What is a 'Drug-Free Zone'?
If you live in an urban area (such as Fort Lauderdale), there’s a good chance you live in a “drug-free zone.” These zones, in which penalties for drug crimes are heavier, are often referred to as “drug-free school zones” – but not all of these zones include schools. Drug-free zones also exist around such locations as parks, community centers, and child care facilities.Types of Drug-Free Zones
The rules for what constitutes a drug-free zone are laid out in Florida Statute 893.13. It provides that an individual cannot sell drugs in, on, or within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising:
- a child care facility;
- a public or private elementary school between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight;
- a state, county or municipal park;
- a community center; or
- a publicly owned recreational facility.
The statute defines a community center as “a facility operated by a nonprofit community-based organization for the provision of recreational, social, or educational services to the public.”
The statute also clarifies that it will only apply to a child care facility if the owner or operator of the facility posts a sign, which is at least two square feet in size. The sign must identify the facility as a licensed child care facility, and it must be posted on the property in a “conspicuous” place where it will be reasonably visible.When Drugs Laws Are Violated in Drug-Free Zones
The punishments for violating this ordinance vary greatly depending on what substance is involved. Florida Statute 893.03 contains a long list of substances that are treated the most seriously. This list includes heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and opium. Under most circumstances, someone who sells, manufactures, or delivers one of these substances in a drug-free zone (or possesses one of these substances in a drug-free zone with the intent to sell, manufacture or deliver it) is guilty of a first degree felony, and will receive an automatic penalty of at least three years in prison if convicted.
893.03 also lists substances that are treated somewhat less harshly. These substances include cannabis, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and peyote. Someone who sells, manufactures, or delivers one of these substances in a drug-free zone (or possesses one of these substances in a drug-free zone with the intent to sell, manufacture or deliver it) is guilty of a second-degree felony.
If the controlled substance in question is not on either list, and it is not lawfully sold, manufactured, or delivered, then the violator will be sentenced to pay a $500 fine, and to serve 100 hours of public service – in addition to any other penalty prescribed by law, if convicted.How to Preserve Your Rights
If you’ve been charged with violating a drug law in a drug-free zone, the penalties can be quite severe. It is well worth your time to contact an experienced attorney, such as Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney Mark S. Lowry. He can help you understand your rights, and provide you with a solid defense.