Heroin use up in North Florida

The use of the drug heroin is up in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, according to an article in the Washington Times.  There are new statistics showing the increase.  Heroin related overdoses have doubled from 2014 to 2015 and arrests where heroin is involved have increased recently.  Law enforcement attributes the uptick in heroin use to the shutting down of so many “pill mills” in our area. When people cannot get prescriptions for pills such as hydrocodone or Oxycontin, they may turn to the cheaper heroin for a similar high.

In Duval County and all over the state of Florida, possession of heroine, a controlled substance, is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.  Possession can be in one of two ways, either actual or constructive.  Actual possession is when a person has the drug in their hand, in a container on the person, or so close to the person only they can readily reach it. Constructive possession means that the drug is in a place and only the suspect can control.  For example, if the driver of a car is the only person in the car, they constructively possess a drug found in the backseat of the car.

Sale of heroin is considered more serious than simply possessing the drug.  If convicted of selling heroin in Jacksonville, a suspect is facing up to fifteen years in prison.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office typically runs “buy bust” operations to catch alleged drug sellers.  It is usually two undercover narcotic detectives posing as drug users/abusers.  They make contact with a potential seller through a tip or confidential informant to purchase some drugs.  When they meet, these drug detectives have recording devices on their clothes.  The recordings are usually audio, but sometimes contain video evidence.  Once the buy is made, the police will do a predetermined take-down signal and the suspect is arrested.

If a person possesses, sells, buys or manufactures at least four grams of heroin, they can be arrested for trafficking in heroin Florida.  Many people think “trafficking” means just selling, but not so in Florida.  Having that amount that amount in your pocket is considered the same under Florida law as if you sold it on the street.  If you have four to fourteen grams of heroin, you are facing up to thirty years in prison with a three year minimum mandatory sentence with a $50,000 fine.  If you have over fourteen grams but less than twenty eight grams, you are facing a fifteen year minimum in prison with a $100,000 fine.  If you possess more than twenty eight grams, but less than thirty kilograms, you are facing a twenty five year minimum mandatory sentence with a whopping $500,000 fine.  Needless to say, the Florida legislature intended to send a strong message when deciding the punishment for heroin related crimes.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Drug Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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