A serious side effect of a Florida drug possession conviction is the mandatory one-year suspension of the person’s driver’s license that results. The penalty applies to any drug possession — even one not involving a vehicle, such as a marijuana arrest outside a bar. In some cases, sentencing judges may allow a restricted license for business or employment purposes, but they aren’t required to do so.
The license-suspension penalty is considered so strict that some in the Florida legislature have made multiple attempts over the years to soften it. In 2018, the state senate considered but did not pass a bill that would have reduced the maximum suspension to six months and would have made it easier for the court to grant exceptions for driving to work.
Because even a lenient plea agreement in a drug possession case may result in the suspension of your license, consider the consequences to your driving privileges before you agree. Also, consult an attorney with experience in the area of criminal defense of drug possession cases.
To avoid license suspension, your attorney may decide against a plea agreement and go to trial. If you are convicted, you may be able to petition the court for a restricted license so that you can continue driving to work or using your car for business. An attorney familiar with your local court system is more able to gauge the likelihood of a particular judge granting such an exception. Another option is to complete a rehabilitation program, for which you may be eligible six months into your license suspension. After you complete an approved program, your lawyer may petition the court to lift the suspension.
An experienced lawyer may also fight charges on the grounds that police failed to follow proper procedures, such as lawful search and seizure. Police often find illegal drugs during traffic stops. If they found drugs by illegally searching your car, the evidence is inadmissible. Even if the search was legal, prosecutors need to prove you knew the drugs were there. If the car you were driving belongs to a friend, your attorney may be able to argue that you had no knowledge of the drugs.
In drug possession cases, there are numerous avenues of defense to pursue. Be sure to seek out help immediately from an attorney who has experience successfully defending clients in drug cases. Ask about your options, including how you might avoid a suspended driver’s license.