Is Possession of Drugs a Felony in Florida?

tampa_marijuana_lawIf you’re caught with controlled substances in Florida, you could face felony charges. Florida allows the court to pursue simple drug possession charges as felonies. A felony carries significantly more weight than a misdemeanor, and in addition to greater penalties with regard to jail time and fines, you could also lose the ability to legally own a firearm and other rights that you enjoy without a felony on your record.

When Is Possession of Drugs a Felony?

Florida law allows almost any drug possession charge to be filed as a felony, depending on the type of drug and the quantity possessed. You may not face criminal charges if you have a valid prescription for medical marijuana, as long as you aren’t endangering anyone else, such as driving under the influence. Additionally, possession of a small amount of marijuana, even without a prescription, might result in misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges. However, if you’re a repeat offender, you could face charge enhancements.

If you’re caught by the police with drugs in your possession, contact a Florida criminal defense attorney immediately. You must protect your rights and get legal counsel before you answer police officers’ questions or appear in court before a judge. Saying the wrong thing could put your case in jeopardy.

How Are Drug Possession Charges Filed in Florida?

  • First-degree misdemeanor: If you’re found with 20 grams or less of marijuana, you might face a first-degree misdemeanor charge. The potential penalties include up to one year in jail. You will also have to pay court costs.
  • Third-degree felony: Possession of a controlled substance, such as cocaine or meth, or many medications without a valid prescription, could lead to penalties of up to five years in prison in Florida.
  • First-degree felony: Your charges can get elevated to first-degree felony if you’re found with excessive amounts of controlled substances, such as more than 25 pounds of marijuana or more than 28 grams of cocaine. Being caught with such large quantities of drugs is considered trafficking in controlled substances, regardless of whether or not there is any evidence you were buying or selling the drugs.  These charges carry potential MANDATORY sentences anywhere from 3 years up to 30 years in prison and $250,000 or more in fines.

There are several potential defenses to drug possession charges in Florida. The prosecution must prove that you had control over the drugs and that you knew you possessed a controlled substance. Additionally, you might face lighter penalties if you’ve never been arrested before.

As soon as you know that you’ve been arrested on drug possession charges in Florida, contact McIntyre Thanasides at 844-511-4800. We’ll help you fight your criminal charges and guide you through the legal system so that your rights remain protected.

 

Top 5 Things to Know When Getting Arrested (Infographic)

If you’re arrested for any crime, there are several things you need to know to protect yourself.

Understand Your Rights

Though not necessarily required in every case, Police officers may at some point read you your rights prior to or upon arrest. Your rights include remaining silent, so exercise that right until you can speak to an attorney. As soon as a police officer reads the Miranda warning to you, be aware that anything you say can become part of the prosecution’s evidence in court.

Pay Attention to Evidence

In some cases, you might be able to give your criminal defense attorney information that can help exonerate you. While the police search your property, pay careful attention to any evidence they collect. Let your attorney know about it as soon as you meet with him or her.

Plead Not Guilty

You might not have the chance to speak with a criminal defense attorney before you’re arraigned in criminal court. An arraignment gives you a chance to tell the court whether you plead guilty or not guilty. Never plead guilty at this time. Instead, plead not guilty and wait until you can consult a lawyer.

Even if you eventually plead guilty to the charges, an experienced attorney can negotiate a plea bargain that might result in a reduced sentence. They may also be able to identify legal defenses that can result in some or all of your charges being dismissed.  You’re always better served by waiting until you have legal counsel before you make any important decisions.

Do Not Trust Police Officers

While you should never lie to law enforcement, neither should you make any admissions that could get you in trouble. For instance, if the officer asks whether or not you’ve had anything to drink, you can simply decline to answer. Volunteering that you had “two beers” earlier in the evening could give the officer probable cause to proceed with further investigation.

Remember that police officers can lie to you. They might tell you that they have evidence even if they don’t, hoping to trip you up and get you to admit to something criminal. Don’t allow yourself to engage in conversation. Simply ask whether or not you’re free to leave.

Remain Cooperative

Throughout the arrest process, remain completely cooperative. Do not struggle or argue with the police or give law enforcement any reason to add extra charges to your arrest.

Once you’re arrested, such as for a DUI offense, contact McIntyre Thanasides at 844-511-4800 to discuss your case and to obtain legal advice. Working with a criminal defense attorney can drastically improve your chances of winning in court or getting a lighter sentence, regardless of the reason for your arrest.

 

The 10 Days After a DUI arrest

should_I_Blow_if_i_get_pulled_overNobody wants to get arrested for a DUI, but when it happens, you need preparation and a strategy. In the 10 days after a DUI arrest, you might feel confused and scared, but you can do several things to make the process easier and less stressful.

Get a Lawyer

As soon as you’re able, hire a DUI lawyer to take your case. He or she can advise you on what to say and do as you navigate the legal process. Additionally, an experienced DUI attorney can prevent you from compromising your rights or the outcome of your case.

Prepare for Potential Consequences

The consequences of a DUI arrest can vary depending on the circumstances. For instance, arrestees might get lighter sentences for their first offenses, but if you already have a DUI in your background, you might face harsher penalties.

The typical consequences of a DUI include the following:

  • Fines: If you plead guilty or are found guilty of a DUI, you’ll have to pay fines to the state. The maximum fines depend on various aggravating factors being present such as prior DUI’s, high breath alcohol results, and causing injuries to others.
  • Jail time: Many DUI offenders must spend time in jail. After you’re arrested, you’ll likely stay in jail until you appear before the court. At that time, you might get released, or you might have to post bail.
  • License suspension: To discourage further incidents of drunk driving, most jurisdictions suspend the driver’s licenses of people who get DUIs. The duration of the suspension can vary, and The State of Florida allows under certain conditions for you to apply for a hardship license that allows you to drive only in certain circumstances, and sometimes with a device that can detect alcohol on your breath.

Administrative Consequences Before Conviction

Once you are arrested for a DUI in Florida, there are certain administrative consequences that can severely and adversely impact you EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE NOT BEEN FOUND GUILTY OF ANY CRIME BY A COURT OF LAW.  These administrative consequences include the suspension of your drivers’ license for a period of six (6) to twelve (12) months.  This suspension will take effect (10) days after your arrest, depending on the facts of your case.  While hardship licenses that permit you to drive for limited purposes can be obtained, there are certain time limitations and other hoops you will have to jump through to determine if you can obtain a hardship license.   If you don’t exercise your rights and take certain steps during this first ten (10) days, you will potentially lose certain rights that could keep your license from being suspended or will prolong the headache and hassle and extend the length of time it takes to get a hardship license.  An experienced DUI lawyer can help you navigate these requirements and assist you in minimizing the length of time of your suspension and how long it may take get a hardship license.

Create a Strategy

If you’re pleading not guilty to a DUI arrest, you’ll need compelling evidence to suggest that you were not intoxicated at the time of your arrest. Your lawyer can help you build a case.

Getting arrested for a DUI can be scary, but if you know what to expect, you can handle the situation with less anxiety. For help fighting your DUI case, call McIntyre Thanasides at 844-511-4800 to speak to an experienced DUI lawyer.

 

New Federal Guidelines issued to address distracted driving

pulled_over_for_texting_and_drivingDid you know that the average person drives more than 290 feet for every five seconds they look away from their phone according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)? Distracted driving is not limited to talking on a cell phone or sending a text message. Distracted driving is any activity that deters the vehicle’s operator from keeping their eyes and hands safely on the steering wheel at all times while the car is in motion or even paused at a red light. Activities that constitute as distracted driving include cell phone use, eating, applying makeup, brushing hair, and even changing the music in the vehicle.

If you have been injured because of a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney can help you get the justice you deserve. Read more below about how distracted driving can impact a life.

The danger of distracted driving

The United States Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety and Administration (NHTSA) reported that approximately 424,000 people were injured in car crashes, and 3,154 killed because of distracted drivers in 2013. It is important to be a safe driver not only for the driver’s wellbeing, but also for the passengers and pedestrians outside of the vehicle. Lawmakers are targeting young people for texting and driving because drivers 20 years old and younger represent 23 percent of all fatal car crashes. They also represent 38 percent of drivers who cause car crashes because of their cell phone usage.

What happens if I get pulled over for texting and driving?

Distracted driving is a serious matter. It is a secondary offence in Florida to text while driving. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 46 states prohibit texting and driving and 37 states prohibit all phone use while behind the wheel for teen drivers.

As of right now you cannot be pulled over solely for texting and driving. To be pulled over you have to commit another traffic law violation while also texting. Examples of offenses that may result in a ticket for texting include speeding or driving through a red light. Under current vehicle and traffic law, if you are caught texting and driving, no points will be added to your license. However, two points will be added with the first offence if the law was broken in a school zone. Similarly, if your texting results in a crash, six points will be added to your license.

If you or someone you know experienced a car crash involving a distracted driver, or if you have been ticketed or charged with an offense involving distracted driving, The McIntyre Law Firm is here to help you through the legal process. Call our experienced attorneys today at (844) 511-4800.

Arrive Alive, Florida campaign: What you need to know

Whenever a fatal crash occurs on one of our roads, somebody loses a son, daughter, brother, sister, spouse or friend. In an effort to keep Florida citizens safe on the road, the Florida Highway Patrol reinitiated the “Arrive Alive” campaign across the state.

Arrive Alive was originally introduced in 1970 when fatal car crashes were at a peak. The initiative helped plateau the number of deadly accidents until the past three years. Unfortunately, fatal crashes in Florida have recently been on an unexpected rise. Causes often include unclear signs or paint on the roads, cell phone distractions and DUI incidents.

Between 2014 and 2015, Florida faced a 17.7 percent increase of fatal car crashes. Major Joseph Franza, the commander of Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Troop C, which services Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Polk, Hernando, Citrus and Sumter Counties, said at a news conference last month that he “would not stand for that,” reinitiating the Arrive Alive effort.

Rather than having FHP troops monitor roads that are quick and easy places to write tickets, Franza told attendees of the news conference that troops will patrol places where deadly crashes frequently occur. By targeting the specific locations of fatal crashes, necessary changes can be made to prevent them in the future. Sometimes these changes are as simple as a fresh paint job on road lines or adding additional, clear signage.

In every case, however, road safety starts with the drivers. Be cautious, attentive and responsible to keep yourself and others safe on the road so you can “Arrive Alive.”

If you or somebody you know has been involved in a personal injury case related to a car accident, you are not alone. At McIntyre Law Firm in Tampa, we have attorneys proficient in personal injury, especially regarding auto crashes and DUI cases.

If you or someone you know has been charged or arrested for any criminal traffic offense in the Tampa Bay Area, The McIntyre Law Firm in Tampa has experienced attorneys with decades of experience defending criminal defendants.

For a free consultation and evaluation of your case, call 844-511-4800 today.

Pokémon Go is the New Distracted Driving

pokemon_go

People slamming into trees. Or cop cars. Players running into traffic. Anxious competitors jumping off cliffs. Brakes, bruises, injuries, all in pursuit of that cute, little, wait a minute, what are those creatures in Pokémon Go anyway?

Pokémon Go is the latest gaming craze (see phenomenon) in which players use iPhone and Android phones to search and find 100’s virtual Pokémon characters. The Pokémon characters can be located in parks, malls and other public areas. Sounds fun? It can be. However, some players are so consumed by the virtual world for which the game is played that they’ve blocked out real world hazards, like traffic, restricted areas and dangerous terrain.

Others, in pursuit of Pokémon characters, have engaged in distracted or reckless driving. Reckless driving is already a national problem attributing to 5,000 deaths a year, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The Pokémon Go craze provides additional potential for harm with a number of high profile accidents taking place in the first two weeks of the game’s launch. In Baltimore, MD, a man slammed into a police cruiser while playing Pokémon Go. A driver in Auburn, NY slammed into a tree while playing the game. Thankfully, no major injuries were reported in either crash.

The same could not be said for two young men in California who fell nearly 90 feet from a cliff while chasing after a Pokémon character. Both were taking to a local trauma center with unspecified injuries. There are also reports of a 15-year-old girl in Western Pennsylvania who was hit by a car while playing the game and crossing a busy highway. She was treated for injuries to her collarbone and foot.

We at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. have a provided a few tips to help you stay safe while playing Pokémon Go:

  • Do not play Pokémon Go while driving – Thankfully, the people in the distracted driving examples that we mentioned previously were not fatally injured that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t happen in the future.
  • Be aware of your surroundings – It’s important to stay cognizant of your surroundings, not only to avoid walking on to roadways but to ensure that you are staying out of other dangerous situations, including armed robbery. Beware of suspicious situations.
  • Do not trespass on to others’ properties or restricted areas – Along with distracted driving and entering potentially dangerous situations, some Pokémon Go players have entered private property or restricted areas in order to be successful in the game. Both cases have already proved problematic and there have been a number of complaints about players entering areas of reflection like United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in search of characters.

What’s important to realize is that Pokémon Go, while engaging, is only a game and not worth incurring harm to yourself or others. If you are involved in an incident in which you are hurt, contact the catastrophic injury attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A. They will work with you to ensure you get the justice you deserve. Contact them today at 844-511-4800.

 

Tampa Decriminalizes Marijuana—Sometimes

tampa_marijuana_lawWith Mayor Bob Buckhorn and the Chief of Police backing the change, as of April 1, 2016, carrying marijuana in small quantities has been decriminalized in the city of Tampa-under certain circumstances.

Prior to the new ordinance that was passed in a council vote of 5-1 on March 17, 2016, anyone stopped in possession of any quantity of the substance could face criminal charges and a minimum of up to a year in the county jail. Under the new measure, people with 20 grams or less of marijuana could receive a citation instead of being arrested for criminal charges and pay a $75 fine for a first offense.

While the charge for possession has been greatly reduced, the city and police officials assert that the penalties rise to $150 for a second offense, $300 for a third and $450 subsequently.

Stephen A. Leal is a criminal defense attorney at McIntyre Thanasides in downtown Tampa. He points out that while the City of Tampa has joined other municipalities in Florida that have adopted similar local ordinances, possessing marijuana is still a criminal offense under state law.

“Tampa Police Department Officers now have the option to not arrest you for simple possession of a misdemeanor amount of marijuana. If you aren’t doing anything else that’s illegal at the time you’re caught, then this ordinance will likely keep you from being arrested by an officer from T.P.D.” He said.

“However, Marijuana arrests often lead to or result from other charges in many, many cases. Police will continue to investigate cases in the same manner as they have in the past, and if they find evidence of other crimes, the new ordinance allows them to arrest you for everything, including the marijuana offense.”

He also cautioned that in Hillsborough County “this ordinance only applies to the city limits of Tampa, and, therefore, The Tampa Police Department’s jurisdiction. It is not binding on any of the other law enforcement agencies operating in Hillsborough County. So if you are investigated by The Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office, or The Police Departments for the cities of Temple Terrace or Plant City, the Tampa International Airport, or the Seminole Indian Reservation, the Florida law still applies. The same is true for any State Officers operating in Hillsborough County such as the Highway Patrol, for example.

In January of this year, Mayor Buckhorn expressed one of the core reasons why he is in favor of the new ordinance, because of the detrimental effects a criminal record would have on a young person’s life.

“What the country and certainly mayors have realized is incarcerating people, particularly young people, for a very small amount of marijuana absolutely alters their career path for the rest of their life,” he told the Tampa Tribune. “Once they get into that prison system, they are forever scarred; they forever have a prison record.”

If you need more information about the new Tampa marijuana law, or want to discuss other drug-related criminal charges, contact the Tampa criminal defense attorneys at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A.

Florida Football Players in the Spotlight for Performance Enhancing Drugs

ped_footballFlorida Gators quarterback Will Grier recently lost his appeal for taking performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and will remain suspended until next October. Grier failed a drug test and was found to have violated the NCAA’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Grier says he took an over-the-counter supplement, but ultimately tested positive for a banned substance.

Grier is not the only Florida football player making headlines for PED violations. NFL rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kwon Alexander, is also now appealing a four-game suspension for taking a substance he claims he’s taken since high school.

The rise in violations of PED policy is causing some to question what exactly the policies prohibit. With the number of over-the-counter energy drinks, supplements and other nutritional products claiming to improve stamina and one’s focus during workouts, it’s no wonder there is a need for clarification in terms of exactly which substances are considered to be a PED.

According to NCAA.org, the NCAA bans drugs by class, along with any substance chemically related to those classes. The banned classes include: anabolic agents; stimulants; alcohol and beta blockers; masking agents such as diuretics; street drugs; peptide hormones and analogues; anti-estrogens; and Beta-2 Agonists. The NCAA conducts a year-round testing program and calls for strict penalties for violations. Student-athletes will lose one full year of eligibility for the first offense and are withheld from competition for a full season. A second positive test for street drugs results in another lost year of eligibility and year withheld from competition. A second positive result for PED usage will render the student-athlete permanently ineligible. More details are provided in the NCAA’s drug testing video.

For a list of 192 banned performance-enhancing substances by several sports leagues, including the NFL, view this online list.

If you are an athlete with concerns over potential PED violation charges or if you want to know about the defenses available to you under an existing PED violation, you should speak to an experienced attorney who can review your case. Contact TJ Grimaldi at McIntyre Thanasides Bringgold Elliott Grimaldi & Guito, P.A.