Like Marijuana, Cocaine is a controlled substance that is often considered to have a high potential for abuse due to severe psychological and physical dependence. A report by the National Drug Intelligence Center -which was centered on Florida- indicated that cocaine poses a severe threat to residents in Miami because it is a catalyst for violent crimes and other criminal offenses.
As such, narcotics laws are strictly enforced in Miami to arrest the use and possession of cocaine. Putting it briefly, a successful conviction for possession of cocaine can result in stringent penalties, which include lengthy jail time, fines, probation and even suspension of your driver’s license.
Therefore, if you are charged with possession of cocaine, you should take the necessary steps to defend yourself and avoid the severe consequences associated with a conviction. You will need to hire an attorney to help you navigate the legal process.
But, what constitutes cocaine possession laws? What are the penalties for possession of cocaine? And which defenses can you invoke to avoid conviction? Here are the answers to these fundamental questions.
Understanding Cocaine Possession Laws in Miami,Florida
Narcotics laws in Florida prohibit possession of controlled substances such as cocaine. Under Florida Statutes, Chapter 893, knowingly being in possession of cocaine is categorized as a third-degree felony whose potential penalties upon conviction include a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $ 5,000.
However, there are two distinct types of possession- actual and constructive possession.
Actual possession means that the defendant has the drugs in their hand or close enough within reach. This type of possession indicates that the defendant is in full control of the prohibited substance.
On the other hand, constructive possession occurs when the defendant is not in actual possession of the controlled substance. In this case, the burden is on the state to prove that the accused is in constructive possession of the cocaine.
Constructive possession is established when:
- The defendant knows that the cocaine is within his presence
- The defendant had the ability to control it.
However, there are certain circumstances where cocaine is found in a place that is in joint control. In such a case, the prosecution must establish that the defendant had knowledge of the cocaine by employing independent proof. Therefore, knowledge of the presence of cocaine and the ability to control it cannot just be inferred from the defendant’s proximity to the controlled substance.
In addition, it is imperative to note that circumstantial evidence is inadmissible in court. Therefore, it can’t be used to suggest that the defendant is guilty of the alleged offense.
What is Required to Prove Possession?
Guided by chapter 893 of the Florida statute, there are certain elements that the prosecution must prove in order to sustain a possession charge at trial. These elements are the foundation of the crime; therefore, the prosecution must prove them beyond reasonable doubt.
The following are the elements:
- The defendant was in actual or constructive possession of a certain substance
- The substance was cocaine.
- The defendant had knowledge of the presence of cocaine
It is, however, imperative to note that knowledge implies that the defendant was aware of the controlled substance in their vicinity, and they knew it was illegal. As such, if the elements governing possession are present and an amount adding up to 28 grams of cocaine is found in your presence, then you may be charged with possession with intent to sell, which carries more stringent penalties.
Potential Penalties for Possession of Cocaine in Florida
A successful conviction can ultimately lead to severe consequences. These consequences are both criminal related and non-criminal related but with significant impact on your life.
The criminal-related penalties under the governing statute include:
- Up to five years in Prison
- Up to five years of probation
- A fine of up to $ 5,000
Other penalties include community service hours, a possible treatment program or a substance abuse evaluation.
In addition, the consequences associated with a conviction include loss of employment and suspension of your driver’s license.
Possible Defenses to a Cocaine Possession Charge in Florida
Like any other criminal charge, there are certain defenses you can invoke in a cocaine possession charge. However, you may miss the mark if you attempt to counter the charges independently. Therefore, consulting with a criminal defense attorney from the onset is imperative and beneficial in multiple ways.
To put this into context, an attorney can raise the following defenses:
Lack of Probable Cause
Before searching your premises and making an arrest, the officers need to have probable cause or reasonable suspicion of the alleged crime. However, in most cases, the police officers violate fundamental procedures, making the whole process illegal.
An attorney can raise this issue in court by arguing that the officers lacked probable cause and that the arrest was made in violation of a fundamental provision of the law.
Lack of Knowledge
This is the most common defense you can raise in a cocaine possession charge. Proving that you lack knowledge means that you were not aware of cocaine near you or in your vicinity. In other words, you will be distancing yourself from any potential charges associated with the cocaine found by the officers.
Therefore, you won’t be guilty of the crime charged if the substance is cocaine, but you did not know you possessed the illegal substance.
The substance found in possession wasn’t cocaine.
Proving that the substance is not cocaine can exonerate you. Often, the state is required to carry out a test prior to the trial to determine whether the substance is cocaine. Most of these tests are never accurate, and therefore they end up indicating a wrong result.
If your attorney manages to point out such an error during the trial, the charges may be dropped for lack of any evidence to charge you with.
Other potential defenses against possession of cocaine charges include:
- Violation of Miranda rights
- Improper evidence handling
- Improperly executed search warrants
- Improper police conduct
A cocaine possession charge in Miami carries severe consequences. Therefore, you’ll need to build a successful defense that will help exonerate you. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney should be your first step towards beating a cocaine possession charge.
If you or your loved one has been accused of possession of cocaine, don’t hesitate to contact Meltzer & Bell, P.A. today for a free case evaluation.