Drug Offenses - Cannabis
Orlando Marijuana Defense Attorney
Although Florida is in the process of working out the details of its medical marijuana (cannabis) program, unless you can get a valid, legal prescription for marijuana, getting caught with it can still cause some problems. The penalties for marijuana crimes in Florida may be harsh and life changing. That is why it is so important to have an experienced Orlando marijuana defense lawyer on your side!
Cannabis: Charges and Penalties under Florida Law
The range of criminal penalties range from misdemeanor possession 20 grams or less of cannabis to trafficking in cannabis. Some of the more common offenses involving cannabis are listed below:
Possession of Cannabis 20 grams or less
Florida Statute 893.13(6)(b). First degree misdemeanor. Statutory maximum: 1 year in jail, 1 year of probation, or combination thereof not to exceed one year, $1,000 fine.
For simple possession of cannabis or marijuana less than 20 grams, most police agencies will give the accused a “notice to appear” and not take the person to jail. If the accused does not have a prior record, these types of cases will typically result in a deferred prosecution agreement wherein the charge is dismissed after the accused completes some community service, pays the program fee and takes a drug class. If the accused has prior offenses on their records, a typical result may be a fine and court costs. This sounds relatively painless, but it is very important that the judge withhold adjudication on the case so that the judge does not suspend the accused’s driver’s license for a period of one (1) year, which is mandatory on all cases where the accused is adjudicated guilty.
Possession of Cannabis over 20 grams
Florida Statute 893.13(6)(a). Third degree felony. Statutory maximum : 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, or combination thereof not to exceed five years, $5,000 fine.
For this offense, if the accused does not have a prior criminal record, the case will most likely result in a deferred prosecution agreement wherein the charge is dismissed after the accused completes some community service, pays the program fee and takes a drug class. If the accused has a prior record, the typical result will vary depending on how much cannabis was found, the extent of the accused’s prior criminal history, and other personal factors. It is still possible to have the judge withhold adjudication so that the accused’s driver’s license does not get suspended.
Purchase of Cannabis
Florida Statute 893.13(2)(a)2. Third degree felony. Statutory maximum: 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, or combination thereof not to exceed five years, $5,000 fine.
The penalties and typical sentence for this offense are very similar to those for Possession of over 20 grams of cannabis listed above.
Sell, Manufacture, Deliver Cannabis
Florida Statute 893.13(1)(a)2. Statutory maximum: 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, or combination thereof not to exceed five years, $5,000 fine.
These cases are typically not eligible for deferred prosecution because the state and the courts only send possession of personal use drugs to diversion, but not the person who is accused of selling or delivering the drugs. The range of penalties imposed will vary depending on the amount of cannabis (marijuana) in question, the accused’s prior criminal history, if any, and other personal factors particular to the case. A person accused of this offense needs an attorney to fight for the person to not be sentenced to jail or prison, keep the person from becoming a convicted felon, and preventing the person’s driver’s license from being suspended.
Trafficking in Cannabis
All marijuana trafficking cases have the same statutory penalties, but the minimum mandatory sentences and fines depend on the amount of the drug involved.
Statutory maximum: 30 years prison, 30 years of probation, or combination thereof not to exceed 30 years. Florida Statute 893.135(1)(a)1, 2, and 3.
If the amount is more than 25 pounds but less than 2,000 pounds, or 300 or more plants but no more than 2,000 plants, the minimum mandatory sentence is three years in prison and a mandatory $25,000 fine.
If the amount is 2,000 pounds or more, but less than 10,000 pounds, or 2,000 or more plants but no more than 10,000 plants, the minimum mandatory sentence is 7 years in prison and a mandatory $50,000 fine.
If the amount is 10,000 pounds or more, or 10,000 or more plants, the minimum mandatory sentence is 15 years in prison and a mandatory $200,000 fine.
Although the legislature has mandated minimum prison sentences and fines, many times a lesser sentence can be negotiated. Sentences will vary depending on the facts of the case, potential defenses, criminal history (if any), and amount of cannabis involved. However, if the accused is found guilty at trial and is not classified as a youthful offender, the judge MUST sentence them to at least the minimum mandatory penalties as described.
Marijuana Offenses: Possible Defenses
There are several defenses that can be employed when someone is charged with possession of drugs, including cannabis. A good and thorough defense attorney will look at the case from all angles and explore multiple defenses. These defenses include constitutional defenses, such as determining if there was an illegal detention or illegal search and seizure that resulted in the police stopping the accused or discovering the drugs. These defenses are absolute and if the judge finds that the police conducted an illegal search, the evidence will be suppressed and the state is forced to drop the case.
Another viable defense for the possession of drugs is challenging the government’s ability to prove the accused had constructive possession of them. Many times, the police find drugs not in a person’s pocket (this would be actual possession) but in a car or house where other people are present. This is referred to as “constructive possession”. In order to prove someone has constructive possession of the contraband, the government has to prove that the person knew of the presence of the drugs and had the ability to control them. Many times the government is unable to do this based on the exact location of the drugs, where the accused was at the time the drugs were found, other people present, lack of other evidence such as admissions, fingerprints, DNA, etc. In some instances, the criminal defense attorney can even argue that the court should dismiss the case outright and that the government should not even be allowed to prosecute the case further.
Other defenses which are less common need to be explored under the proper circumstances include entrapment, being unaware of the illicit nature of the substance, medical necessity, prescription defense, comingling of drugs by the government (trafficking cases only), agency theory (authorized to temporarily possess another’s legitimate prescription), and temporary possession.
Exploring and researching these issues can be critical to your case and failure to do so can result in unwarranted convictions and punishment. Many of the fact scenarios that come before us fall into a “gray area” where it is difficult to determine at first glance if the case has viable defenses. The proper research and litigation is crucial to forming a defense strategy. Even in cases where it may seem like a defense is not applicable, there may be enough of an argument where the attorney can file a good faith motion in court which may help tremendously with negotiations and can play a positive factor in the outcome of the case.
Contact a Marijuana Defense Lawyer from NeJame Law in Orlando
If you have been charged with any marijuana crime including possession, purchase and trafficking, contact our Orlando marijuana defense attorneys immediately. We handle cases in Orlando, Central Florida, and the State of Florida, including the cities of Melbourne, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. We can be reached 7 days a week at (407) 500-0000. You may also fill out the online form provided on this page or e-mail us directly at Defense@NeJameLaw.com. We value your privacy and will keep any information strictly confidential.