Possession vs. Possession with Intent: Tampa Drug Charges

When it comes to drug possession charges, every detail counts. One of the most important is the intent of the defendant, which refers to his or her intention, purpose, or goal. In addition to trying to prove that the defendant had drugs in his or her possession, the prosecuting attorney may try to prove that the defendant intended to sell or distribute these drugs. Possession with intent is a far more serious crime.

Simple possession may be charged as a misdemeanor in Florida, but possession “with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver” as defined in Florida Statutes § 893.13(1)(a) is a felony. Depending on the type of substance and the amount, it may be charged as a second- or third-degree felony, with penalties ranging from 5 to 15 years in prison—plus significant fines.

Let’s take a closer look at possession with intent and when the prosecution will try to pursue this charge instead of simple possession.

How Prosecutors Prove Intent to Sell/Distribute

Possession with intent charges must be based on evidence, not assumptions. The prosecuting attorney will try to build a case based on physical evidence that indicates the defendant had the goal of selling or distributing drugs.

Such evidence may include:

  • The presence of drug paraphernalia (scales, bags, etc.)
  • The presence of large amounts of cash, client lists, or firearms
  • The way drugs or drug paraphernalia were packaged, placed, or present
  • The defendant’s statements—if he or she admitted to intent to sell/distribute

For example, you may face possession with intent charges if the police searched your home and found not only marijuana but also small bags and a scale, a list of names and phone numbers, and cash. Using this additional evidence, the prosecution may try to claim that you intended to sell the marijuana. Suddenly, you’re facing felony instead of misdemeanor charges.

What We Can Do About It

In any criminal case, the prosecuting attorney must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This can be particularly challenging in possession with intent charges, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can take advantage of this by exposing even the smallest weakness in the evidence or the way it was discovered, acquired, or handled.

A skilled attorney will ask the right questions, such as:

  • Did law enforcement have a warrant or probable cause to search your person/property?
  • Was there another reason bags, scales, or cash were present on your property?
  • Were your rights violated in any way?
  • Was evidence mishandled?
  • Were the drugs actually yours? Did you have knowledge of their presence?

If you were unaware of drugs on your property, if law enforcement did not have probable cause to conduct a search in the first place, or if you had cash or alleged “drug paraphernalia” for an entirely different purpose, you should not face possession with intent charges. Your attorney can use such factors in your favor to help you avoid enhanced charges and penalties, to help you avoid a conviction, or even to compel the prosecuting attorney to drop the charges altogether.

At Thomas & Paulk, we’ve dealt with a wide range of drug charges in the greater Tampa area. We know the tactics that law enforcement personnel and prosecuting attorneys use to secure convictions for possession with intent instead of simple possession. Our attorneys have defended clients’ rights in over 7,000 criminal cases. This experience gives us an advantage in every case we touch, and we’re ready to see how we can help you.

Give us a call at (813) 321-7323 for more information and a free consultation.

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