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Possessing even the smallest amount of cocaine is a serious offense in the State of Florida. If you are charged with possession of cocaine, that does not trigger the trafficking amount, you are looking at stiff penalties and a felony on your permanent record. In some states cocaine possession is a misdemeanor, not in Florida, in our State, cocaine is a Level 2 3rd degree felony and is punishable up to 5 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.

When you are facing a cocaine charge the first question you must ask is, did law enforcement have the right to (1) make contact with the Defendant and (2) have the authority to search your person, vehicle or home where the cocaine was eventually found.

Next, your lawyer must make an evaluation as to whether the State of Florida can prove that you possessed the cocaine. As always, remember, it’s not if the crime was committed, the question is, if the State can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred. Possession can be proved in two (2) forms; actual possession and constructive possession. Often times cocaine is not in the person’s actual possession (i.e. in their hands, pocket or on their actual person) the cocaine is constructively possessed, that is, the cocaine is not in the person’s exclusive possession. In order to prove possession of cocaine constructively, mere proximity to the cocaine is not enough, the State Attorney’s Office in Orange, Seminole, or Volusia counties must prove that the defendant (1) knows the cocaine is within their presence,  (2) has the ability to maintain control over the cocaine and (3) knows the illegal nature of the cocaine. The above elements are many times difficult for the state to prove.

Example: Law enforcement executes a search of the Defendant’s house pursuant to a valid warrant and finds a baggie of cocaine underneath the bed of the Defendant where both the Defendant and his wife sleeps. Neither the Defendant nor the wife admit to any possession of the cocaine pre or post Miranda Warning and there is no independent evidence that provides proof that either the Defendant or his wife had more control of the cocaine compared to the other.

CONSEQUENCES: If you have been arrested and are facing a cocaine charge the maximum penalty is (5) years probation or 5 years Florida Departments of Corrections. If you have limited criminal history a Defendant may be able to avoid incarceration. A usual probation sentence for a cocaine charge is 36 months supervised probation, mandatory community service, fines, court costs, a drug evaluation and recommended treatment, random urinalysis at the Defendant’s expense and potential other conditions, not to mention the social stigma that comes with a cocaine possession charge on one’s record and a two (2) year license suspension if convicted.

STRATEGY: A prudent lawyer in Seminole County will contact Early Resolution to see if their client qualifies for either Tier 1 or Tier 2 Drug Court. Remember, if the charges or evidence suggest anything more than possession i.e. drug sale, trafficking, manufacture etc…, the individual will not qualify for drug court. In Orange County, you may be able to qualify for Court ordered drug court also. Next, motions to suppress may need to be filed it seems that law enforcement over stepped their bounds. Also, a motion to dismiss the charge could also potentially be filed. Finally, if all else fails the case can be set for trial and State would have to prove up cocaine possession.

If you have been arrested for possession of cocaine contact Ryan, a Sanford, Seminole County Drug Attorney.