While all drug-related offenses can give rise to significant penalties, there are increased consequences when these offenses are committed near certain types of property. As a result, there are now several so-called drug-free zones. In these areas, the law has even less tolerance for drug crimes.
The creation of drug-free zones is probably most well-known in relation to schools. All 50 states and Washington D.C. have some form of drug-free school zone law. These types of laws have been enacted because of the increased risk of danger that drug trafficking near schools poses to children, including easier access to drugs. But, they may also be used to increase penalties for offenses that are committed solely between adults.
In addition to drug-free school zones, these types of zones can be created in relation to other kinds of property. Under Florida law, it is unlawful to sell, manufacture, or deliver, or to possess with the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver a controlled substance in, on, or within 1,000 feet of:
- Child care facilities and elementary, middle, or secondary schools between 6 AM and 12 midnight;
- State, county, or municipal parks;
- Community centers;
- Publicly-owned recreational facilities;
- Colleges, universities, or other postsecondary educational institutions;
- Places of worship at which a church or religious organization regularly conducts religious services;
- Public housing facilities;
- Convenience businesses; and
- Assisted-living facilities.
If the offense occurs at or near a school, park, community center, or recreational facility, there is a possible mandatory three-year prison sentence, depending on the type of controlled substance involved. For all of the locations listed above, the type of controlled substance involved also determines whether the violation is a first or second degree felony.
For example, cocaine and heroin result in first degree felonies, while marijuana, as well as Schedule III and IV drugs result in second degree felonies. The complete list of Florida's drug schedules can be found here.
A first degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 30 years and a fine of up to $10,000. A second degree felony is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 15 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
These increased penalties are not applicable to the delivery to or actual or constructive possession for medical or scientific use or purpose only of controlled substances by certain individuals for use in their usual course of business or profession or in the performance of their official duties. Some of these exempt individuals include pharmacists, practitioners, and common carriers.
West Palm Beach Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with a drug-related offense, you face the potential for serious punishment. The potential penalties become much more severe if the offense occurred near certain protected zones. As a result, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact the West Palm Beach attorneys at Farkas & Crowley, P.A. and allow us to put our expertise to work for you.