Michael R. Ohle, Esq.
Here's a scenario that plays out almost daily in Florida's criminal justice system: A woman in Vero Beach is approached by law enforcement officers who suspect illicit activity related to controlled substances. The officers search her and find a specific amount of marijuana in her possession.
The woman is arrested, taken to a booking facility and released overnight along with a printout that summarizes her legal situation. When the woman, who is now a defendant, reads the paper received at the jailhouse, she is surprised to find the term "trafficking" on the printout. Naturally, the defendant will think that she is being charged with being the leader of a dangerous drug cartel; however, this is not the case.
Trafficking vs. possession in Florida
For some reason, the word "trafficking" is overused in early printouts related to drug offenses in the Sunshine State. Nearly every day, suspects from Stuart to Port St. Lucie and from Okeechobee to Fort Pierce are arrested for drug possession, but their early paperwork indicates trafficking. This may be related to the frequent appearance of the term "trafficking" in the Florida statutes to refer to various prohibited acts related to controlled substances. Fort Pierce drug attorneys know better than to look at this preliminary paperwork; once court documents related to arraignments and indictments are produced, the specific offenses and their statutory references are clearly stated.
The general types of drug offenses in the Sunshine State are:
- 1). Distribution
- 2). Sale
- 3). Purchase
- 4). Manufacture
- 5). Possession
In essence, a suspect who is not charged with distributing, manufacturing, purchasing, or selling a controlled substance will likely be charged with possession. In Florida, this is an offense that may range between misdemeanor of the first degree to felony of the first degree; nonetheless, possession of most drugs in average quantities typically yields a third-degree felony.
Why you need a Fort Pierce drug attorney
Prosecutors in Florida must demonstrate certain factual elements for the purpose of proving the merits of a drug possession charge. These elements include:
- 1). Control of the substance
- 2). Knowledge of the substance
- 3).The substance itself
Given the range of seriousness and the multiple elements that must be proven in drug possession cases, Fort Pierce drug lawyers have multiple angles of defense. In their efforts to inflate the seriousness of a drug offense, Florida prosecutors may not be satisfied with establishing the three elements above; they may attempt to enhance the charge with "possession with intent to sell," which introduces an element of trafficking and may sound ominous to a jury.
For every element that must be proven in order to establish a drug possession charge, a seasoned Fort Pierce drug attorney can raise one or more defenses. Chapter 893 of the Florida Statutes is long and filled with intricacies that not all prosecutors can effectively manage. Skilled defense attorneys may introduce elements of entrapment, overzealous enforcement, Fourth Amendment violations, lack of knowledge, medicinal use, and others.