Possession vs. Intent to Distribute: What’s the Difference?
Written by Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law on September 7, 2017
When it comes to drugs, there are two main charges that a person can face: possession and intent to distribute. Possession refers to someone having drugs for personal use only. Intent to distribute refers to drug trafficking and the sale of drugs.
While possession is typically a minor crime, it can cause a person to be charged with a felony, especially if the person is found in possession of large amounts of drugs. If you are charged with a drug crime in Florida, find out more about the charges and penalties you could face.
Drug Possession in Florida
Drug possession refers to drugs found not only on the person, but also drugs that are within the person’s control. This means that the drugs could be found in a home or vehicle, and could still be legally considered in the person’s possession.
In order to be charged with drug possession, the prosecution must prove three elements:
- The substance is in fact illegal. Since a substance can look like a drug but not necessarily be one, it may need to be analyzed by a crime lab.
- The person’s knowledge of the drug. It must be proven that the defendant knew the drug was illegal.
- The person’s control of the drug. This is easy to prove if the drugs were found on the defendant, but if police find drugs in a vehicle or home, proving that they belong to a particular person is more challenging.
A person could face first degree misdemeanor, third degree felony or first degree felony charges for drug possession, depending on the amount. Penalties range from up to one year in jail to possibly 30 years in prison. Fines could go up to $250,000.
Intent to Distribute in Florida
A person can be charged with intent to distribute a drug if a person is caught with an unusually large amount of a drug and it can be proven that the person intended to sell the drug. Intent to distribute is a drug trafficking charge that comes with serious penalties. To convict a person of this crime, the prosecution must prove these two elements:
- The defendant knew he or she was selling drugs to others.
- The substances the defendant was selling were illegal.
Intent to distribute is considered a felony in Florida. A person can be charged with a first, second or third degree felony. A third degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. A second degree felony can result in 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A person charged with a second degree felony may face 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Need Help With a Florida Drug Case?
Florida is a state with tough drug laws. Drug crimes could cause you to face felony charges. As such, you could face stiff fines, prison time and a huge mark on your criminal record. It’s important to have strong defense from an experienced legal professional.
At the offices of Moses & Rooth, Attorneys at Law, our Florida criminal defense attorneys have experience as both prosecutors and defense lawyers in drug cases. We can put our experience to work for you. Contact us today at (407) 377-0150 to schedule a free consultation.