In Florida, there is often a significant different in penalties between possessing drugs and trafficking drugs. Possession of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine or methamphetamine is a serious felony charge, but can often be resolved without jail or prison time depending on the defendant’s criminal history and the circumstances of the case. Trafficking in marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine or other drugs is always a serious felony charge and will likely come with a minimum mandatory prison sentence. The difference between a mere possession of drugs charge and a trafficking in drugs charge will normally be the weight of the drugs possessed. For instance, if a person possesses more than 25 pounds of marijuana, he/she can be charged with trafficking in marijuana and face a three year minimum mandatory prison sentence. If a person possesses 28 grams or more of cocaine, he/she can be charged with trafficking in cocaine and face a three year minimum mandatory prison sentence.
In many trafficking cases, the police find separate quantities of drugs on or near the defendant. The police and the state will likely try to aggregate those various quantities to get a weight of more than 25 pounds, in the case of marijuana, or 28 grams, in the case of cocaine. In these cases, a criminal defense lawyer must be careful to make sure the state properly tests each quantity to ensure that everything that is added up is actually the drug charged. For instance, if the police find a person with three separate 10 grams bags of a white, powdery substance, the police will likely aggregate them to come up with a quantity greater than or equal to 28 grams and charge the defendant with trafficking in cocaine. However, if one of the bags is a cutting agent or some other substance that looks like cocaine, it should not be combined with the other bags of cocaine to get to 28 grams or more. If the contents of each bag do not test positive for cocaine, then the state may not be able to prove a case of trafficking if the separate bags were necessarily combined to get to 28 grams of cocaine. In that case, possession of cocaine would be the appropriate charge.