Florida’s drug possession laws are among the harshest in the entire country. Drug
possession is the leading cause of arrest throughout the State, and is principally
responsible for the explosion in jail and prison populations over the past three
decades. If you have been arrested or charged under Florida’s strict drug possession
laws, you may have defenses available to avoid a conviction or to minimize potential
penalties. Contact our Jacksonville Florida Drug Possession Attorney today for a
Definition of Possession- Florida Law
Under Florida law, to “possess” means to have personal charge of or to exercise the
right of ownership, management, or control over the thing possessed. There are three
elements required to prove a possession charge in Florida: (1) the defendant possessed
a certain substance, (2) the substance was a designated “controlled substance,” as
defined under the possession laws in Florida (marijuana, cocaine, etc.), and (3)
the defendant had knowledge of the presence of the substance.
Actual and Constructive Possession- Florida Law
Possession in Florida may be actual orconstructive in nature. “Actual Possession”
means that the controlled substance is in the hand of the person accused, or is in
a container in the hand of a person, or is so close as to be within ready reach
and is under the control of the person accused. Mere proximity to a controlled substance
such as cannabis or pot or weed is not sufficient to establish control over the substance
when the substance is not in a place over which the person has control.
In contrast to Actual Possession, Constructive Possession of a controlled substance
in Florida means that the controlled substance is in a place over which the defendant
has control, or in which the defendant has concealed it. In order to prove constructive
possession, the prosecution must establish: (i) the defendant’s control over the
controlled substance, and (ii) the defendant’s knowledge that the controlled substance
was within the defendant’s presence.
Joint Possession- Florida Law
Under Florida law, Possession may be joint (i.e. more than one person may possess
an article or substance). In such a case, each of those persons is considered to
be in possession of that article or substance. If a person has exclusive possession
of a substance, such as cannabis or cocaine, knowledge of its presence may be inferred
or assumed. If a person does not have exclusive possession of the substance, knowledge
of its presence may not be inferred or assumed.
Knowledge of Illicit Nature of the Substance- Florida Law
One of the harshest aspects of Florida’s drug possession laws is that, to obtain
a conviction, the State is not required to prove that the defendant knew of the illegal
or illicit nature of the substance possessed. Rather, lack of knowledge of the illegal/illicit
nature of the substance is an affirmative defense that must be raised by the accused.
This means that even though a defendant may not have engaged in criminal wrongdoing
because he or she did not know of the illegal nature of the substance, it is up to
the defendant to prove his or her innocence.
If you have been accused of possession of drugs or controlled substances, including
cannabis, marijuana, and cocaine, you may have defenses to contest the charge or
to mitigate potential penalties. Contact an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Attorney
today for a free consultation.