Generally, speaking there are two different charges for possession of cannabis. One is possession of less than 20 grams of cannabis and the other is possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis. The major difference between the two is that possession of more than 20 grams is a felony of the third degree, which is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine. Possessing less than 20 grams of cannabis is a misdemeanor of the first degree, so the maximum penalty is up to one year in the county jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
Additionally, one of the most severe consequences that stem from a possession of cannabis charge is if you are convicted (i.e. adjudicated guilty) there is a mandatory one-year driver’s license suspension. However, it is important you may be eligible to get a hardship license during this 1-year suspension. If you receive a withhold of adjudication, meaning you are not formally convicted of the charge your license will not be suspended by the court.
To prove the offense of possession of cannabis the state must prove three elements, first that the defendant possessed the substance, the state may prove possession either by actual possession (i.e. the cannabis was found in your pocket, or you hand it to the officers) or by constructive possession. To establish constructive possession the prosecutor will have to show two things, one that the defendant had dominion or control over the suspected cannabis and two that the defendant had knowledge of the cannabis. Second, the state must prove that the substance was cannabis. Lastly, the state must prove the defendant had knowledge of the presence of the substance.
The good news is there are many potential legal and factual defenses for a possession of cannabis charge. For instance, did the officer have probable cause to stop the vehicle? Did the officer have probable cause to search the vehicle? If a K-9 was used to conduct an open-air sniff around the vehicle, how long did it take for him to arrive on the scene? Was there an unlawful search?
Additionally, you may have factual defenses as well. Can the state prove possession? It is important to know that mere proximity is not enough to establish contrastive possession. Can the state prove knowledge? Is the actual weight of the cannabis less than 20 grams? Often the cannabis will be weighed in an evidence bag, which may make the total weight over 20 grams, when the actual weight of the marijuana is less.
Regardless of whether you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony, the charge possession of cannabis can carry some harsh penalties. If you are charged with a driving offense, call the Meldon Law Firm. We have the knowledge and experience to help defend you and protect your rights. Call us at 352-373-8000 to set up a free consultation.