The Consequences of Marijuana Possession

January 28, 2015

A conviction for drug possession can be devastating and life-altering. The serious consequences of this crime mean that it is very important to understand the nature of the crime. In Florida, drug possession is the offense of holding, but not manufacturing or selling, a controlled substance, presumably for personal use. To convict someone for the offense, the prosecution must prove three things:

  • That the substance was a controlled substance,
  • That the defendant was aware that the substance was present, and
  • That the defendant had control or ownership over the substance.

In Florida, the possession of most controlled substances is a third degree felony.

The Crime

John Balmer, 50, of Hudson, Florida, was arrested on January 9th for drug possession. He was in line at a Kmart when he saw a sheriff’s deputy walk into the store. The deputy’s attention may have been drawn by Balmer’s t-shirt, which read in large letters, “Who needs drugs?” and below, “No, seriously, I have drugs.” Balmer tried to hand a bag, containing marijuana and methamphetamine, to another customer, but dropped the bag. The bag was recovered by two deputies. Balmer was arrested and was charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine and one count of possession of marijuana, not more than 20 grams.

Marijuana Possession

Marijuana is a controlled substance in Florida, and so possession of marijuana is a criminal offense. Thus, to convict a defendant for marijuana possession, the prosecution must prove:

  • That the substance was marijuana,
  • That the defendant was aware that the marijuana was present, and
  • That the defendant had control or ownership over the marijuana.

Penalties

However, not all marijuana possession is a felony. Possession of twenty grams or less of marijuana is a first degree misdemeanor. If you are convicted of misdemeanor possession, you could be punished by any combination of the following:

  • Up to one year probation,
  • Up to one year incarceration, or
  • A fine of up to $1000.

Possession of more than twenty grams of marijuana is a third degree felony, however. Conviction for felony possession can result in any combination of the following:

  • Up to five years probation,
  • Up to five years incarceration, or
  • A fine of up to $5000.

Additionally, the state of Florida requires that the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles revoke the license of any person convicted of a drug offense. Licenses are revoked for a period of one year, though under certain circumstances that period can be reduced. For example, after six months and the completion of drug treatment, a defendant may apply for a restricted license, allowing him or her to operate a vehicle for business or employment purposes only. Additionally, a defendant may apply for his or her full license to be reinstated after completing both drug treatment and rehab.

A conviction for the possession of drugs can be devastating not only because of the legal penalties but because of the stigma of the conviction, which can make it more difficult to find employment, obtain certain licenses, or rent a home. If you have been caught with marijuana, it is important to obtain the advice of an experienced lawyer. Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.