If you’re a Florida resident, you likely already know that Florida police have the right to make an arrest if they suspect that a driver is under the influence of marijuana. These rules still apply even though marijuana is legal to buy and use in Florida, provided that you’re a qualifying patient who’s been approved for a medical card. But what about passengers? If you’re entirely sober behind the wheel, are you held liable for the actions of those in your own vehicle?
To convict you of marijuana possession, the State of Florida has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had knowledge and actual or constructive control of the substance. For example, if you’re stopped by a police officer and your passenger has marijuana in their pocket, it’s unlikely that you will be penalized. However, the lines can often get blurred if marijuana is discovered in the glove box or another common area of the vehicle.
We’ve broken down Florida’s marijuana laws, the penalties drivers and passengers may face if found in violation, and how you may defend yourself.
Understanding Actual and Constructive Possession in Florida
When the police discover banned paraphernalia on your person, you may face penalties. But what if the illegal substance wasn’t yours? What if it wasn’t found in your pocket, but rather in the glove compartment of your car? This is what is referred to as “constructive possession.”
Drug possession is split into two categories: actual and constructive. Actual possession refers to an instance in which an illegal substance is found in your hands or pockets. Constructive possession occurs when law enforcement believes you have knowledge and access to banned paraphernalia, even if they don’t locate it on your person.
To prove constructive possession, law enforcement must establish that you had knowledge of the illegal substance and that you could get your hands on it if you so wished. A prosecutor must prove that you knew where the illegal paraphernalia was located, which can be inferred based on circumstantial evidence. Likewise, more than one person can be charged with possession of the same unlawful substance. In other words, if more than one person has knowledge and access to the marijuana, each party may be convicted for possessing it.
The judge or jury may consider several factors, such as whether or not you own the car, your ability to maintain control over the marijuana, and if the marijuana was in a place in the car with limited access like the glove box, center console, or back seat.
What Are the Penalties for Drugged Driving in Florida?
Driving under the influence of marijuana will likely lead to the same penalties as driving under the influence of alcohol. Your first offense may elicit a fine of between $500 and $1,000 and up to six months of jail time. Your license may also be suspended. Your second offense is punishable with a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000 and up to nine months of incarceration. Your third offense is a felony and may lead to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in jail.
However, if you’re a medical marijuana patient, it’s legal to drive with marijuana in your possession. This could involve transporting it from the dispensary to your home or another private property.
What Are the Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Florida?
In Florida, it’s against the law to possess marijuana beyond medical purposes. Marijuana possession charges are characterized based on the amount of the substance found at the time of the arrest. For example, possession of up to 20 grams constitutes a misdemeanor offense. The same is true for the delivery of under 20 grams, and such misdemeanors can carry fines of up to $1,000 and a maximum prison sentence of one year.
Penalty severity increases dramatically for charges involving over 20 grams. Possessions of more than 20 grams is a felony offense and could result in fines of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison.
Contact an Experienced Marijuana Defense Lawyer in West Palm Beach
If you’re a driver who’s been arrested based on the actions of your passenger or if you’re a passenger who’s been arrested for possessing marijuana, get in touch with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in West Palm Beach as soon as possible. For legal assistance, look no further than The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel.
Attorney Brian Gabriel has served the community of West Palm Beach for more than 30 years as a DUI and criminal defense attorney. He understands the complexities that are often involved in these cases and can help protect your reputation and future. After a DUI or marijuana possession arrest, you can be assured that you’re in good hands and that attorney Brian Gabriel will fight for your rights. Call (561) 622-5575 or complete a contact form for a free consultation.