Florida drug possession laws make it a misdemeanor to possess up to 20 grams—less than an ounce—of marijuana. But that doesn’t mean a possession charge for such a small amount of pot can’t result in significant penalties. Even getting busted with a tiny amount of marijuana can land you a sentence of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. And, while Palm Beach County has partially decriminalized possession of up to 20 grams of marijuana, giving police officers discretion to let people off with a citation and fine, Palm Beach residents nevertheless have continued to face arrests for small-scale marijuana possession.
In this post we discuss some of the aspects of defending against a marijuana possession arrest after a traffic stop in Palm Beach County.
For starters, a charge of possessing 20 grams or less of marijuana may qualify for pretrial intervention in which you can enroll in a drug education and monitoring program. If you complete the terms of the program successfully, then your possession charge may be dismissed.
What Prosecutors Need to Demonstrate
When pretrial diversion isn’t available or advisable, and you need to mount a defense against a possession charge, keep in mind a prosecutor will need to prove certain facts to make a marijuana possession charge stemming from a traffic stop stick. These facts typically include:
- There was “probable cause” for the traffic stop
- You had knowledge marijuana was in your vehicle
- You had control over the marijuana while it was in your vehicle
To defend yourself, you may be able to show:
No probable cause
Law enforcement must have what is known as “probable cause” to conduct a traffic stop. In truth, the threshold for probable cause is pretty low, because the police can almost always come up with some way a person appeared to have been violating a traffic rule. So long as the police can point to some valid reason to pull you over, even if it wasn’t the actual reason, they can usually get over the probable cause bar.
That doesn’t mean there’s probable cause in all cases, though. If there is reason to believe the police pulled someone over without probable cause—such as for “driving while black” or to harass a female driver— any discovery of marijuana in the car may be ruled invalid. So, it’s always important to pay attention to what the police said and did leading up to a marijuana possession arrest in a traffic stop, and to explain those circumstances to your lawyer as soon as possible.
No Knowledge of Presence of Marijuana
As a driver, you may be accused of possessing any marijuana found in your vehicle. You may have a defense against the charge if can demonstrate you had no knowledge the marijuana was there. For example, if you borrowed the car from a family member, or a friend you’re riding with brought the pot into your car without telling you.
No Control of Marijuana
The police will assume that you exercised control over any marijuana found in your car. But, that isn’t always the case. If the pot was in your friend’s pocket until just before the cop walked up to your window, or it was in your trunk in your friend’s backpack, you may be able to demonstrate the drugs were not under your control, and so, you shouldn’t be charged with possession of them.
Talk to your Criminal Defense Lawyer
Anything you discuss with your criminal defense lawyer is confidential. Don’t shy away from telling your lawyer what you knew and didn’t know about marijuana found in your vehicle. The more your lawyer understands about what you knew about the presence of the pot, and understood was going on before, during, and after the police found it, the better chance you have of finding a defense to a marijuana possession charge.
If you have been stopped and cited or arrested for marijuana possession in Palm Beach, do not make any further statements to law enforcement and contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Your future and your freedom could depend on it.
For skilled, diligent, tough criminal representation in Palm Beach, contact Meldon Law online or by phone at (352) 614-4007. The sooner you contact us, the better your chances of protecting your rights.