Knowledge Required For Florida Possession of a Controlled Substance

What is the law for possession of a controlled substance in Florida? The law that prohibits possession of marijuana, cocaine, and other controlled substances and illegal drugs is Florida Statute Section 893.13. When you are charged with possession of marijuana in Jacksonville, the state must prove certain elements. The same is true for other drug possession cases, such as Florida possession of cocaine case and other drug possession charges. Florida jury instruction 25.7 states that the state must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt when it comes to drug possession cases. The State of Florida must prove: (1) Defendant possessed a certain substance; (2) the substance was the specific controlled substance alleged; and (3) Defendant had knowledge of the presence of the substance. This means that the prosecution must show that the defendant knew that the contraband was present, and he or she was in actual or constructive possession of the contraband.

One of the issues that arise with possession of a controlled substance and illegal drugs is the knowledge element. The legal secondary source, Florida Jurisprudence 2nd edition, does an excellent job of summarizing the difference between knowledge of the presence of the controlled substance and knowledge that the substance was illegal. Section 1381 states:

Florida Criminal Attorney

Defending Jacksonville Drug Cases Based on Knowledge

“Unlawful possession is defined primarily by decisional law. As just noted, the courts have held that one of its elements is guilty knowledge, that is, the defendant’s knowledge of the presence of the controlled substance.Statutory law expressly provides that another type of guilty knowledge—the defendant’s knowledge of the illicit nature of a substance—is not an element of any drug offense. Instead, the lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is an affirmative defense to these offenses. When a defendant asserts this affirmative defense, then the actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance by the defendant gives rise to the permissive presumption that the possessor knew of the illicit nature of the substance. The legislature enacted this measure with the express intention of changing Florida case law holding that knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance is an essential element of possession offenses. The courts have found this measure constitutional but have refrained from applying it retroactively. Knowledge of the presence of contraband can be proved via the defendant’s own statements. This knowledge may also be inferred or presumed from certain circumstances, such as the defendant’s exclusive possession of the premises or vehicle in which the contraband is found but not the defendant’s joint possession.” 16B Fla. Jur 2d Criminal Law—Substantive Principles/Offenses § 1381

The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled on a case that also discussed the difference between knowledge of the presence of an illegal drug and knowledge that the substance was an illegal drug. The Florida appellate court stated:

“Section 893.101 did not remove the guilty knowledge element from these offenses, thereby converting section 893.13 offenses into strict liability crimes. Instead, it merely abrogated the additional ‘knowledge of illicit nature’ element, added by the supreme court in Chicone v. State, 684 So.2d 736 (Fla.1996). Section 893.13 remains constitutional…. Lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of a substance is distinct from lack of knowledge of the presence of the substance. See Barrientos v. State, 1 So.3d 1209, 1217 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009); De La Cruz v. State, 884 So.2d 349, 351 n. 1 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004). A defendant’s claim that he or she did not know that white powder was concealed in an item possessed is different from the claim that he or she did not know that the concealed powder was an illegal drug.” Maestas v. State, 76 So. 3d 991, 994 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011)

When it comes to defending a possession of marijuana, cocaine, or other drug case, it is important to discuss all the details of your case with your Jacksonville criminal lawyer. As you can tell from the case above, one little change in facts can make a big difference. Your Jacksonville criminal attorney must be aware of all the facts to help you defend the case.

 

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