Importation of Cannabis in Florida

Under Florida Statute 893.13(5)(1), the crime of Importation of Cannabis is defined as bringing any amount of cannabis into the state of Florida without an importation license issued by the state of Florida.

Penalties for Importation of Cannabis

In Florida, the crime of Importation of Cannabis is a Third Degree Felony punishable by up to five (5) years in prison, five (5) years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.

Importation of Cannabis is assigned a Level 3 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code and a judge may sentence a person convicted of Importation of Cannabis to probation, but may also impose a sentence up to the statutory maximum.

Driver's License Suspension

Pursuant to Florida Statute 322.055, any person convicted of Importation of Cannabis will have their driver’s license or driving privilege revoked for one year by the Florida DHSMV.

Defenses to Importation of Cannabis

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, common defenses to the crime of Importation of Cannabis are:

Constructive Possession

If the cannabis was found in a place where more than one person had access, the prosecutor would have to comply with the law of constructive possession, which requires the prosecutor to prove the following two elements before you can be convicted of Importation of Cannabis: [1]

  1. Knowledge of the Cannabis' presence; and
  2. Dominion and control over the cannabis, which means more than the mere ability to reach out and touch the cannabis. [2]

Below are scenarios where it can be argued the prosecutor could not meet their burden of proving constructive Importation of Cannabis.

Scenario 1: You sign for a package on behalf of a friend and, unbeknown to you, the package contained cannabis. The prosecution should unable to convict you of Importation of Cannabis unless they had some proof that you knew the cannabis was present.
Scenario 2: Your roommate has cannabis shipped to the house, law enforcement intercept the package, but still deliver it to the house and your roommate accepts it. They then search the house after it is delivered. They should be unable to convict you of Importation of Cannabis because even though you may have known the cannabis was there, your friend is the only person who exercised dominion and control over the package.

Illegal Search and Seizure

More often than not, law enforcement exceed the scope of their authority and require people to submit to a vehicle, home, or body search; or they may coerce a person into agreeing to a search. If we can prove that either instance occurred, the courts will suppress the resulting evidence as having been illegally obtained.

Other suppression possibilities that may present themselves are: if law enforcement obtained a search warrant in bad faith or if you were arrested without probable cause.

Lack of Knowledge

It is an affirmative defense to the crime of Importation of Cannabis if you can prove that you did not know the substance in your possession was cannabis. Because knowledge is an affirmative defense, you would be required to testify a lack of knowledge of the substance's illegal nature. [3]

A typical example would be if you signed for a delivery on behalf of a friend and, unbeknown to you, the package contained cannabis. In such a case, absent an admission, the prosecutor would likely be unable to prove that you imported the cannabis.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been charged with the crime of Importation of Cannabis in Central Florida or the Greater Orlando area, contact Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. GG v. State, 84 So. 3d 1162 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012)
  2. Smith v. State, 123 So. 3d 656, 658 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013)
  3. Florida Statute 893.101