Marijuana Possession in Florida: A Look at the Penalties

Posted on June 18, 2013 in: Drug Possession

Florida drug laws provide specific penalties for the conviction of possession of marijuana. These penalties range from jail time to fines and suspension of a driver’s license. The severity of the punishment will depend upon the amount of marijuana in question and factors like previous convictions for similar crimes.

Possession of marijuana will be considered “trafficking in marijuana” if the amount of marijuana reaches a threshold of 25 or more pounds. This is true whether or not the suspect had any intention of selling the marijuana or giving it to others.

Mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking in marijuana in Florida include jail time, fines, and other punishments: these penalties are much higher than those for possession.

What defines “simple possession” of marijuana under Florida drug laws?

Florida statute 893.13 outlines the definition of marijuana possession in the state. Those who are found to be in possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana will be charged with “simple possession.” The charges may calculate any marijuana or cannabis plants or seeds into the total weight. This does not, however, include marijuana resin.

Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Florida 

Simple possession of marijuana is typically charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. A first-degree misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Other penalties can include a two-year suspension of a Florida driver’s license. This suspension precludes any work-related exceptions or other allowances for at least the first year.

Possession of any amount more than 20 grams but less than 25 pounds is – in most cases – a third-degree felony. The penalties for this include up to five years in jail and fines of up to $5,000.

Other Consequences of Conviction

A person who is convicted of possession of marijuana in Florida may have trouble obtaining certain jobs – such as those in education or the government –as a result of his or her criminal record. This is particularly true if the loss of a driver’s license hinders his or her ability to travel to and from a place of employment.

Other potential consequences include limited access to some financial aid services and other forms of public or private assistance.  

How Possession is Defined and Why This Matters for a Drug Charge

Under Florida law, possession isn’t dictated by ownership. This means that someone who is found with marijuana can be charged with possession even if the controlled substance belongs to another individual. This aspect of the law can result in situations where individuals may be arrested and charged with marijuana possession without any knowledge of the drugs’ presence or intent to use the controlled substance.

Actual vs. Constructive Possession

There are two types of possession to consider: actual and constructive. Actual possession occurs when a person is found to be holding or carrying the controlled substance on his or her body. An example would include carrying a plastic bag of marijuana buds and seeds in a jacket pocket.

Constructive possession is more complicated to prove in a court of law. This form of possession refers to a person having knowledge of and access to a controlled substance. An example might include a homeowner whose roommate stores his marijuana in a shared hall closet. In this case, a prosecutor may try to argue that the homeowner was in possession of the marijuana.

It is important to note that prosecutors and judges are given much leeway in Florida to determine the penalties involved in marijuana possession charges.

For questions about marijuana possession and sentencing contact a defense attorney who has experience defending drug cases. Call (877) 663-5110.

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