The severity of drug charges can sometimes depend simply on where the allegedly illegal transaction takes place. For example, if cocaine is simply sold by a person, and that person is convicted, they will be convicted of a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. However, should that exact transaction occur within 1,000 feet of a school, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 midnight, the charge is elevated to a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. As such, it is important to challenge every aspect of this crime from the transaction itself, the distance to the school, and the time of the transaction. Drug crime attorney Adam L. Bantner, II can help you if you’ve been charged in the Tampa Bay area with this type of crime. Call 813.416.7965 for your free consultation.
In addition to the Delivery charge, it is not uncommon to get charged with possession of cocaine in the same case. Should this charge arise following a traffic stop in which the vehicle is occupied by more than one person, and the cocaine is found in a common area of the vehicle, you have a winnable case. This is called constructive possession and unless there is independent proof of possession, i.e, statements, fingerprints, etc., the charge is subject to a judgment of acquittal at trial. Rangel v. State, 110 So.3d 41 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013).
Constructive possession and the State’s burden of proof at trial was further defined in Jones v. State, 43 Fla. L. Weekly D2343b (Fla. 1st DCA 2018). In this case, Jones was the driver of a rental vehicle in which existed a passenger. Jones was outside of the vehicle following a legal traffic stop talking to the officer while the passenger remained in the vehicle. Upon K-9 arrival, the passenger exited the vehicle and cocaine was discovered in the center console of the vehicle.
The Court stated, “Constructive possession exists where the defendant does not have physical possession of the contraband but knows of its presence and can maintain dominion and control over it. See Knight v. State, 186 So. 3d 1005, 1012 (Fla. 2016); Julian v. State, 545 So. 2d 347, 348 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989). But because the rental car in which the troopers found the cocaine was in joint possession, rather than in Jones’s exclusive possession, “knowledge” and “ability to maintain dominion and control” could not be inferred from Jones’s mere proximity to the contraband. See Evans v. State, 32 So. 3d 188, 189-90 (Fla. 1st DCA 2010). Rather, the State was required to establish independent proof of Jones’s knowledge and ability to maintain control over the cocaine, such as evidence of incriminating statements or actions or circumstantial evidence from which a jury might properly infer that Jones had knowledge of the presence of the cocaine. Kemp v. State, 166 So. 3d 213, 217 (Fla. 1st DCA 2015) (quoting Julian, 545 So. 2d at 348); Robinson v. State, 936 So. 2d 1164, 1167 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006); Brown v. State, 8 So. 3d 1187, 1189 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009).
Call Adam at 813.397.3965 today for your free consultation! Adam is an Brandon’s Board Certified Criminal Trial Law Attorney.