State and federal law calls for severe criminal sentences in cases involving large quantities of drugs. These sentences are often governed by mandatory minimums, which guarantee that those convicted will spend years or even decades behind bars.
When facing these serious consequences, it is important that you work with a skilled criminal defense attorney who can help you challenge the charges and minimize the impact the accusations will have on your life.
The Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A., has extensive experience handling drug cases at both the state and federal level. If you have been accused of possessing, transporting or selling large quantities of drugs, contact our Orlando law firm to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.
Florida State Drug Charges
When someone is in possession of large quantities of illegal drugs, the crime is referred to as "trafficking" under Florida law. A drug possession charge rising to the level of trafficking is based on the quantity of the drug possessed. Trafficking is a felony, and the mandatory minimum penalties in Florida for trafficking are surprisingly severe. The best chance you have to minimize the damage that trafficking charges could have on your life is to hire an experienced Florida large-quantity drug crimes defense attorney team.
Under Florida Statute 893.135, possession becomes trafficking when a person is in possession of the following quantities:
- Marijuana: More than 25 pounds or 300 plants of marijuana
- Cocaine: 28 grams or more of cocaine or any mixture containing cocaine
- Oxycodone/Heroin: 4 grams or more of any morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, or any salt, derivative, isomer, or salt of an isomer thereof, including heroin
- Methamphetamines: 14 grams or more of amphetamine or methamphetamine, or of any mixture containing amphetamine or methamphetamine, or phenylacetone, phenylacetic acid, or ephedrine in conjunction with other chemicals and equipment utilized in the manufacture of amphetamine or methamphetamine
Florida Mandatory Minimums
Drug trafficking is a felony charge based on the quantity of the drugs in possession. Some of the mandatory minimums for drug trafficking in Florida include:
- More than 25 but less than 2,000 pounds; or more than 300 but less than 2,000 cannabis plants: Mandatory minimum 3-year incarceration and a $25,000 fine
- 2,000 pounds or more but less than 10,000 pounds; or between 2,000 and 10,000 cannabis plants: Mandatory minimum 7-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine
- 10,000 pounds or more; 10,000 or more cannabis plants: Mandatory minimum 15- year incarceration and a $200,000 fine
- 28 grams or more, but less than 200 grams of cocaine or mixture containing cocaine: Mandatory minimum 3-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine
- 200 grams or more but less than 400 grams of cocaine or mixture containing cocaine: Mandatory minimum 7-year incarceration and a $100,000 fine
- 400 grams or more but less than 150 kilograms: Mandatory minimum 15-year incarceration and a $250,000 fine.
- 150 kilograms or more: First degree felony cocaine trafficking, with mandatory life imprisonment with no eligibility for early release
Heroin-related trafficking charges include morphine, opium, oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, or any salt, derivative, isomer, or salt of an isomer thereof, including heroin, or any mixture containing any such substance in the following quantities:
- 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams: Mandatory minimum 3-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine
- 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams: Mandatory minimum 15-year incarceration and a $100,000 fine
- 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms: Mandatory minimum 25-year incarceration and a $500,000 fine.
- 30 kilograms or more: First degree felony of trafficking in illegal drugs, with mandatory life imprisonment with no eligibility for early release
Possession of methamphetamines or amphetamines rises to trafficking in amphetamine charges at 14 grams or more, with the following sentences:
- 14 grams or more but less than 28 grams: Mandatory minimum 3-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine
- 28 grams or more but less than 200 grams: Mandatory minimum 7-year incarceration and a $100,000 fine
- 200 grams or more: Mandatory minimum 15-year incarceration and a $250,000 fine
- Manufacturing or bringing into the state 400 grams or more, knowing this would likely cause someone's death: Capital felony, with life imprisonment or death
Federal Large Quantities Drug Crimes
It is a legal maxim that criminal penalties should have a proportionate relationship to the crime that caused these penalties to be incurred: The penalty should fit the crime. Everyone has heard this principle and it has an inherent sense of justice to it.
One area of criminal law in which it is difficult to find this proportionality is drug crimes. The penalties that the federal government levies against those convicted of drug crimes — especially drug crimes involving large quantities — can be shockingly severe.
- Cocaine base mixture: With a small to medium size quantity, the maximum penalty is 20 years and $5 million in fines, for a first offense. Over 280 grams is punishable under the law by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment with $10 million in fines.
- LSD: More than 10 grams, with two or more prior convictions carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
- Marijuana: Even this less harmful drug, if possessed in large enough quantities, carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
These are the maximum possible penalties, but even the minimum mandatory sentences for large-quantity drug crimes can be severe. These cases are prosecuted vigorously by the federal government.
Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Federal drug crime sentencing schedules are based on type of drug, quantity and the number of prior convictions that the accused has received. If the quantities are high enough, the mandatory minimum penalties are quite severe, including:
- Cocaine-based drugs — For 28-279 kg, 10-year minimum incarceration for a first offense
- Marijuana — For 100 kg to 999 kg, 10-year minimum incarceration for a first offense; for 1,000 kg or more, 20-year minimum incarceration
- Any federal felony drug charge after two or more prior convictions — Mandatory life in prison without release
Large Quantities Of Marijuana
Like most drug crimes, marijuana possession brings varying penalties depending on the quantity involved. Although marijuana is considered by many to be the least harmful of illegal drugs, the penalties levied by the state and federal governments for marijuana crimes are surprisingly harsh.
Under state law, possession of any quantity in excess of 25 pounds of marijuana is considered trafficking. Possession of 10,000 pounds or more can result in penalties that include 15 years minimum term of imprisonment, up to a 25-year maximum and a $25,000 fine.
Federal charges can lead to even longer sentences. A conviction at the federal level for quantities ranging between 100 kilograms and 999 kilograms, or between 100 and 999 plants can bring up to 40 years imprisonment and $2,000,000 in fines for a first offense; 10 years to life and $4,000,000 in fines for a second offense.
Marijuana possessed in excess of 999 kilograms or 1,000 plants can bring 10 years to life imprisonment and up to $4,000,000 for a first offense; for a second offense, 20 years to life incarceration and $8,000,000 in fines.
Large Quantities Of Cocaine
Facing cocaine charges at the state or federal level is a scary event. The penalties can be severe, changing your life forever if you are convicted. Generally, the sentences for cocaine possession increases as the quantity increases. For this reason, it is especially important to work with an experienced team of criminal law attorneys if you have been charged with a drug crime involving large quantities of cocaine. It is highly unlikely that you will get another chance to defend against these charges.
According to Florida state law, possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine results in cocaine trafficking charges. The actual penalties for trafficking vary depending on the exact quantity possessed, ranging from a mandatory minimum 3-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine for 28 grams of cocaine to $250,000 in fines and mandatory life imprisonment for 150 kg of cocaine or more.
Under federal law, possession with intent to deliver 28 to 279 grams carries a mandatory 5-year incarceration and a $5,000,000 fine. If convicted of possession with intent to deliver 500 to 4,999 grams, a federal cocaine conviction could result in up to life imprisonment and $20,000,000 in fines.
If the regular, powder cocaine sentences are harsh, the crack cocaine sentences are draconian. The disparity in the legal treatment of powder cocaine and crack cocaine is tremendous. For many years, the federal sentencing rule was 100:1. Someone convicted of possessing 100 ounces of powdered cocaine would receive the same penalty as someone who was convicted of possessing a single ounce of crack.
In 2010, the federal government amended this law to be an 18:1 ratio. Although this is a move in the right direction, the disparity is still extraordinary under both federal and Florida state laws. If you are facing charges involving crack cocaine, there is an even greater urgency to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Large Quantities Of Heroin
The penalties associated with a conviction for possession of even small amounts of heroin are severe. As the quantity of the drug increases, the penalties increase, as well. When the quantity surpasses a certain level, the government imputes intent to deliver, based on the legal presumption that people do not carry that much heroin for personal use. State trafficking or federal possession with intent to deliver charges are extremely serious, with the possibility of tragic consequences to your life.
Possession of heroin in a quantity of 4 grams or more is considered felony trafficking in Florida. Penalties for a heroin trafficking conviction in Florida can result in a mandatory minimum 3-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine for smaller amounts, to a mandatory minimum 25-year incarceration and a $500,000 fine for quantities between 28 grams and 30 kilograms. Possession of 30 kilograms or more is considered first degree felony trafficking, which comes with a sentence of mandatory life imprisonment with no eligibility for early release.
At the federal level, possession of between 100 and 999 grams of a mixture containing heroin will bring 40 years imprisonment and up to $2,000,000 in fines. For a single kilogram or more, a conviction could result in 10 years to life and a $4,000,000 fine.
Large Quantities Of Meth
There is no nice outcome to a conviction of methamphetamine possession. The penalties for possession of even small amounts could be damaging to your life and livelihood, but when the quantity possessed is higher, the penalties can be devastating. For possession with intent to deliver meth, Federal law calls the crime possession with intent to distribute and state law calls it trafficking. The fines and mandatory minimum sentences are much higher for these crimes.
Possessing 14 grams or more of methamphetamines, amphetamines, or the chemicals used in making these drugs is considered felony trafficking in Florida. Depending on the quantity in a case, penalties for a conviction range from a mandatory minimum 3-year incarceration and a $50,000 fine to 15 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. Manufacturing or bringing into Florida more than 400 grams knowing that this would likely causes someone's death is a capital felony, punishable by life imprisonment or death.
In the federal courts, a second conviction of between 5 and 49 grams of meth or between 50 and 499 grams of a mixture containing meth brings 10 years to life imprisonment and up to $8,000,000 in fines. A second conviction of 50 grams or more of meth, or 500 grams or more of a mixture containing meth, brings 20 years to life imprisonment and up to $20,000,000 in fines.
Orlando Drug Possession Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of a crime involving large quantities of drugs, it is important that you work with a skilled criminal defense attorney in the days ahead. These cases can be extremely complex; the sooner you begin to work with our law firm, the more opportunities we will have to protect your rights and freedom.
For a consultation with a lawyer from the Law Offices of Mark L. Horwitz, P.A., call our Orlando office at (866) 784-0023 or contact us online.