Trafficking in Cannabis in Florida

Florida imposes mandatory minimum prison sentences and stiff fines for people convicted of Trafficking in Cannabis.

Because of these serious consequences, it is important to know the:

Definition of Trafficking in Cannabis

Under Florida Statute 893.135(1)(a), the crime of Trafficking in Cannabis is committed when a person:

  1. Knowingly possesses, sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or transports either;
    • 25 pounds or more of cannabis; or
    • 300 or more cannabis plants.

Cannabis Trafficking Quantities

If a person is caught trafficking in cannabis, the minimum penalties they face are determined by the following cannabis trafficking quantity ranges:

  • 3 years prison / $25,000 fine
    • 25 to 1,999 pounds of cannabis; or
    • 300 to 1,999 cannabis plants.
  • 7 years prison / $50,000 fine
    • 2,000 to 9,999 pounds of cannabis; or
    • 2,000 to 9,999 cannabis plants.
  • 15 years prison / $200,000 fine
    • 10,000 pounds or more of cannabis; or
    • 10,000 or more cannabis plants.

Penalties for Trafficking in Cannabis

The crime of Trafficking in Cannabis is classified as a First Degree Felony and, depending on the amount of cannabis, is assigned either a Level 8 or a Level 9 offense severity ranking under Florida's Criminal Punishment Code.

Under Florida law, unless the State Attorney agrees to waive the mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, the penalties are as follows:

Trafficking in 25 to 1,999 pounds of cannabis, or 300 to 1,999 cannabis plants

If convicted of Trafficking in 25 to 1,999 pounds of cannabis, or 300 to 1,999 cannabis plants, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 3 years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Trafficking in 2,000 to 9,999 pounds of cannabis, or 2,000 to 9,999 cannabis plants

If convicted of Trafficking in 2,000 to 9,999 pounds of cannabis, or 2,000 to 9,999 cannabis plants, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Trafficking in 10,000 pounds or more of cannabis, or 10,000 or more cannabis plants

If convicted of Trafficking in 10,000 pounds or more of cannabis, or 10,000 or more cannabis plants, a judge can impose a maximum sentence of thirty (30) years in prison, but is required to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $200,000 fine.

Defenses to Trafficking in Cannabis

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

Entrapment

Entrapment occurs when an undercover law enforcement officer or confidential informant induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would otherwise have been unlikely to commit. If it can be shown you were entrapped, the court can dismiss the charges against you.

Illegal Search and Seizure

Often, law enforcement exceed the scope of their authority and require people to submit to a vehicle, home, or body search when they otherwise would not be required to; coerce people into agreeing to a search; arrest people without probable cause; or obtain search warrants in bad faith.

If any of these can be proven through the filing of a Motion to Suppress, the courts will suppress the resulting evidence as having been illegally obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States; which can lead to an outright dismissal of the case.

Insufficient Evidence

The prosecutor can only prove you possessed cannabis for the purposes of trafficking in one of two ways:

  1. Actual Possession
  2. Constructive Possession

Actual Possession

To prove that you actually possessed cannabis, the prosecutor has to show the cannabis was found on your person. So if the cannabis was found in your personally owned car while you were driving, the prosecutor would have a case involving actual possession of cannabis.

Constructive Possession

On the other hand, if the cannabis was found in a place where more than one person had access, the prosecutor would have a much more difficult time proving you possessed the cannabis because they would have to comply with the law of constructive possession.

The law of constructive possession requires the prosecutor to prove each of three distinct elements before you can be convicted:

  1. Knowledge of the cannabis's presence;
  2. Knowledge the substance was cannabis; and
  3. Dominion and control over the cannabis.

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

Scenario 1: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found cannabis in the trunk, they would be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Cannabis unless they had some proof that you knew the cannabis was there.
Scenario 2: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police found a cannabis package in the back seat, but in plain view. They would be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Cannabis unless they had some proof that you knew the package contained cannabis.
Scenario 3: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend takes a package with cannabis in it and places it in the passenger side door pocket. The police then stop you, see your friend's package, and arrest both of you. As long as there is not evidence you were working in conjunction with your friend, they would be unable to convict you of Trafficking in Cannabis because, even though you knew the cannabis was there, your friend is the only person who had dominion and control over it.

Substantial Assistance

While not technically a defense, Substantial Assistance is the most commonly utilized method to avoid the minimum-mandatory sentencing required for the crime of Trafficking in Cannabis.

The state attorney is authorized by statute to ask the court to reduce or suspend a sentence of any person who is convicted of drug trafficking when the person provides substantial assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any other person engaged in trafficking in controlled substances.

This remedy is routinely offered pursuant to a "Substantial Assistance Contract" that requires you to "assist" law enforcement in arresting a specific amount of individuals involved in trafficking drugs within a limited period of time.

However, if you are unable to deliver the specified amount of people, you will be required to serve the applicable mandatory minimum prison sentence; regardless of how hard you tried to "assist" law enforcement.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been charged or arrested with the crime of Trafficking in 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.