Possession of Cocaine
Possession of Cocaine
In Florida, to prove the crime of Possession of Cocaine, the prosecutor must prove the following:
- The accused knew of the presence of the cocaine, and
- The accused exercised control or ownership over the cocaine.
There are two ways to exercise control or ownership over cocaine:
- Actual Possession of Cocaine
Actual possession means the person is aware of the presence of the cocaine and:
- The cocaine is in the hand of or on the person, or
- The cocaine is in a container in the hand of or on the person, or
- The cocaine is so close as to be within ready reach and is under the control of the person.
For example, a man that knowingly walks around with a bag of cocaine in his pocket would have actual possession of cocaine because he is aware of the cocaine, the cocaine is within his reach, and the cocaine is under his control.
- Constructive possession of Cocaine
Constructive possession means the person is aware of the presence of the cocaine, the cocaine is in a place over which the person has control and the person has the ability to control the cocaine.
For example, if a man hid cocaine in the attic of his home and then left the home, he could still be found guilty of possession of cocaine because he is aware of the presence of the cocaine, the cocaine is in a place over which he has control, and he has the ability to control the cocaine.
What are the maximum penalties in Florida for Possession of Cocaine?
In Florida, Possession of Cocaine is a third-degree felony punishable by a maximum of:
- A prison sentence of 5 years
- A $5,000.00 fine
- 5 years of probation
Driver’s License Suspension
Under Florida law, if a person is convicted of possession of cocaine the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will suspend their license for one year.
Defenses to Possession of Cocaine
- No Valid Consent to Search
The general rule is that a police officer must get a warrant before he can search a suspect. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, police can search a suspect if that suspect voluntarily consents to a search. However, if the police make threats or promises to get a suspect to consent to a search, any evidence that is found as a result of that search can’t be used against the suspect in court.
- Miranda Rights Violations
If the police detain a suspect they must read him his Miranda rights before they ask the suspect any questions. If police fail to do this, any statements the suspect makes will be inadmissible in court.
For example, imagine a police officer stops a car for speeding. The only people in the car are the driver and a front seat passenger. While the officer is speaking to the driver he sees a small bag of cocaine on the rear floorboard. If the officer were to detain and question the driver and passenger about the cocaine without reading them their Miranda rights, any statements the driver and passenger might make about the cocaine would be inadmissible in court. Without an admission from the driver or passenger or some other evidence, the state would not be able to prove that either possessed the cocaine.
- Unlawful Canine Searches
Police will sometimes stop a vehicle for a routine traffic infraction and then ask the driver if they can search the vehicle. If the driver says no, the police will often call for a police dog to smell the outside of the vehicle in search of drugs. If the dog alerts, the police are allowed to search the car. However, the police may not prolong the stop for the traffic violation in order to conduct the canine search. If the officer prolongs the stop for the traffic infraction, any evidence found as a result of the search won’t be admissible in court.
- Unlawful Detention
Police officers can’t detain citizens just based on a hunch that the citizen is committing a crime–police officers must have a reasonable suspicion that the citizen is committing a crime before they can detain a citizen.
For example, in case of Hill v. State, Key West Police officers received an anonymous tip that a black male wearing a shirt, jeans, and nice sneakers was at a location selling drugs. Four police officers surrounded the suspect, shined a light on him, took his driver’s license, and ran a warrants check on him. One of the officers asked the suspect if he would empty his pockets and when the suspect did so the officers saw a bag of cocaine. The suspect was arrested and convicted of possession of cocaine.
However, the appeals court held that the anonymous tip was not enough to give the officers reasonable suspicion that the suspect possessed cocaine, and that when the officers surrounded the suspect and took his license that the officers had detained him. Because the detention was unlawful, the cocaine the officers found was inadmissible in court and the case was dismissed.
- Lack of Constructive Possession
If police discovered cocaine in a place where more than one person had access, in order to convict the State would have to prove that the defendant knew about the presence of the cocaine and that he or she had control over the cocaine. For example, imagine two people are in a car when it is stopped for speeding. The vehicle is registered to the driver’s sister. As the officer approaches the car, he notices a small bag of cocaine on the back seat floor. As long as neither the driver nor the passenger admits knowledge of the cocaine, neither could be convicted of possession of cannabis because the State would be unable to prove that the defendant knew about the presence of the cocaine.
Are you looking for the best Possession of Cocaine lawyer in Tampa Florida? Contact Attorney David C. Hardy.
Tampa Attorney David C. Hardy is a former prosecutor that now represents persons accused of Possession of Cocaine. He is Board Certified by the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy as an Expert in Criminal Trial Law. As a prosecutor and defense attorney, he has extensive experience handling Possession of Cocaine cases.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for Possession of Cocaine in Hillsborough County Florida, Pinellas County Florida, or Pasco County Florida, Attorney David C. Hardy has the knowledge, skills, and experience to guide you through this process and obtain the best possible results.