipped internationally if you comply with many complicated procedures and submit required documents. Once you accomplish all of these, your request will be evaluated, and if ever you get approval, you will have to look for an approved carrier that can ship the drugs commercially.

Get an experienced attorney to fight your prescription drug charges

A conviction on prescription drug charges can follow you for the rest of your life, affecting your ability to get a job or rent a home. The only way forward is to fight those charges with an attorney on your side who has a strong track record of results. I know the law, know how the police investigate prescription drug charges, and I know the right strategies to fight for the best possible outcome in your case.

The sooner you act, the better. Don’t let the prosecution make an example of you; fight back with strong legal representation. Call today or use the online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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