The Trouble with Benzodiazepines
At first glance, benzodiazepines do not seem like the most dangerous drugs. The most well-known ones are Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam), which seem harmless enough. They are not the most illegal of illegal drugs; they are Schedule IV controlled substances, which means they are in the same category of legality as prescription sleep medications such as Ambien and Lunesta. Even the term “minor tranquilizers” to refer to this class of drugs makes them sound non-threatening. They are not a new menace like fentanyl; in fact, people have been abusing benzodiazepines for such a long time that the Rolling Stones snarked about it in a song that predates the Summer of Love. Rather, the threat of benzodiazepines is that their effects can be unpredictable; they make you calm, except when they make you aggressive. The other danger of benzodiazepines is that people often use them in combination with other potent drugs, such as opioids or methamphetamines, thereby increasing the risk of death by overdose. If you have been charged with possession of benzodiazepines or any other controlled substance, contact a Florida drug crimes defense lawyer.
Laws About Illegal Possession of Benzodiazepines
Most benzodiazepines are Schedule IV controlled substances; drugs in this category have an accepted medical use and are therefore legal by prescription. Their potential for dependence is considered less than that of Schedule III controlled substances. Possession of benzodiazepines, except those that have been prescribed to you, is a felony in the third degree. The maximum punishment for it is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Although the law considers Schedule IV drugs like the prescription benzodiazepines Klonopin, Ativan, Xanax, and Valium, the penalties for them are the same as for possession of a more dangerous drug, like cocaine or heroin.
Citrus Drug Bust Turns Up Benzodiazepines, Among Other Drugs
In November 2019, law enforcement in Citrus County conducted Operation Coin Toss, a months-long sting operation that led to the arrest of 30 people on drug-related charges. The defendants ranged in age from 19 to 75. Several defendants have been charged with possessing multiple illegal drugs, including benzodiazepines. For example, Gloria Lewis of Beverly Hills is facing charges for four different benzodiazepines (clonazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, and diazepam), plus opioids, cocaine, and marijuana. Dennis Ponce of Inverness faces charges for possession of clonazepam and alprazolam, plus heroin, prescription opioids, and methamphetamine. Other defendants were charged with the sale of various drugs, as well as non-drug crimes such as resisting arrest and illegal possession of firearms. Law enforcement initiated Operation Coin Toss in order to interrupt the supply of illegal drugs in a county where the overdose death rate is more than one-and-a-half times the state average.
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Possessing drugs that are sometimes legal and which, by themselves, are not particularly dangerous, can still lead to a felony conviction and a prison sentence, which is why it is so important to have a skilled Florida drug offense lawyer. Contact FL Drug Defense Group to discuss your case.