The United States has been gripped by the epidemic of prescribed opioid abuse since the early 2000s. Although these prescription medications are widely accepted by health care providers throughout the country and used to treat moderate to severe chronic pain, constant use or dependency of these drugs have resulted in the development of heroin addiction.
Florida has experienced a substantial increase in the number of prescription drug deaths. In 2016, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported approximately 2,800 overdose fatalities caused by opioids, which is a rate of 14.4 deaths per 100,000 individuals.
State and federal lawmakers have enacted strict laws which punish individuals who abuse prescription medication and those who sell it without the proper authority. The truth is Florida has some of the harshest criminal penalties in the U.S. for prescription drug crimes.
Prescription Drug Crimes & Penalties in FL
The Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act and the federal Controlled Substance Act are similar in which there are five schedules which divide controlled substances based on their currently accepted medical use and potential for abuse. Schedule I has the highest potential for abuse and no currently accepted medical use, while Schedule V has a currently accepted medical use and the lowest potential for abuse.
Most prescription drugs are considered Schedule II narcotics. Common examples include OxyContin, fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, codeine, and morphine.
Unlawful possession of prescribed medication on the controlled substances list is a third-degree felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a maximum $5,000 fine. Keep in mind, the schedule of the drug and how much of it found in your possession will determine the seriousness of the crime.
Unlawful possession of a Schedule II, III, or IV drug with the intent to sell is a second- or third-degree felony based on the type of drug in question. For example, possession of fewer than 14 grams of a Schedule II substance with intent to sell is a second-degree felony, resulting in a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a maximum $10,000 fine.
If you are found with at least 14 grams of a controlled substance, you will most likely be charged with trafficking, as opposed to possession with intent to sell. Between 14 grams and fewer than 28 grams is considered a first-degree felony, punishable by a maximum 30-year prison term—with a mandatory minimum of three years—and a fine no larger than $50,000.
Additionally, you can also be charged with prescription drug fraud, which means obtaining controlled substances through fraudulent means. Common examples include forging a doctor’s signature, impersonating a health care provider, or obtaining the same prescription from different doctors without their knowledge. Prescription drug fraud is a third-degree felony.
If you have been charged with a prescription drug crime in Florida, contact our Daytona Beach criminal defense lawyers at Hager & Schwartz, P.A. today to get experienced and skilled legal representation on your side.