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Constructive Possession of Drugs in Florida Does Not Require Drugs to be On or Near Defendant

A lot of drug possession and trafficking of drug cases in Florida involve police finding drugs not on the defendant but near him or even somewhere far away from the defendant. There are two types of possession cases in Florida that can be the basis of a drug possession or trafficking conviction. Actual possession is usually simple. If a person is carrying the drugs or has them on his person, that is usually enough to prove actual possession. But, Florida law does not require the drugs to actually be on the person for a drug possession conviction. Constructive possession can also result in a criminal conviction if the state can show that the defendant knew of the existence of the drugs and had some ability to control them. All such cases will depend on the specific circumstances and what each side can prove.

In a recent drug possession case west of Jacksonville, Florida,  police stopped the defendant for driving with a suspended license. The defendant was the driver and owner of the vehicle, and there was one front seat passenger. The police, who surely had prior information about the defendant, had a drug dog ready to walk around the vehicle. The drug dog alerted to the odor of illegal drugs, and the police searched the vehicle. They found a safe under some clothes in the backseat. The police forced open the safe and found various drugs inside, including heroin and methamphetamine. They also found receipts, bills and other documents in the name of the defendant in the safe. He was charged with various drug possession charges.

At the trial, the criminal defense lawyer filed a motion for judgment of acquittal arguing that the state could not prove the defendant was in actual or constructive possession of the drugs since they were locked in a safe in the backseat. The legal standard is whether the state produced competent and substantial evidence that the defendant was guilty. The court found that the state presented sufficient evidence because the drugs were in a car owned and driven by the defendant and had papers inside the safe belonging to him. Apparently, the defendant did not have a valid explanation for how his belongings got into the safe with the drugs without him knowing the drugs were there. While there was a passenger in the car that the defendant could blame for the drugs, neither the car nor any items in the safe with the drugs belonged to that passenger. As a result, that defense was not found to be credible. The conviction against defendant was upheld.

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