In Florida, there are two types of possession of drugs cases. There are actual possession cases where the defendant is actually holding or carrying the drugs, and there are constructive possession cases where the defendant is not actually holding the drugs but knows they are there and has some ability to control the drugs. Most constructive possession cases occur when the police find drugs in a vehicle or residence that either belongs to the defendant or in which the defendant is located. In those cases, the state needs to present evidence that establishes a legitimate connection between the defendant and the drugs. The strength of these cases is highly dependent on the particular facts. The more evidence the state has that the drugs belonged to the defendant (although the state does not have to prove ownership), the stronger the state’s drug case is.
In a possession of cocaine and marijuana case south of Jacksonville, Florida, the police located the marijuana and cocaine in an apartment. The defendant was arrested going to the apartment because the defendant had a key to the apartment. However, the defendant was arrested before he could enter the apartment. There was no other evidence that the defendant lived in the apartment or had any other connection to the drugs inside.
The court ultimately threw out this case. The criminal defense lawyer noted that a person can have the key to an apartment without living there or having any knowledge of what is inside at the time, i.e. a friend, neighbor, relative, landlord. Therefore, having a key to a residence is not sufficient to attribute drugs in the residence to that person. The state needed to prove much more of a connection between the defendant and the drugs. For instance, if the state could prove the defendant lived in the apartment and the drugs were found in the defendant’s room, perhaps through personal items, electric bills, etc, then the state would have more of a constructive possession case. However, without such evidence, the state’s possession case was thrown out.