Drug possession refers to someone arrested for having an amount of illegal drugs on their person (body), premises (surrounding area) or vehicle, or under their control, which does not amount to an intent to manufacture, sell or otherwise distribute the drugs. Most drug possession charges in Florida arise to the level of a third-degree felony, so it's serious business. Possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis (pot) is a misdemeanor (see below).
Regardless of whether the charge of drug possession is filed as a misdemeanor or felony, there are certain elements that must be established for a case of drug possession to be proven in Florida. An experienced and skilled attorney can help prevent the prosecution from proving one or more of the required elements from being proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
A controlled substance is defined as any drug or chemical that is regulated by the government in its manufacture, use or possession. This means not just substances like heroin or cocaine, but many prescription drugs as well. As previously stated, possession of most controlled substances in Florida are third degree felonies.
There are certain exceptions to these laws. Florida state law, for example, allows possession of marijuana in an amount under 20 grams to be charged as a first degree misdemeanor rather than as a felony.
In order to prove charges of drug possession, there are three elements which must be proven by a prosecuting attorney and must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The three elements include:
- The substance in question was illegal or controlled. This usually requires the results of a laboratory analysis.
- The defendant had to know that they had possession of the drug and that the material was of an illicit nature. Just being around an illegal drug is not enough!
- The defendant must have had control over the presence and location of the substance. Not only does the defendant have to know the drug is there, they had to have control over how and why it got there.
Defending Against Drug Possession
Every case includes its own individual facts and circumstances. Stated broadly, there are four basic means by which a person charged with drug possession can offer a valid defense, and your attorney can best determine the course of action you should take when presenting your case. These four defenses include:
- Lack of knowledge that the substance in question was a controlled substance. You cannot be convicted of a crime if you didn't realize you were carrying an illicit chemical or drug.
- You held a valid prescription for the substance from your doctor or a qualified medical professional.
- You can demonstrate a circumstance of entrapment—that is, the police deliberately set you up to be in possession of the substance
- Unlawful search and seizure. The Fourth Amendment protects your civil rights and sets forth specific rules under which police can search for evidence.
Florida Defense Attorneys
If you are arrested and charged with drug possession in Florida, you should immediately seek the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney. The laws are complex and tricky, and you should never try to go it alone. Only a qualified lawyer can review the specifics of your case and map out a valid strategy to defend you against these charges, which can carry serious criminal and civil penalties.
If you are facing drug charges in Florida, don't wait, contact us for a no pressure evaluation of your case today.