Given the harmful nature of illegal substances like heroin and crystal meth, it might seem that law enforcement is ready to throw the book at anyone who has possession of illegal drugs. However, drug possession is like many crimes in that the law will impose different degrees of punishment depending on the severity of the charges.

FindLaw explains the varying degrees of punishment you might receive if a Florida court convicted you of drug possession. Depending on the charge, you may only serve a year a prison, while more severe punishments may go as high as 30 years.

Offenses

For example, if the police found you with 20 grams of non-medical marijuana, you may receive a first degree misdemeanor conviction and only go to jail for one year. However, if the police were to find you with larger amounts of marijuana or in possession of deadlier, more harmful drugs, the charge may rise to a felony level. And if you were to possess up to 28 grams of cocaine, you may receive a third degree felony charge and a jail sentence of up to five years upon conviction.

Mitigating factors

Certain factors of a drug case may cut down on the severity of the charges or result in their dismissal. The state must establish that the drug in your possession is in fact an illegal substance under Florida law. The state must also show that you knew or reasonably should have known about the illegal nature of the substance, and that you had control over it.

Additionally, because of the current state medical marijuana law, people may use cannabis for specific medical purposes. So you may lawfully possess marijuana under certain conditions. Establishing this fact may result in dismissal of a possession charge. Understanding defenses such as these may help you to avoid penalties from violating a drug possession law.