It is unlawful in the State of Florida to sell, manufacture, deliver, or possess "controlled substances". Violations range from misdemeanor penalties, (1 year or less in county jail), to first-degree felony, (punishable by 30 years in prison).
There are a large number of issues that must be analyzed including:
Nature of substance
Weight of substance
Nature of "possession" - actual v. constructive
Because the statute varies greatly in degree and penalty it is important to analyze the totality of the circumstances.
Like all other criminal defense work, the first step involves obtaining a thorough understanding of the facts as alleged by the State. A good defense attorney will know the facts better than the Government!
1. Review all police reports
2. Determine whether Diversionary Programs may be appropriate.
3. Determine the nature of police contact with the Defendant. The Government must be able to prove that any search and seizure was conducted lawfully, and a good defense attorney should be able to identify any issues that may result in suppression of evidence.
4. Research, draft and file any appropriate legal motions, including suppression and dismissal. Motion work may be critical for negotiating purposes with the State.
5. Conduct investigation - depositions, independent testing, etc.
6. Prepare for trial or plea.
Florida Statute Section 397.334 establishes the Legislature's intent to implement treatment-based drug court programs in each circuit throughout the State.
What does this mean?
The Florida Legislature recognizes that drug addiction is a serious problem, and that jail/prison sentences may not be the best way to address the problem.
The purpose of "drug court" programs is to allow offenders, who meet specific criteria, to voluntarily choose "drug court" rather than a traditional criminal division.
Adult Drug Court combines court-monitored, comprehensive substance treatment with frequent appearances before a judge. The terms of the program generally last between 18 and 24 months, and successful completion of the program means NO PRISON TIME, and the possibility of a dismissed charge.
The programs have been very successful. The goal is not only treatment, but also the avoidance of future criminal conduct. In Pinellas County, the rate of repeat offenses for individuals who successfully complete Drug Court is less than 10% for the first year.
If you believe you may eligible for Drug Court, and want to avail yourself of the opportunity, contact Brooke for a free consultation.
There are many misconceptions involving drug possession, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can offer guidance throughout the process.
1. I did not actually possess the substance, therefore I cannot be convicted.
This is false. Florida recognizes both actual possession, (drugs on your person), and constructive possession, (drugs in your immediate control). For instance, if you are in a vehicle with several occupants, and drugs are located inside the vehicle, everyone in the vehicle can be charged with the same offense.
It is important to analyze the totality of the circumstances surrounding the location of the substance, and the knowledge of the occupants. The State's burden is heightened in these scenarios, and legal defenses may be applicable.
2. I did not intend to commit "trafficking," I merely possessed a large quantity of the substance for personal use.
This can still be trafficking. The issue relates to overall weight of the substance. Again, there may be a number of legal defenses involving the calculation of the weight, commingling of substances, etc. Legal defenses are possible.
3. I was charged with possession of marijuana in a jurisdiction that has a policy against instituting criminal charges for this offense.
Possession of marijuana for recreational use remains a criminal offense in the State of Florida. Until the legislature modifies the law on possession, this will remain an issue.
In addition, LEO may use suspicion of possession as a basis to conduct a search, and may uncover other evidence of criminality. This is an emerging area of the law and may involve legal defenses, including motions to dismiss and motions to suppress.