Florida Drug Possession Acquittal Overturned on Appeal After Finding that Evidence of “Constructive Possession” Existed at Trial

Car at NightAs with many crimes, Florida drug possession can be prosecuted in a variety of different ways. It’s clear that if a person is arrested with contraband on his or her person, that might be used as evidence to prove the crime. However, what happens when the drug is present in an area where you are present, but it’s not actually on your person? It’s still possible for the State to seek a conviction under those circumstances based on what is known as “constructive possession.” A November 15, 2017 case, decided by the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals, reversed the acquittal of the criminal defendant after the appeals court ruled that there was enough evidence to uphold the jury’s finding of possession of cocaine.

The defendant’s car was stopped after he was spotted parked in front of a house where a man walked up to the passenger side of the car, stayed for a few minutes, and then left. The police searched the defendant’s car and found a small rock of crack cocaine on the sliding track under the driver’s seat. There was no evidence at trial that the defendant owned the car or that anyone else drove or rode in the car regularly.

The jury returned a verdict of guilty; however, the judge overruled the jury and acquitted the defendant because of a lack of evidence. The State appealed the judge’s decision.

A defendant may be convicted of possession if he is found to be in constructive possession of contraband. Constructive possession can be proven by showing that the defendant had knowledge of the presence of the contraband and that he exercised control over it. If the premises on which the drugs are found are in the exclusive possession and control of the accused, knowledge of their presence on such premises coupled with his ability to maintain control over them may be inferred. This rebuttable inference stands even when the state offers no evidence of how the defendant came to possess the vehicle in which the drugs were found.

The appeals court found that in this case, the jury could have properly found the defendant guilty of possession of cocaine under the theory of constructive possession. The evidence established that the defendant was in possession and control of the car when the rock of cocaine was discovered. This alone is sufficient to establish a prima facie case of guilt. The appeals court reversed and remanded for the trial court to reinstate the jury’s verdict and proceed with sentencing.

Attorney Will Hanlon understands how to make sure that a defendant’s rights are protected to the fullest extent of the law and how to make sure that police and prosecutors play by the rules. Our firm works tirelessly at each step of the criminal justice process. We also serve people in St. Petersburg. Call us at 727.897.5413 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with Clearwater drug crime attorney Will Hanlon.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Analyzes What Constitutes a “Weapon” Under the Felony Reclassification Statute, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, 

Identification of Typo Changes Crime Classification in Florida Defendant’s Conviction, Clearwater & St. Petersburg Criminal Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2017

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