Drug possession charges and penalties vary based on the type and amount of drug present at time of arrest. Any items present that reflect that the accused had intent to distribute, such as digital scales, small bags, large amounts of cash, may be used against them when the prosecutor is deciding which charges are suitable to file. Any testimony from witnesses claiming there was intent to sell may also be used against the defendant. A charge of possession with intent to sell requires all the legal elements of simple possession (explained below), as well as evidence proving there was actually an intent to sell or distribute.
Drug possession is considered an offense in which there was no intent to manufacture, distribute, or profit from the controlled substance. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a related offense to drug possession that may affect charges and penalties for possession charges if convicted. Under federal and state drug possession laws, many controlled substances may be charged as a third degree felony, depending on the amount that was in possession and the nature of the controlled substance.
In a drug possession case for a third degree felony:
The term of imprisonment can last for up to five years and require a fine up to the amount of $5,000.
A second degree felony charge:
May result in a term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years and a fine in an amount up to $10,000.
Elements of a drug possession charge
To establish the elements of a drug possession charge, the state or federal prosecutor must show evidence seized from the accused is in fact a controlled substance; this is usually verified by a crime lab analysis. The prosecutor must also show that the defendant knew or should have known, that the drug was an illegal substance to be in possession of. The control of the drug is another element of the case; the prosecutor must prove that the defendant had control over the seized substance, or the location in which the controlled substance was found. It is usually a much harder case to prove if the controlled substance was found in a space occupied by more than one person; For example, if drugs are found in a car with many passengers and neither are in possession of it anywhere on their body, it is difficult to determine who the owner of that substance is.
Drug Court for a Possession Charge
In South Florida, Drug Court programs have been implemented with the goal of providing rehabilitation en lieu of punishment for possession charges. Although successful completion of Drug Court programs may result in the dismissal of criminal charges, completion of these programs is not easy as it requires time, dedication, random drug screenings, attending group meetings, and fulfilling all other necessary requirements. If there is believed intent to sell, the prosecutor will file separate charges with increased penalties, which will disqualify an individual from entering drug court. With help from an experienced criminal defense attorney, successful completion of drug court requirements is likely.
Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Kenneth Padowitz Provides a Strategic Criminal Defense
Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. has extensive experience in successfully resolving possession charges for a plea or trial, or by guiding clients through drug court and providing effective representation each step of the way. He will look at the potential mitigating factors of your case, and find the best way to proceed with your drug possession charge. An aggressive criminal defense lawyer is essential.