Defense Lawyer for Marijuana Charges in Florida
Were you arrested in Hillsborough County and accused of possession, distribution, or trafficking marijuana? Despite the growing popularity of the marijuana legalization movement, having any amount of marijuana in your possession is a crime according to Florida criminal code. You need an experienced cannabis defense lawyer who will fight to clear your name and protect your freedom.
Call Thomas Grajek to schedule a free consultation regarding legal counsel for your drug charges. He will discuss your case, arrest, and any other information necessary to get the full picture of what happened and start strategizing defenses to get your charges dropped or dismissed. In the event the charges remain, Grajek will take your case to trial and show the jury what really happened.
With Medical Marijuana Now Legal, How Are Marijuana Possession And Sale Treated?
Marijuana has been a hot topic in both state and national news lately, particularly with Florida’s recent push to legalize this drug for medical purposes. However, despite the new availability of medical marijuana in the Sunshine State, the cultivation, possession, or sale of marijuana for non-medical purposes is still quite illegal under both Florida and federal law, and you could find yourself facing significant penalties if you’re charged with a misdemeanor or felony marijuana offense. Read on to learn more about how the legalization of medical marijuana has begun to change the criminalization of recreational possession and sale, as well as some of the potential defenses to a misdemeanor or felony marijuana charge.
How does Florida law criminalize marijuana?
Florida’s drug laws provide a wide range of marijuana crimes – those who are simply growing a few plants for their own personal use or who are found with one or two joints’ worth of marijuana are likely to be charged with a minor misdemeanor, while large-level distributors and traffickers can be subject to the same types of felony charges as those who traffic in other illicit substances like heroin and cocaine.
Types of Marijuana Charges Include
- Possession of Marijuana
- Possess with Intent to Distribute
- Growing or Manufacturing Marijuana
- Marijuana Trafficking
- Distributing, or Selling Marijuana
- Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia
- Knowing or Conspiracy to Commit a Marijuana Crime
Mandatory minimum sentences imposed for some trafficking crimes also remove judges’ discretion to take aggravating and mitigating factors into account, potentially increasing the sentence you might otherwise receive.
What is the Punishment for Possession of Marijuana in Florida?
Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under Florida law, and the severity of the charges varies depending on the amount.
Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana (or about two-thirds of an ounce) is charged as a misdemeanor, subjecting you to up to a year in prison if convicted.
Possession of between 20 grams and 25 pounds of marijuana is considered a third degree felony in Florida, carrying a maximum 5-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000.
Charges of marijuana possession often go hand-in-hand with charges of paraphernalia possession. However, possession of marijuana paraphernalia (like water pipes, bongs, roach clips, or rolling papers) is a contraband crime that permits confiscation of the items but does not provide for separate criminal charges.
What is the Punishment Under Florida Law for Selling, or Intent to Distribute Marijuana?
The sale of marijuana is treated much more harshly than is possession, but the severity of the crime class, possible prison, sentence, and fines increase with amount just like they do for possession.
Selling or Intent to sell 25 pounds of marijuana or less is considered a third degree felony according to Florida Criminal Code, regardless of whether the amount sold was one ounce or 100 ounces.
When is the Sale of Marijuana Considered a Misdemeanor Instead of a Felony in Florida?
The sale of marijuana is almost always a felony in Florida with one exception; it is a misdemeanor if the amount that exchanged hands was less than 20 grams and no money was paid by the person receiving it.
Is the Punishment for Trafficking Marijuana Serious in Florida?
Yes. Drug trafficking is a first degree felony, with a maximum prison sentence of 30 years in Florida. § 893.135 of Florida Criminal Statutes imposes harsh punishment for the trafficking of marijuana.
Florida criminal code defines marijuana trafficking as the “knowing sale, purchase, manufacture, delivery, or knowing possession of” more than 25 pounds of marijuana or 300 or more cannabis plants.
While this felony offense is severe on its own, it can and does get worse.
Possession of between 25 and 2,000 pounds of marijuana (or up to 2,000 cannabis plants) will be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in prison and a fine of at least $25,000.
Possessing between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds of marijuana or between 2,000 and 10,000 cannabis plants can lead to a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years and a $50,000 fine if convicted.
A conviction for possession of more than 10,000 pounds of marijuana or 10,000 cannabis plants yields a minimum prison sentence of up to 15 years.
The possession of 25 or more cannabis plants is deemed prima facie evidence of intent to distribute, which means you’ll bear the burden of proving the plants were meant for personal use (or that they belonged to someone else).
Federal law also criminalizes the possession and trafficking of marijuana; however, Florida’s harsh sentencing guidelines for many marijuana-related offenses often mean that, as a practical matter, it’s not worthwhile for federal prosecutors to pursue marijuana charges.
What are some potential defenses to misdemeanor or felony marijuana charges?
- Illegally Obtained Evidence
- Witness Testimony Coercion
- Pulled Over Without Probably Cause
- Knowing Requirement: You Didn’t Know About the Drugs
Law enforcement officers use aggressive tactics to obtain evidence if they suspect criminal activity. Sometimes they don’t follow proper protocol, breaking the law while trying to find evidence against you. One example of illegally obtained evidence is searching your house or car without a warrant. If your defense attorney can prove the evidence was not obtained legally, the prosecution will have no choice but to drop the charges because a conviction can rarely occur without evidence.
Sometimes law enforcement officers intimidate, threaten, or coerce witnesses into making a statement that is not true. Sometimes the testimony can mean the difference between having enough evidence to try a case and not having enough. If someone was intimidated, threatened, or coerced into making a statement benefitting the prosecution, your charges may get dropped.
If you were pulled over and the officer had no probably cause, or reason to stop you, then everything the officer found or charged you with after that point is not valid.
If you’re charged with a felony, your defense lawyer may be able to attack the prosecution’s case by focusing on the “knowing” requirement. Unlike some types of strict liability crimes, where an action is a crime regardless of the defendant’s state of mind or intent, this “knowing” standard requires the prosecution to prove that you deliberately set out to break the law. If your defense counsel can show that you were either unaware there was marijuana in your possession (for example, borrowing a family member’s car with a baggie of marijuana in the glove compartment) or otherwise were not “knowing” in your actions may help you avoid criminal prosecution.
It’s important – particularly if you’re charged with a crime at the felony level that could subject you to a mandatory minimum sentence – to seek legal counsel as quickly as possible after your arrest or indictment.
Diversion Programs for Marijuana Charges
Those who are age 18 or younger at the time of their arrest and who don’t already have a criminal record may qualify for a special probationary program to avoid conviction for marijuana and other drug charges. Hillsborough County has a teen diversion program, deemed “Teen Court,” which allows first-time teenage offenders to avoid a permanent record after their arrest for a drug- or alcohol-related misdemeanor.
Teen Court can help set these teens up with community resources (like AA or NA, a mentor, or GED courses) during their probationary period and require each defendant to attend school regularly and otherwise stay out of trouble. Successful completion of the program can result in the dismissal of the misdemeanor charge, allowing you to honestly answer “no” whenever asked on a job application or background check whether you’ve been charged with or convicted of a crime.
Diversion may also be an option for adults charged with a misdemeanor marijuana offense, particularly those without any prior criminal history. By consenting to a probation-type arrangement and adhering to the court’s requirements, you’ll eventually be able to have these charges dropped.
Hire a Defense Lawyer for Marijuana Charges
If you were charged with trafficking, distribution, possession, or selling marijuana in the Tampa Bay area of Florida, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer for drug charges. Thomas Grajek has decades of experience fighting aggressively for clients just like you, and he will not back down at trial. Call to schedule a free consultation today, your freedom is too important to leave in the hands of just any attorney.