If you’re facing charges for manufacturing a controlled substance in Florida, your fate depends on the ability of your defense attorneys to fight the charges. The magnitude of the offense also determines the outcome to a great extent. Generally, unauthorized manufacturing of controlled substances is a criminal offense in Florida, attracting harsh sentences and fines. The severity of the penalties depends on the type of the controlled substance, the quantities involved, and the circumstances.
For instance, if you got arrested manufacturing heroin within 1000 feet of a child care facility, school, recreational facility, or park, the charge would be a first-degree felony, while manufacturing cannabis within similar setups attracts a second-degree felony charge. If you’re arrested for manufacturing controlled substances on the lower schedules (see next section), the penalties would be less severe than those mentioned above.
Drug Schedules in Florida
The Controlled Substances Act categorizes regulated drugs in schedules (schedule I, II, III, IV, V). These are based on the drugs’ potential of abuse, their medicinal value, and dependence liability.
Schedule I – The controlled substances classified under the first schedule have a high potential for abuse and do not have accepted medical use yet in the United States. Examples include morpheridine, heroin, cannabis, methaqualone, among others.
Schedule II – Schedule II substances still have a high potential for abuse. Though they are accepted for medical treatment, their use is severely restricted as they cause high psychological and physical dependence. Examples include opium, codeine, morphine, cocaine, methadone, methamphetamine, etc.
Schedule III – Schedule III controlled substances have a low potential for abuse compared to the higher schedules and are accepted for use in medical treatment. Their abuse may lead to high psychological dependence and moderate or low physical dependence. Examples include nalorphine, anabolic steroids, ketamine, among others.
Schedule IV – Schedule IV controlled substances have a much lower potential for abuse and are approved for medical use. Their abuse can cause limited psychological and physical dependence. Examples include barbital, cathine, mazindol, etc.
Schedule V – Schedule V drugs are accepted for medical use in the U.S and have a low potential for abuse. Their abuse causes limited physiological or physical dependence. Examples include narcotic drugs, stimulants, etc.
Note that an individual can petition for addition, deletion, or changing a substance from a schedule. This can be supported by factors such as its potential of abuse, pharmacological effect backed by scientific evidence, physiological dependence liability, as well as history and current abuse pattern.
What Constitutes Manufacturing and Delivery of a Controlled Substance?
Under Florida statutes, manufacturing of controlled substances involves producing, compounding, preparing, converting, or processing any drug categorized as a controlled substance. This can be through direct or indirect extraction from natural sources or combining extraction and chemical synthesis.
On the other hand, to be convicted for delivery of a controlled substance, the court must prove that you either transferred or attempted to transfer the drug to another person. Note that any act of transferring drugs amounts to delivery, even if no compensation is involved.
Generally, manufacturing controlled substances require licensing from the government (state and federal) and is regulated by drug manufacturing laws. Any unlicensed manufacturing, supplying of manufacturing materials, delivery, or cultivating plants used in extracting the restricted drugs is, therefore, illegal.
What Are the Penalties for Manufacturing a Controlled Substance?
As earlier mentioned, penalties for manufacturing controlled substances vary depending on various factors. For example, a general offense of manufacturing, say heroin or cocaine is a second-degree felony, cannabis falls under third-degree felony, while schedule V drugs is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor.
The amount of the substance you’re caught with also determines the charges filed against you. For instance, delivering heroin above 10 grams is a first-degree felony.
Circumstances are also another critical factor that influences the charges. If you were manufacturing or delivering the drugs near a school, community center, park, college, or a place of worship, you’re likely to face enhanced charges. Instead of a second-degree felony charge like in our heroin or cocaine example above, it would escalate to a first-degree felony. In the same way, the charge for manufacturing or delivering cannabis would rise to a second-degree felony.
Again, if you were arrested manufacturing or intending to manufacture, say, methamphetamine where a child (under 16 years) resides, in addition to facing a first-degree felony charge, you’re liable to serve a minimum jail term of five years. And if the child suffers harm, the jail term would rise to 10 years.
Other special circumstances that enhance controlled substance charges include delivering the drugs to a person under 18 years. For example, delivering some schedule I and II drugs such as heroin and cocaine is a first-degree felony, while cannabis is charged as a second-degree felony.
Imprisonment and Fines
First-degree felony – Maximum fine $10,000 and up to 30 years in prison
Second-degree felony – Maximum fine $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison
Third-degree felony – Maximum fine $5,000 and up to 5 years in prison
First-degree misdemeanor – Maximum $1000 and up to 1 year in prison
As earlier mentioned, note that the sentences and fines can increase depending on the amount of the drug involved and the circumstances. For instance, if you’re suspected of manufacturing cocaine weighing 200 grams, you’re liable to pay $100,000, while 400 grams can escalate the fine to $250,000. Again, the charges are usually compounded, so you may end with more than one or two felony charges, e.g., a charge for manufacturing and a separate one for delivery.
Lastly, renting out a building for drug manufacturing can also land you in jail in addition to paying fines. This is usually classified as a criminal offense charged as a third-degree felony. Meaning you can serve a jail term of up to five years and pay a maximum fine of $5,000.
In addition to imprisonment and fines, other penalties also apply. These include:
- Drug counseling
- Community service
- Two-year driver’s license suspension
What Are the Possible Defenses?
Once arraigned in court, the state has a burden to prove that you were illegally manufacturing or intending to manufacture a restricted drug and that what you were in possession of was an actual controlled substance(s). In addition, the prosecutor must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you had knowledge of the drug possession. For this reason, your attorney has some defenses that they can ride on to counter the prosecution claims. Some of them include:
- Unlawful Search and Seizure
The constitution (Fourth Amendment) deters law enforcement officers from conducting illegal searches when investigating crimes. Effectively, prosecutors should not rely on evidence collected illegally. If the police infringed your rights during the search and seizure of the drugs (e.g., breaking into your house without your permission), your attorney could use this defense to agitate for case suspension or charge reduction.
Sting operations are common when investigating drug crimes. However, sometimes they involve inducing you to do things you wouldn’t have done. For instance, if an informant gave you drugs to pass to someone else, and then the officers impounded you while you were still in possession of them, you can claim you were entrapped. In this case, your attorney will seek to convince the court that you were compelled and set up to deliver the drugs, which you wouldn’t do under normal circumstances.
- Lack of Knowledge of Possession
This simply involves denying possession of the drugs. Your attorney can argue that you didn’t have knowledge of the drugs’ existence, depending on the circumstances. For instance, a cab driver can claim that a client dropped the drugs accidentally in the car. If the drugs were found inside a bag you were carrying; you could say you had no idea how they ended in the bag.
- Oblivious of Manufacturing Activities
Drug manufacturing is usually a highly-concealed activity. As a property owner, you may fail to know if tenants are engaging in it. If you’re charged with renting out premises for drug manufacturing, your attorney can convince the court that you had no idea of the activity and plead for case suspension.
- Drugs Were Planted
There have been instances where police plant drugs on people. But the cases are rare and hard to prove. However, if you’re convinced the law enforcement officers planted the drugs either on your car, apartment, business premises, etc., you have an opportunity to fight for case dismissal using this defense. If there’s a slim chance that you have a CCTV recording or an eyewitness, you can use the evidence to support your claim.
In cases where police officer plants drugs, there’s a possibility that they have a tendency to use such underhanded ways to pin people down. Investigation into the cases that the officer has handled can help reveal any similar complaints in the past, which can add weight to your claim.
Need Drug Defense Attorneys in West Palm Beach, Florida?
Illegal drug manufacturing and delivery are serious crimes that attract high penalties. If charged, the difference between your freedom and conviction relies on the competence of your defense team. Once found guilty, you could end up spending up to several decades in jail in addition to paying hefty fines, plus other penalties.
At Meltzer & Bell, P.A., we can help you counter the drug manufacturing charges with the best defenses possible. Depending on the severity of the accusations, we are ready to fight to have your case dismissed or charges reduced. Call us at (561) 557-8686 or fill our contact form here to request a free consultation.