Florida Appeals Court Throws Out Drug Charge

One of the things that makes the law so complicated is that words need to be specifically defined. For example, the word “possession.” Outside of the legal context, it’s usually clear when someone is in possession of something and when they are not. However, when jail time and other serious penalties are on the line, the law needs to specifically define all the language that makes up the elements of a crime.

How Are the Definitions Developed?

When the Florida state legislature passes a new law, usually included in the law is a section where specific words are defined. Of course the definition cannot possibly contemplate all the situations that may come up. That is where case law comes into play. Throughout time as the courts handle each individual case, their decisions clarify what counts as (in this case) possession and what doesn’t. Over time more and more situations are clarified and that’s how the definition is developed. One of the important things that your skilled Florida drug crimes criminal defense attorney can do for you is to use the case law to argue that your actions do not fit the specific definition of the crime.

That is what happened here. After a shootout between cars leaving a gas station, police found a cup filled with marijuana. The cup was lying on the ground next to the fence that marked the property line of the gas station. The police also found cocaine in one of the cars involved in the shootout, along with the defendant who was bleeding from a gunshot wound. The defendant was arrested for drug crimes related to both the cocaine and marijuana.

The marijuana was tied to the defendant through a “grainy” security camera video that appeared to show him drop two unidentifiable objects on the ground. A person in the other car was seen picking up one of the objects, but the other object was left on the ground. At the close of the trial, defendant’s counsel moved for a judgment of acquittal based on insufficient proof that he was in possession of the marijuana. However, the court denied the motion and he was ultimately found guilty of both drug charges.

In this appeal heard by the Florida First District Court of Appeal, the defendant once again argued that there was not enough evidence that proved that he was in “possession” of the marijuana as the law defines it. Remember that the burden is on the prosecution to prove that the defendant was in possession of the marijuana. The law acknowledges both actual and constructive possession. Actual possession requires that the contraband be on or in “ready reach” of the defendant. Constructive possession means that the defendant knew about the drugs and he had the ability to exercise control over them. The court agreed with the defendant and threw out the marijuana conviction. They held that the video was not proof enough because it was not clear what the defendant dropped.

Contact an Experienced Tampa Drug Crimes Criminal Defense Attorney Today!

If you are charged with a drug crime, the Tampa drug crime criminal defense attorneys at Hanlon Law Firm can look at your case and see whether there were any errors that may result in the charges being thrown out. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with our attorneys about your case today!

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