The Line Between Possession and Intent
The severity of drug possession charges can range from mildly serious to significantly grievous. Possessing up to 20 grams in the state of Florida may result in up to one year incarceration and a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana for personal use can carry a penalty of five years incarceration and $5,000 in fines. The amount of drug in question is key to determining the potential punishment for a conviction, but it can also transform a possession case into an intent to distribute case, which generally carries a sentence that is significantly longer and more serious.
The Law in Florida
Drug possession charges are filed when law enforcement believes that the accused possessed the illegal substance for personal use. The charge is elevated to intent to distribute when law enforcement agents believe that possession was for the purpose of selling the drug. The distinction between possession and intent is based on several factors. Along with the amount of drug present, agents will also look for materials that are commonly used for distribution. These may include:
- a scale;
- baggies for packaging small amounts of drugs;
- pill counting materials; or
- a large amount of small bills.
A CBS News affiliate is reporting about a Walton County arrest that started with a traffic stop. A search of the car turned up a glass pipe containing methamphetamine residue, along with numerous small jewelry bags of methamphetamine. The suspect was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. This was likely due to the small bags of methamphetamine.
If the amount of drugs is large enough, distribution charges may be upgraded to trafficking charges. Trafficking involves the sale and transporting of drugs across state lines or internationally. These are the most serious of all Florida drug charges, carrying the significant penalties. Trafficking is generally classified as a first degree felony, with a maximum incarceration of 30 years.
Depending on the type of drug, the state also mandates minimum sentences. For example, marijuana trafficking charges carry a minimum sentence of three years and a fine of $25,000 for an amount between 25 pounds and 2,000 pounds. For amounts between 2,000 pounds and 10,000 pounds, the minimum sentence increases to seven years and a fine of $50,000.
Defending a Distribution Case
In order to successfully convict on a drug distribution case, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant had knowledge of the distribution activity. This includes evidence that the drugs in question are controlled substances, as well as evidence that the defendant actively participated in process. To defend the case, a capable lawyer may argue that the the defendant possessed the substance solely for personal use. Your lawyer may also against the method of search and arrest.
If you or a loved one is facing drug distribution or trafficking charges within the state of Florida, the skilled criminal defense lawyers at our office can provide you with an aggressive defense. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.