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What am I looking at if charged with a drug crime in Florida?
Drug crimes are taken very seriously in the Tampa Bay region and all throughout Florida, especially in light of the national crisis regarding prescription opiate abuse and addiction.
In recent years in Florida and throughout the country, the criminal justice system has turned to a more rehabilitative approach to those dealing with substance abuse issues including both alcohol and drugs.
Illegal drugs, of course, are going to warrant substantially more serious criminal charges, as well as being in possession of prescription narcotics that are not prescribed to you. Possession of a small amount of a controlled substance can easily result in a felony charge in the state of Florida, carrying significant fines and substantial time in prison if convicted at trial.
What is pretrial diversion?
In the state of Florida, for first-time offenders or offenders with a limited criminal history, or with eligible individuals that demonstrate the need for rehabilitation rather than punitive sentencing measures, the criminal courts offer what is known as “pretrial diversion” programs. In the context of drug crimes, pretrial diversion will generally come in the form of an evaluation and subsequent treatment with a substance abuse or behavioral health counseling provider. Certain first-time offenders may also be able to avail themselves of participation in their county’s drug court if they meet certain criteria.
What is drug court?
Drug court is a unique criminal court that gears itself towards overseeing individuals charged with a drug crime and assisting them in becoming substance-free, productive members of society. For example, the Pinellas County Drug Court, formed in 2001, has served as a model for other drug courts throughout the country and has assisted many people in St. Petersburg and Clearwater both remain free from illegal drug use and avoid some of the negative consequences of their interaction with the criminal justice system.
The drug court provides certain individuals with the opportunity to participate in a Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”) program that allows them, upon completion of treatment, successful adherence to their terms of supervision and other criteria that the court may impose to seek a dismissal of their felony drug charge. An individual is eligible to participate in drug court if they are a first-time offender with a non-violent felony drug charge and are admitted at the discretion of the state attorney.
What are my alternatives?
It is wise to speak with an attorney before making any serious decisions on how to proceed with your drug charge. It is advisable to seriously consider the rehabilitation offered by the drug court if you are deemed eligible and are accepted to the program. If you elect not to participate in drug court, you will then be transferred to a traditional criminal court. They will of course have the knowledge that you chose to pass over the opportunity to participate in a rehabilitative program within the court system, so this is a decision you need to weigh very carefully.
What do I do next?
If you’ve been charged with a drug crime here in Florida, you should reach out to us at the Lopez Law Group by calling (727) 933-0115 so we can discuss your options before you moved forward. It is important to consider the drug crime you are charged with, the evidence that can be presented against you, any mitigating factors with respect to sentencing and other factors before determining the proper way to proceed.