What are “Degrees” of Drug Crimes?
Each US State has its own unique way of approaching criminal justice, and Florida is no exception. While the Sunshine State shares many similarities with other states, a defining characteristic is its system of “degrees.” If you are new to Florida or you have never encountered criminal charges, this system might seem a little confusing. Phrases like “third-degree felony” may make absolutely no sense to you. These “degrees” apply to drug crimes in Florida – such as trafficking, manufacturing, possession, and so on. It is important to understand how the system of degrees affects drug crimes in Florida. That being said, a qualified defense lawyer in Stuart can explain these complexities in more detail than any online article.
A Basic Overview of the “Degree” System in Florida
Although crimes in Florida are divided into misdemeanors and felonies, they are also split into smaller categories known as “degrees.” In terms of misdemeanors, there are only two degrees: First-degree misdemeanors and second-degree misdemeanors. Felonies, however, are divided into three different degrees: First-degree felonies, second-degree felonies, and third-degree felonies. There are also two additional felony types to consider: Capital felonies and life felonies.
One important thing to remember about the degree system is that lower numbers equate to more serious crimes. For example, a first-degree felony is more serious than a third-degree felony. You should also note that the degree system is very consistent in terms of sentencing. Regardless of the specific crime, all offenses within the same degree classification share the same penalties.
How Does the Degree System Affect Drug Crimes in Florida?
Like all other crimes, drug offenses fall neatly in Florida’s degree classifications. The least serious offenses include drug possession, while the most serious offenses involve the trafficking and manufacture of high quantities. Here are a few examples:
- Second-Degree Misdemeanors: There are no second-degree misdemeanor drug crimes in Florida. All drug-related offenses are, at the very least, first-degree misdemeanors.
- First-Degree Misdemeanors: Drug crimes that fall into this category include possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
- Third-Degree Felonies: The vast majority of drug possession charges fall into this category in Florida. Note that you will only receive this charge for relatively low quantities, including up to four grams of cocaine or up to 14 grams of methamphetamine. You may also face a third-degree felony for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
- Second-Degree Felonies: In most cases, possession of hard drugs with the intent to sell will result in a second-degree felony. These include cocaine, methamphetamine, and ecstasy. Authorities will assume that you intended to distribute the drugs if you were caught with a certain amount. For example, possession of more than four grams of cocaine (but less than 28 grams) would result in a second-degree felony in Florida.
- First-Degree Felonies: First-degree felonies are reserved for drug trafficking crimes involving high quantities. For example, if you are caught with more than 28 grams of cocaine, you will face a first-degree felony. You may also face first-degree felonies for lower amounts but with certain aggravating factors – such as dealing drugs near a school.
What are the Penalties for Different Degrees of Drug Offenses in Florida?
As previously noted, the degree system makes it very easy to determine potential penalties for various crimes in Florida. Although certain aggravating factors may alter these penalties slightly, the basic system is as follows:
- First-Degree Misdemeanors: A first-degree misdemeanor will result in up to one year in jail, up to one year of probation, and a fine of up to $1,000.
- Third-Degree Felonies:A third-degree felony will lead to a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Second-Degree Felonies: If you are convicted of a second-degree felony, you face up to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- First-Degree Felonies: A first-degree felony could put you behind bars for up to 30 years. It may also lead to a fine of up to $15,000.
Find an Experienced Drug Crime Defense Lawyer in Stuart
If you have been searching for an experienced drug crime defense lawyer in Stuart, look no further than the Law Office of Denise Miller, PA. Over the years, we have helped numerous defendants with various issues – including drug charges. We know that encountering Florida’s criminal justice system for the first time can seem daunting – especially with confusing terminology and complex processes. Know that you are not alone in this legal battle, and consider reaching out to a qualified defense attorney for an in-depth explanation of the road ahead. Book your consultation today to get started with an appropriate defense strategy.