Ganja ~ Weed ~ Pot ~ By Any Other Name…It’s Still Illegal in Florida
Pot, ganja, weed, hemp, Mary Jane,…no matter what you call Cannabis, it’s illegal in the State of Florida, and police officers are looking for it. Almost without exception, if you get pulled over in South Florida for any type of traffic violation, the cops are going to trying to gauge if they should check you and your car for drugs. That doesn’t mean they will, as they do still have to have probable cause, but after nearly two decades as a traffic ticket attorney and criminal defense attorney, I have seen it happen time and again.
There are two types of possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS). Actual possession occurs when the illegal substance is in suspect’s physical custody such as in his or her pants pocket. Then there is constructive possession which indicates that the suspect knows where the CDS is and is able to have bearing on it physically. One such example is if someone is pulled over and marijuana is found in the car’s ashtray.
Let’s talk about what happens to your driving privileges if you are convicted of any charge relating to marijuana or drugs. Your driving privileges will be automatically suspended for a period of at least 6 months, but less than 2 years. This applies whether you were charged with a misdemeanor or a felony.
I have represented hundreds of people who have faced possession charges, so I know that the State of Florida takes drug possession of any type seriously. The courts do not hesitate to go after those who are charged even with minor drug possession. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana drug possession (20 grams or less), not only do you stand to lose your driver’s license for up to two years, but you will also be unable to get a work permit, and possibly end up in jail for a year. This hardly sounds like a minor sentence for conviction of a “minor” offense, does it?
So now that you have been charged with drug possession, whether it is a felony or misdemeanor charge, what do you do? Do NOT plead guilty. A conviction of any type of drug charge can negatively affect your life forever, so it is always in your best interest to contact an attorney. No matter the charge, there are always defense strategies that can help determine the outcome of being charged with drug possession. A good defense attorney may even be able to get your possession charges dismissed or reduced.
Some of the defense strategies include filing a motion to suppress evidence if the cops obtain it illegally. If they find someone to be in possession of drugs, but they violate your constitutional rights, a good defense attorney will use this approach. It’s impossible to convict someone if there is no evidence presented to the court that a crime actually occurred. Another approach is for your attorney to request that you be enrolled in a drug treatment program. There are some courts that are designed to help people who struggle with drug addiction. If your attorney gets you enrolled in this type of program, the court may be lenient in its sentencing.
The ramifications of being convicted of drug possession can be greater than the things I have already pointed out. Your ability to get to work may be compromised if you lose your license, you risk not getting employment if a prospective employer runs a background check on you, or some employers find criminal convictions to be cause for termination. Keep in mind that criminal convictions are a matter of public record. This means that anyone with the determination to do so can find out if you have a criminal record. Unless you manage to get it expunged, this type of conviction stays with your for the rest of your life.
Many people find this terribly unfair, especially when it comes to a conviction for marijuana. A lot of people feel that this is a drug that should be legalized, if not across the board, then at least for medical purposes. There are currently only a few states that permit marijuana use as a form medical treatment, Florida is not one of them. As such, your stance on marijuana, even for medical purposes, is irrelevant to the State of Florida when it comes to you facing a criminal conviction. Derived from the Cannabis plant, marijuana effects mood, consciousness, perception, cognition, and behavior. If it didn’t have these effects, the growing number of people pushing to have it legalized wouldn’t exist.
The State of Florida prosecutes individuals who are arrested for possession based upon several determining factors. They are as follows:
- 20 Grams or Less: Possession OR delivery of less than 20 grams is classified as a misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $1,000 and/or 1 year in jail. This is assuming that one delivers a small amount and does not receive payment in exchange for that delivery.
- Paraphernalia: Possession of paraphernalia (pipes, bongs, etcetera) is also considered a misdemeanor and carries the same penalties (a fine up to $1,000 and/or 1 year in jail). This charge can be added to the charge associated with the drug itself.
- Over 20 Grams: Any delivery of over 20 grams OR sale of marijuana of up to 25 pounds is considered a felony. Once you reach this level, you could be facing 5 years in prison and/or up to $5,000 in fines.
- 24 Plants or More: Possession of greater than 24 marijuana plants or any sale or cultivation of the plant within 1,000 feet of a school, park, daycare, etcetera, is punishable by fines up to $10,000 and a prison term of up to 15 years. Judges tend to hand out the maximum sentence for operating near these locations because they are areas in which children are present.
- Over 25 Pounds: If you are growing or selling marijuana over the amount of 25 pounds, you are considered to be “trafficking” an illegal substance. A conviction for trafficking will carry a mandatory sentence. This means that judges do not have the option of being lenient in their sentencing.
- 25-2,000 Pounds (or Plants): If you are convicted of possession of 25 to 2,000 pounds (or plants) of marijuana, you are looking at a minimum mandatory sentence of 3 years in prison and a fine up to $25,000.
- 2,000-10,000 Pounds (or Plants): If you are convicted of possession of 2,000 to 10,000 pounds (or plants) of marijuana, you are looking at a minimum sentence of 7 years and a fine up to $50,000.
- Over 10,000 Pounds (or Plants): If you are convicted with possession of over 10,000 pounds (or plants) of marijuana, you are looking at a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine up to $20,000.
As you can see, trafficking of marijuana results in stiff penalties in Florida, and a conviction of any of the offenses that are related to trafficking requires judges to sentence you to the mandatory minimum sentence. No matter how much you try to cajole or cooperate with the judicial system, there is no discretion permitted within the requirements of the law. Your best bet is to hire an attorney. Consequently, if you have been charged with a possession charge, don’t hesitate to call my office for a free consultation. Many drug-related convictions can be avoided, and we may even be able to keep you out of court. Call (954) 067-9888 for a free consultation for your drug charge. You do have options.