Criminal Defense in Your Neck of the Woods
Whatever your stance on marijuana is, the inevitable reality as of the date of this writing is that the drug is illegal. As time goes on it seems clear that Marijuana will one day be legalized in Florida following western states. That said, Ryan sees more marijuana related arrests than probably any other criminal charge. A marijuana conviction on your record can have destructive effects on an individual’s future including but not limited to: a 2(two) year driver’s license suspension, even for a first time charge, loss of student loans, grants, and other financial aid, jail time, probation, and a permanent criminal record.
Most individuals are found to have marijuana on their person as a result of a law enforcement traffic stop. If you have been arrested or received a notice to appear for possession of marijuana at the Sanford, Orlando, or Deland Courthouse the first question to ask is, was the stop valid? If the law enforcement officer did not have reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or a traffic infraction, then he/she cannot “constitutionally” pull your car over. Once the vehicle is pulled over, the law enforcement officer must have probable cause to search your person or the vehicle. Usually in a traffic stop that yields an arrest for “pot” the odor of burnt cannabis is the probable cause. If the law enforcement officer has probable cause he/she does not have to seek consent to search the vehicle, due to the “Automobile Exception” to the 4th Amendment.
Even if the officer does not have probable cause to search the vehicle, you still may not be in the clear. The stop officer has a reasonable amount of time (usually the time it takes to write a ticket) to request a canine officer to provide probable cause. Probable cause from a canine is usually received by a positive alert by the dog.
Now, let’s say the officers find the marijuana one way or the other, the State must then prove that the Defendant possessed the marijuana. Possession can be proven either by actual possession or constructive possession.
If you are facing a marijuana less than 20 grams or more than 20 grams arrest in Seminole, Orange, Osceola, and Volusia counties and have no prior criminal history you may be eligible for Pre-Trial Diversion, where the State of Florida will drop all charges after successful completion of various tasks.
If you have been charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams) the maximum penalties are one (1) year in jail or one (1) year on probation and a $1,000 fine. Usually if probation is a result of your marijuana charge the State or Judge will require as part of your sentence a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment, community service, court costs, cost of prosecution, cost of investigation to the law enforcement agency who made the arrest, and random drug tests at the Defendant’s expense. Please, also note the 2 year license suspension for marijuana convictions.
If you are facing a possession of marijuana charge and have no prior record contact a lawyer who is familiar with the Office of the State Attorney to request and lobby for pre trial diversion referral or drug court referral if the charge is a felony amount. Motions to Suppress the stop of a vehicle may be needed or motions to suppress the search of one’s person, home, or vehicle may be appropriate. If the charge is a felony amount, a Motion to Rewiegh evidence may be used to ensure the marijuana is more than 20 grams. Also, if a search warrant is involved the sufficiency of the affidavit and warrant must be thoroughly reviewed. Finally, the State must prove that you actually possessed the marijuana, cannabis