Although Florida added a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana, the possession of marijuana without a medical card is still a criminal offense. Possession of less than twenty (20) grams is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine. Simple possession of over twenty (20) grams is felony with up to five (5) years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Recently, Floridians voted over 71 percent in favor of medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions. However, legalizing medical marijuana in Florida does not change the penalties for the illegal use. Sale, cultivation and distribution are still crimes if not done pursuant to the new medical marijuana constitutional amendment. Very few companies are authorized to grow and dispense medical marijuana.
Constructive possession means other than physical possession. In the world of criminal defense this usually means drugs or narcotics are found but, not in the pocket or in the bra of the defendant. Constructive possession is an important concept for cases involving possession of a firearm by a convicted felon or a concealed firearm or weapon without a license. For example, you possess that television on your wall, you can move it, throw it away, and beat it with a baseball bat because you control it. However, no one carries around their flat screen in their back pocket.
Practicing criminal law or being involved in the criminal justice system is never boring. Recently a caller to 911 asked "where can I buy some marijuana this morning?" This call looking to buy pot from the police almost sounds like a joke.
Effective today, July 1, 2013 is a new law on drug paraphernalia. Typically a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia accompanies a charge of possession of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or prescription drugs. This new law criminalizes the retail sale of drug paraphernalia.
Many drug possession, drug trafficking or other criminal charges begin with a mere traffic stop. For years I have advised clients that if they are driving a blue car and the registration states it is to a white car then that alone is a sufficient basis for a stop. This would mean that if I purchased a used car that was white registered it and then had it painted black with red flames the mere fact that I had painted the car would cause an inconsistency with the registration sufficient for a traffic stop. Many times this is where the officer says they smell marijuana or they have a dog that alerts to cocaine or other narcotics. Upon the ensuing search after the traffic stop when drugs are found a person is charged with possession or drug trafficking. In other words painting your car is going to get you stopped but only at the discretion of the officer's suspicion. Fortunately as of the 21st of December 2012 in the First District, this is no longer true. In a case titled Kerick Van Teamer v. State of Florida the First District held that if the color inconsistency is the only basis for the stop then the stop is illegal. Unfortunately other district courts within the state disagree. Therefore if you are driving a car and the registration says it is white and it is painted bright green and you are in Fort Lauderdale or Ocala, then that stop will be upheld. However if you are driving a bright green car that used to be white in Gainesville, Starke or Lake City then evidence gathered from the traffic stop could be suppressed. Now that there is a certified conflict amongst the districts, hopefully the Florida Supreme Court will give us an answer. While it does seem outrageous to me that you can be stopped merely for painting your car, I certainly can see how that may appear suspicious to a government worker driving a government car who is not responsible for the government paint job. That and people who steal cars tend to switch the plates of similar make and model cars. Obviously in the eyes of law enforcement officers anyone who paints their car is suspicious. This decision will be important because of the number of cases including drug possession and drug trafficking cases that begin at a traffic stop. In addition several other types of cases could be generated from a traffic stop such as driving on a suspended license, driving without a valid license, driving under the influence or DUI and certainly after a stop a driver with a warrant would be arrested. If you have any kind of case generated from a traffic stop it is important to have an attorney review whether that stop was legal, no matter if it is a drug case for possession or trafficking of marijuana, cocaine or prescriptions, or a DUI or even a driver's license case such as suspended or no valid. For a free consultation click or call today.
Searches resulting from vehicle stops have been hotly litigated since the automobile became available to the public in mass. Since cars are mobile and not as private as your home, the Supreme Court has interpreted the constitution to afford vehicle searches and seizures less protection. For example, an officer can run the tag of a vehicle because there is no expectation that your tag cannot be read by anyone behind you. Of course not every driver out there has the capability to look up your picture address, driving history and warrant information but since the driver in the next vehicle can see if your tag is expired, read your tag and can presumably see the driver of the vehicle, then your expectation of privacy is deemed less and you are not as protected from searches in your passenger vehicle. Most people's interaction with law enforcement begins at a traffic stop, or by the police arriving in a vehicle and activating their lights. Until 2009 I would have called this a seizure.