Lawyer for Marijuana Crimes in Tampa, FL
Although the possession of cannabis is legal in some states, Florida law still provides for harsh penalties. The best defense to these charges often requires fighting the charges aggressively and filing all viable motions to suppress or motions to dismiss.
If you need a criminal defense attorney experienced in defending marijuana cases, contact us today. We can help you understand the best strategy for fighting your charges. We represent clients throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Hillsborough County, Pasco County, Pinellas County, or Hernando County, Florida.
Our attorneys are members of the National Legal Committee (NLC), a legal advisory committee to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Being active on NORML's National Legal Committee allows us to support NORML, advocate for the reform of marijuana laws, and network with attorneys throughout the country fighting similar battles to defend individuals charged with marijuana offenses.
We are proud to aggressively defend our clients charged with possession, and other related marijuana offenses. This article written by Jason D. Sammis, a Lifetime Member of the NORML's National Legal Committee, was last updated on Monday, May 20, 2014.
A conviction for any drug offense
(including possession of marijuana)
will result in an automatic and immediate
two (2) year suspension of your driver's license
regardless of whether the crime was driving-related.
Defending You Against Marijuana Charges in Florida
In any drug case, including possession of marijuana (also known as cannabis, weed, or pot) there are important defenses that can be asserted through motions to suppress illegally obtained evidence or motions to dismiss the charges for insufficient evidence. Call us to discuss your case with an attorney that will thoroughly investigate the facts of your case to determine the best strategy for fighting the charges.
Possible Issues for Motions to Suppress or Exclude
- Can the prosecutor prove that you were in constructive possession, or did the cannabis belong to someone else?
- Did the police have legal cause to stop your vehicle, ask you to exit the vehicle, conduct a pat down of your person, or perform a search of your vehicle?
- Did the police have legal grounds to search your person, vehicle, or residence?
- Were your rights violated in the execution of a search warrant?
- Were your rights violated in the execution of an arrest warrant, and seizure of evidence as a result of that arrest warrant?
- Did the police have probable cause to arrest you for the offense of possession or sale of marijuana?
- Did the police have sufficient evidence to charge you with possession with "intent to sell" or did they just trump up the charges?
- Was the marijuana or cannabis within plain view or easy reach?
- Were you were entrapped by the police through the use of an undercover officer or a confidential informant?
- Did the police read your Miranda warnings to you before conducting an interrogation?
- Is there sufficient evidence to prosecute the case?
- Can the prosecutor prove that you knew the marijuana was in your home or vehicle?
- Can the prosecutor prove that you knew the illicit nature of the marijuana in your constructive possession?
- Can the "necessity defense" recognized by Florida law be used in your case if your use or possession of marijuana was necessary for medical purposes?
Consequences of a marijuana conviction
- Ineligibility for public employment without enrolling in a drug treatment program for any conviction;
- Ineligibility for Florida Bright Futures scholarships;
- Ineligibility for State financial aid;
- Ineligibility for state licenses, permits or certifications without enrolling in a drug treatment program for any felony conviction;
- A potential three-year ban on public housing for any misdemeanor or felony conviction;
- A five-year ban on eligibility to adopt a child or become a foster parent, and even after the ban is lifted you will have to submit to a special review by an adoption review committee if you have any felony or misdemeanor marijuana conviction;
- Lifetime ban on the right to possess a firearm under Florida Statute Section 790.23 for any felony conviction.
Whether you have been charged with marijuana possession, cannabis manufacture or cultivation, distribution, transportation, trafficking, or possession of drug paraphernalia, contact an experienced marijuana criminal defense attorney to discuss your case in the Tampa Bay area.
We represent clients in marijuana crimes in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Clearwater or St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, New Port Richey or Dade City, Pasco County, or Brooksville, Hernando County, Florida.
An overview of Possession of Marijuana / Cannabis charges and penalties:
· Possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana
· First Offense for Possession of Marijuana
· Drivers License Suspension in Florida for any drug offense, including marijuana
· Misdemeanor Offenses for Marijuana
· Felony Offenses for Cannabis
· Federal Law Regarding Marijuana / Cannabis
Marijuana (also known as cannabis, weed or pot) is the most commonly used illicit drug in the State of Florida and in the United States. The simple possession of marijuana / cannabis is a misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to 12 months in jail.
Despite the fact that marijuana use is common, the penalties for possession of marijuana are harsh. Regardless of whether adjudication is withheld or not, a possession of marijuana / cannabis sentence can haunt you even after you have finished serving the probationary term in Florida.
Even for a first offense of possession of cannabis, prosecutors typically ask for 12 months probation, a series of random urine screens, community service hours, and court costs and fines.
Many people charged with possession of marijuana do not realize how expensive and time consuming it will be to complete the probationary terms. In those cases where all of the conditions are not met within the time allotted, a violation of probation will result in an arrest warrant being issued, possibly without a bond amount being set.
If you are convicted of possession of marijuana / cannabis, an automatic and immediate two (2) year suspension of your driver's license (with a hard suspension during the first year before you are even eligible to apply for a business purpose only or hardship license).
If the court withholds adjudication, the suspension of your driver's license can be avoided. However, even for first offenses, prosecutors routinely ask for harsh penalties for possession of marijuana / cannabis cases included 12 months probation, a drug and alcohol evaluation, completion of any follow up drug treatment (typically 8 drug classes), random urine screens, community service and steep fines and court costs.
If you agree to this type of harsh probation sentence, and then violate the probation, the court can then "adjudicate" you of the underlying possession of marijuana charge (causing the two year suspension of your driver's license).
Overview of the Marijuana Laws in Florida
Possession of Marijuana / Cannabis Less than 20 grams - First Degree Misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 12 months in the county jail. If you are adjudicated guilty of the offense, then your driver's license will be automatically and immediately suspended for a period of two years.
Delivery of Marijuana / Cannabis Less than 20 grams (without monetary exchange) - First Degree Misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 12 months in the county jail. If you are adjudicated guilty of the offense, then your driver's license will be automatically and immediately suspended for a period of two years.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (including marijuana pipes, bongs, and roach clips) - First Degree Misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 12 months in the county jail. No automatic consequence to your driver's license.
Possession of Marijuana / Cannabis more than 20 grams- Third Degree Felony punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison. If you are adjudicated guilty of the offense, then your driver's license will be automatically and immediately suspended for a period of two years.
Cultivation of Marijuana - Under Florida law, Section 893.13(1)(a) governs the offense of cultivation of marijuana, which is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison.
Trafficking in Cannabis/ Marijuana less than 25 pounds - Third Degree Felony punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to five (5) years in Florida State Prison. If you are adjudicated guilty of the offense, then your driver's license will be automatically and immediately suspended for a period of two years.
Trafficking of Marijuana / Cannabis 25 - 2,000 pounds (or 300 - 2,000 plants)- Second Degree Felony punishable by a $25,000 fine and up to fifteen (15) years in Florida State Prison. The offense carries with it a minimum mandatory three (3) year prison sentence. If you are adjudicated guilty of the offense, then your driver's license will be automatically and immediately suspended for a period of two years.
Trafficking of Marijuana /Cannabis 2,000 - 10,000 pounds (2,000 to 10,000 plants) - First Degree Felony punishable by a $50,000 fine and up to 30 years in Florida State Prison. The offense carries with it a minimum mandatory seven (7) year prison sentence.
Trafficking of Marijuana / Cannabis 10,000 or more pounds (or 10,000 plants) - First Degree Felony punishable by a $200,000 fine and up to 30 years in Florida State Prison. The offense carries with it a minimum mandatory fifteen (15) year prison sentence.
Trafficking of Marijuana / Cannabis near a designated location - Second Degree Felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison. Designated locations are those marijuana or cannabis offenses that take place within one-thousand (1,000) feet of a child care facility, school, college, university, church, convenience store or business, park, community center or public recreational facility.
New Florida Law for Marijuana Grow House
Under the recently passes "Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act" (HB173/SB390), now Florida Statute Section 893.1351, a "grow house" can include any place where 25 plants or more are present because the statute provides a presumption that "[f]or the purposes of this section, proof of the possession of 25 or more cannabis plants constitutes prima facie evidence that the cannabis is intended for sale or distribution."
In Florida, this criminal offense is often called "Possession of a Residence for Cultivating of Cannabis" in Tampa or Plant City for Hillsborough County, in St. Petersburg or Clearwater in Pinellas County and in Dade City or New Port Richey for Pasco County, Florida.
In fact, in a trial on the issue, the jury will be instructed on this "rebuttable presumption." This rebuttable presumption could be overcome with evidence that the cannabis plants were not intended for sale or distribution, especially when it can be show that the plants were being grow for personal consumption, including personal medical purposes.
Landlord of Cannabis Grow House
Subsection (1) makes it a third degree felony (punishable by 5 years in Florida State Prison) to own, lease or rent any grow house or other place with knowledge that the place will be used for one of the following purposes:
a. Trafficking in marijuana as provided in section 893.135;
b. For the Sale of marijuana, as provided in Section 893.13;
c. For the manufacture of cannabis intended for sale or distribution to another (presumed if 25 or more cannabis plants).
Resident of Marijuana Grow House
Subsection (2) makes it a second degree felony (punishable by 15 years in Florida State Prison), to knowingly be in actual or constructive possession of any grow house or other place with the knowledge that the place will be used for any of the following purposes:
a. Trafficking in marijuana, as provided in s. 893.135;
b. For the sale of marijuana, as provided in s. 893.13; or
c. For the manufacture of cannabis intended for sale or distribution to another (presumped if 25 or more marijuana plants).
Resident of Marijauna Grow House when Minor Child is Present
Subsection (3) makes it a first degree felony (punishable by 30 years in Florida State Prison) for any person who is in actual or constructive possession of a grow house or other place with the knowledge of the following:
a. That the place is being used to manufacture marijuana intended for sale or distribution to another (presumped if 25 or more cannabis plants are present); and
b. Who knew or should have known that a minor child is present or resides in the place.
Effect of New Cannabis Grow House Legislation
The State of Florida has some of the harshest marijuana possession laws in the country. In 2008 the Florida Legislature passed and Governor Charlie Crist signed into law legislation that makes the possession or cultivation of just 25 marijuana plants prima facie evidence of an "intent to sale or distribute" which is a second degree felony punishable by 15 years in Florida State Prison.
Florida law previously provided that punishment only if 300 or more plants were grown in the home. Federal trafficking laws require at least 100 plants, making the new Florida legislation considerably harsher than even federal law. If children were present in the home where 25 or more plants are grown the offense can be charged as a first degree felony punishable by thirty (30) years in Florida State Prison.
The law was intended to target cannabis "grow houses." These grow houses have become a prized target for Florida law enforcement officers who can not only make the arrest, but can then attempt either criminal or civil forfeiture the house and property where the marijuana was grown under state or federal asset forfeiture procedures. The new marijuana trafficking law also targets the owners of the "grow house" if the owner knew the house was being used for the purpose of distributing, packaging, growing, or cultivating marijuana as a third degree felony.
Under Florida law, a marijuana plant is broadly defined to include even a seedling or cutting if there is any evidence of root formation, even if only a few tiny hair-like roots are present.
Attempting asset forfeiture actions of "grow houses" in Florida, especially before the housing market crashed in 2007 wiped out much of the equity in theses assets, lured many law enforcement agencies to go after the potential big payoff. As law enforcement agencies shifted their attention away from individuals trafficking more dangerous drugs such as meth, cocaine, and heroin, common sense and good police work gave way to the targeting individuals growing small amounts of marijuana.
The Federal Government prosecutes drug crimes through the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. Section 811), which treats marijuana or cannabis like any other controlled substance, including heroin or cocaine. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means that marijuana is classified as being a dangerous illegal drug which is "highly addictive." Federal law criminalizes the possession, distribution or cultivation of large quantities of cannabis.
Under Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the quantity of marijuana / cannabis is considered along with the defendant's criminal record. Any conviction for marijuana under Federal Law is eligible for a prison term. Also, federal marijuana laws impose certain statutory mandatory minimum sentences.
For example, a conviction for the cultivation of 100 or more plants or possession of 100 kilo grams requires a five (5) year mandatory minimum sentence. If the defendant has any prior drug convictions or sentences, including sentences under state law, a ten (10) year statutory mandatory minimum sentence would apply.
Under the federal Controlled Substance Act, the possession of marijuana or cannabis is illegal. The federal authorities are usually interested in prosecuting cannabis offenses only when they involve larger quantities of marijuana by drug traffickers (e.g., large amounts of hash oil or hashish, or the cultivation of more than one hundred plants).
Other Marijuana Resources
- DEA's Position on Marijuana - Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website includes a page on marijuana including description and overview, control status, street names of cannabis, short-term and long-term effects of marijuana abuse, arrests and sentencing, DEA drug seizures and treatment resources.
- InfoFacts: Marijuana - National Institute on Drug Abuse provides the often cited information, facts and statistics on marijuana abuse.
- Marijuana Website Design - Information for other criminal defense attorneys who are members of the NORML Legal Committee on internet marketing for marijuana and cannabis defense.
Choosing a Criminal Defense Attorney for Marijuana Possession
Although the use and possession of marijuana is common in Florida, the punishments are particularly harsh. The mere possession of marijuana (aka cannabis, pot, weed) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a two year suspension of your driver's license.
At the Sammis Law Firm, we focus on defending marijuana cases (also known as cannabis, pot, or weed). As members of the NORML Legal Committee we work with attorneys across the country fighting similar battles to protect individuals charged with a marijuana offense.
We represent individuals charged with marijuana offenses from possession, possession with intent to sell, manufacture of cannabis, cultivation of marijuana, operating a marijuana grow house to trafficking in cannabis. Call 813-250-0500 to speak with a criminal defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm today about your case.