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Police Officer Brings Marijuana Into Jail, Blames Juvenile and Arrests Him

It is illegal in Florida to bring contraband into a jail or other detention facility. Normally, examples of contraband that bring about this criminal charge include drugs (legal or prescription), cigarettes and other tobacco products and weapons. If a person possesses contraband in, or brings contraband into, a county detention facility, it is a third degree felony crime in Florida, punishable by up to five years in prison.

In a recent case south of Jacksonville, Florida, a juvenile was arrested on an outstanding juvenile pickup order. The juvenile had a backpack with him. The police officer took possession of the backpack and took the juvenile to jail. The police officer never returned the backpack to the juvenile. The police officer took the juvenile and the backpack into the jail. Once inside, the police officer opened the backpack to inventory the contents as is standard procedure. When they searched the backpack, the found less than 20 grams of marijuana inside. The police then arrested the juvenile for the felony charge of introducing contraband into a county detention facility along with misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

The criminal defense lawyer moved to dismiss the felony introducing contraband into the county detention facility charge because the juvenile did not actually bring the backpack containing the marijuana into the jail. The state argued that the juvenile was in constructive possession of the backpack, and the marijuana inside, so that was sufficient to support the charge. A person can be in constructive possession of drugs or other items even if he/she does not actually have the item on him/her. However, constructive possession requires that a person knows the items are present and has the ability to control the items. Presumably, the juvenile knew the marijuana was in his backpack, however he did not have control over it once the police officer took the backpack and arrested him. As a result, the juvenile did not possess the backpack and marijuana and could not be held responsible for bringing the marijuana into the jail.