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When possession crosses the line to trafficking

Drug possession is a serious crime in Florida, and your charges depend primarily on the type of class the drug falls into and the amount you have.

Possessing a "usable quantity" of a drug means you had enough for personal use. However, if an officer finds a large amount of the drug, the police may suspect you of trafficking. When your charges escalate to that level, you cross into the felony category. Take a look at how a recreational drug habit may escalate into something more serious.

Quantity of drugs

If a police officer pulls someone over and finds a single shot of heroin, the driver is likely facing a misdemeanor possession charge. If the driver has an entire duffle bag of heroin, the charges may wind up as felony possession and fall under trafficking/distribution category. The sentence difference between a misdemeanor (personal use) charge and a felony trafficking charge is about 29 years: one year for the misdemeanor and up to 30 years for the trafficking.

Contributing factors

Having a larger quantity of drugs is only one piece of evidence in a trafficking charge. If a person also has other telltale objects in his or her possession, it is more likely the charge will stick. The police in their search may find scales, small baggies and a large amount of cash. These tools of a distributer's trade only add to the evidence of trafficking.

Legal elements of a possession charge

A prosecutor in Florida uses the state statutes to provide guidance on how to prosecute possession. The statutes give the legal prongs a defendant must meet for a conviction. These include the following:

  • The type of drug - the more serious the classification, the heftier the charge and sentence
  • The defendant's general knowledge of the drug - the defendant understands it is illegal
  • Possession or control - was it in the defendant's control or care at the time of the arrest

The way a police officer reacts to finding drugs in your control depends on the type and quantity of the illegal substance. Facing a felony charge of trafficking may wind up changing your life for decades to come.

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