Florida law distinguishes between two types of crimes that involve illegal drugs: possession, and possession with intent to distribute. This post breaks down how these two crimes differ from each other.
Under the law, possession with intent to distribute illegal drugs is an offshoot of the crime of drug possession. Thus, to prove that a defendant is guilty of drug distribution, the prosecution must first prove all of the elements of illegal drug possession.
These elements include:
- The drug must be a controlled substance under Florida law;
- The defendant knew, or at least should have known, of the illegal nature of the drug and that it was present (that is, he or she was in possession of it); and
- The defendant was in control of the location where the illegal drug was (“possession” need not only be the presence of the drug on the defendant’s person).
To prove intent to distribute, the prosecution must add another element of proof: that the defendant intentionally (“knowingly”) participated in drug trafficking activity.
Proving this element depends on a number of factors, including the type of illegal drug involved, its quantity, and specific behaviors of the defendant. Depending on the combinations of these factors, a conviction may result in a misdemeanor sentence at the low end to a second-degree felony.
Both illegal drug possession and distribution are “intent” crimes, meaning that a conviction cannot ensue based on unknowing possession of illegal drugs. There are other possible defenses available, such as illegal search and seizure by the police or even entrapment.
Because of the varying penalties and the possibility of plea negotiations with the prosecution, the selection of an attorney to defend against drug possession or drug trafficking charges is a key decision to make for anyone accused of a drug charge in Florida.
Experienced and knowledgeable counsel can make a significant difference in securing either an acquittal, or at least the lowest possible sentence.