Heroin - Schedule I Controlled Substance Arrests

Michael B. Cohen, Esq. offers aggressive and skilled representation of those accused of possession, manufacture, as well as possession with intent to sell or distribute heroin in the Fort Lauderdale area as well as all other jurisdictions within the State of Florida.
If you, a loved one or friend is under investigation or has been accused of any of these criminal allegations, or any other Schedule I Controlled Substance charges call my conveniently located Fort Lauderdale office for immediate assistance and a swift response.


Heroin is a narcotic with some of the most shattering penalties from both a legal and health perspective for those who use it as their drug of choice. However, a charge of simple possession of heroin can be much less difficult to defend than that of a charge for distribution, trafficking or cultivation.

Because of its highly addictive propensity, an addict who is charged with possession, especially a first-time offender; through their lawyer may have numerous options to fight allegations or come to an agreement with the court which does not involve a sentence of incarceration.

Heroin is classified as a Schedule I Controlled Substance and although this falls into the same category as marijuana, if convicted of possessing as little as four grams of the illegal narcotic, the monetary fine is double the amount ($50,000) than it would be for being convicted of possessing twenty-five pounds of marijuana ($25,000). Both quantities mentioned above would also establish a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years and could bring a penalty of up to five years in accordance with the Florida State sentencing guidelines.

Similarly, an individual would have to be convicted of possessing at least seven times that amount of cocaine (twenty-eight grams) to suffer the same prison sentence as a person convicted of possessing only four grams of heroin.

The same fines and prison sentences apply to anyone who knowingly brings into the state (trafficking), manufactures, sells, purchases, or delivers the drug, as well as persons who are knowingly in actual or constructive possession of the drug, in the same way as a conviction for the possession of all the illegal drugs listed above in the same quantities cited.

Actual possession of any controlled substance is essentially having it in your clothing, or on your body; such as in a closed hand or taped to an appendage, etc. Constructive possession is defined as the narcotic being within your control, such as in the center console of an automobile. If an arrest is about to take place the suspect would have awareness of its location and have knowledge of its close proximity.

Fines and prison sentences escalate in length of term of imprisonment and monetary penalty as the quantity of heroin found on a person in the course of an arrest increases. In other words when there is more of the drug seized at an arrest, a conviction of allegations will bring much harsher penalties.

The analogy above was based on a quantity of four grams of heroin as its example. It is classified as a third-degree felony and a prosecutor will most likely seek intent to distribute for a quantity of that size. The same penalties apply for up to fourteen grams of the drug. If the amount found at arrest increases to a range of fourteen to twenty-eight grams and a conviction is achieved by the prosecution at trial, the fine rate doubles to $100,000 and the prison term spirals five-fold to fifteen years in prison. The primary example above is based on the lowest mandatory minimum penalty specified under the state sentencing guidelines. Less than an amount of four grams would be considered simple possession and not subject to a mandatory minimum sentence but is still a serious criminal offense.

Itemizing the complete table of mandatory minimum penalties in the State of Florida for varying quantities of heroin when a conviction is obtained by the court is as follows:

Four to fourteen grams: three years in prison, $50,000.00 fine.
Fourteen to twenty-eight grams: fifteen years in prison, $100,000.00 fine.
Twenty-eight grams to thirty kilograms: twenty-five years in prison, $250,000.00 fine.
More than thirty kilograms: The maximum fine provided under Florida law, and the convicted individual must serve the fully imposed sentence which is life in prison with no exception or possibility of parole. This last crime is categorized as a first-degree felony.

Penalties for federal trafficking are decided by a different formula taking first and second time offender as well as the quantity of heroin held and seized taken into consideration. The table for heroin penalties is similar to sentences for cocaine but differ by quantity of the controlled substance.

In the case of a conviction for any crime regarding a quantity of heroin starting at one hundred grams up to the amount of to nine hundred ninety-nine grams, the penalty will be not less than five years but no more than forty years in prison for a first time offender. A conviction for a second heroin offense would elevate the penalty to not less than ten years in prison with a prospect of life in prison.

When a quantity in excess of one kilogram of heroin is involved, the penalty for a first time offender will be a minimum of ten years in prison with the possibility of life in prison. A second time offender will face a penalty of not less than twenty years in prison, also with a possibility of a lifetime sentence. More than two prior offenses for related charges will more than likely result in life imprisonment and a fine up to twenty million dollars. A conviction for a group or illicit organization can result in fines as high as seventy-five million dollars in addition to the explained prison terms.

In each one of these scenarios the statutory minimum penalties establish punishing escalations in the length of prison time and the climbing calculation in amount of fines if a death or severe bodily injury occurs due to the criminal abuse, heading up to, or during the commission of an arrest by law enforcement. This situation can make the case a capital offense if a death occurred, with the same fine schedule as a multiple offender and the same monetary penalties determined if it was perpetrated by an individual or an organization.

Due to the severity of the penalties that can be imposed by both the state and federal government I can't stress how important it is to seek the proper counsel at the earliest point of any arrest regarding heroin, or the earliest stage if there is knowledge an investigation underway.

My law office offers "that proper counsel" based on previous cases which I was a part of or was the primary attorney for handling numerous cases of these types, working for the prosecution; both for the federal government and the State of Florida, including the position of Assistant Attorney General for the State of Florida situated in Broward County. I had held many prosecutorial positions before beginning my criminal defense practice nearly fifteen years ago.

Even a simple heroin possession case is a felony in Florida and can result in devastating consequences including a prison term, as well as substantial monetary penalties when an ill-prepared lawyer is chosen. The hiring of the correct lawyer can prevent allegations of any crime relating to heroin or any other controlled substance from becoming a life-altering event. To read a complete list of all honors I've achieved as well as why my qualifications make me the correct choice in matters relating to narcotic offenses click here.

Heroin addiction is a sickness as well as a crime. Most prosecutors recognize this fact and because of it are willing to seek other options for rehabilitation other than incarceration of a low level offender. Law enforcement is usually more interested in finding and prosecuting those that are higher up the food chain. With the help of an attorney that can convincingly plead this type of argument the court will be more apt to allow a defendant to apply for what is known as a deferred prosecution program or a post-adjudication program. These types of arrangements are heard in drug court.

Florida was a pioneer in this type of analysis and recovery option. In 1989 the first Drug Court was employed in the state as an alternative to placing a defendant directly into the penal system. The principal ideas of these programs are to use this type of court's power to lessen criminal acts relating to substance abusers by attempting to alter their behavior.

In give-and-take dialogue between the court and the defendant's defense attorney a request for the charges being dismissed or sentences being reduced can occur when defendants that are considered to be eligible agree to participate, and then rerouted to drug court platforms in several ways during different phases of the judicial progression.

Programs such as these are more often than not presented to defendants as a substitute to a short-term prison sentence or a probationary one prior to pleading guilty to an allegation. This would be a deferred prosecution, contingent on the defendant completing the program. The defendant's failure to satisfy the program in its entirety would then proceed with further prosecution.

A secondary method would be a post-adjudication situation when the defendant has already pleaded guilty but their sentences are postponed or temporarily suspended during their participation in the program. With this option, if they successfully complete the program their sentence is waived and in certain cases the offense is completely expunged. However if they fail to complete the program or are found to be using narcotics during this provisional period the individual will return to court to be sentenced for the already accepted guilty plea.

In addition to Drug Court there are many other strategies I can use to have charges reduced or thrown out in their entirety. It is important to remember that the presumption of innocence always exists under the law and the prosecution must prove their case. Given the information a client makes me aware of in addition to the evidence that the prosecution produces against them allows me to decide the best way to move forward and fight the charges, or advise the client of all other options.