Robin Fuson

What Are The Legal Defenses For Drug Possession Charges?

Drug Crimes

How does the state of Florida prove that someone is guilty of possessing illegal drugs? What if the accused person is innocent? If someone is charged with the possession of illegal drugs in Florida, how can that person defend himself or herself? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what everyone should know about defending yourself against drug possession charges in this state.

In 2015, nearly 1.5 million people were arrested for drug crimes in the United States. More than eighty percent of those arrests were for drug possession charges. While possessing a small amount of cannabis for personal use is not the most severe crime that you can commit, a conviction for possession of illegal drugs can still put you behind bars in the state of Florida.

If you are charged with possessing illegal drugs, your immediate priority must be obtaining reliable, experienced legal representation. Historically, innocent people in Florida have been prosecuted for possessing illegal drugs – with the intent to sell – when the accused had no such intention and the drugs were strictly for personal consumption.


Thus, in the state of Florida, it is imperative to have a defense lawyer’s legal help after a drug arrest. A Tampa criminal defense attorney has several ways to defend clients against drug possession charges. A defense attorney will choose a defense strategy based on the details and circumstances of each particular case.

Illegal drug possession is either “actual” possession or “constructive” possession. Actual possession is presumed when drugs are discovered on a suspect’s “person” – in the suspect’s purse, backpack, pocket, stashed in shoes or socks, or swallowed. “Constructive” possession of illegal drugs is presumed when illegal drugs are discovered in an area where a suspect had “dominion and control” – the suspect’s home or automobile, for example.

One of the standard defenses used in drug possession cases is the “unwitting possession” strategy. Even if illegal drugs are discovered on someone’s person, that person cannot be convicted of illegally possessing drugs if he or she did not know that the drugs were there – that is, if the person “unwittingly” possessed the illegal drugs.


For example, let’s say that someone sends illegal drugs surreptitiously through UPS or Federal Express. Assuming that the driver who delivers the package probably does not know that it contains illegal drugs, that driver cannot be convicted of a crime even though he or she is technically “in possession” of the illegal drugs.

Unwitting possession may also be a defense strategy in a “constructive” drug possession case. If police officers search a suspect’s home and discover illegal drugs that the person was not aware of, the suspect’s defense to the constructive possession charge would be an “unwitting possession” defense.

Another defense strategy used in constructive possession cases is the “lack of possession” strategy. It’s a strategy used when the “dominion and control” requirement of constructive possession is difficult for the state to prove. When a car is pulled over with several people, for example, and illegal drugs are discovered, it is difficult to charge only one person with drug possession. The same principle applies when several people are living in the same residence.

Because “dominion and control” is a requirement to convict someone for the constructive possession of illegal drugs, the lack of dominion and control is, in effect, a “lack of possession” defense strategy. Unwitting possession and lack of possession, however, are not the only defense strategies that can be used in drug possession cases in this state.


Sometimes the best defense strategy in a drug crime case is attempting to discredit the police. A defense attorney may challenge the testimony of an informant, an unreliable witness, or an arresting officer. The police collect most of their evidence in drug cases through “search and seizure,” but the U.S. Constitution forbids “unreasonable” searches and seizures by police.

Thus, one defense strategy commonly used in drug possession cases is claiming that any illegal drugs discovered by the police were discovered illegally. If the police conducted an illegal search and seizure, if they planted evidence, or if a suspect was illegally placed under surveillance, a defense attorney will argue that any charges against the defendant must be dropped.

Another defense strategy in some drug cases is to charge that the police “entrapped” the defendant. Entrapment is when an individual is induced or cajoled by the police into breaking the law when that individual would not have broken the law otherwise. However, if a defendant was not induced but instead voluntarily purchased illegal drugs from a police undercover agent, no entrapment has occurred.

When someone is wrongly accused of possessing someone else’s illegal drugs – and can prove it – or when the police violate a defendant’s rights to obtain evidence, that is often enough to have a drug possession charge dismissed. The penalties for those convicted of illegal drug possession in Florida are determined to a great extent by the quantity of drugs or amount of money involved, the type of drugs, whether weapons or minors were involved, and a defendant’s criminal record.


Attempting to defend yourself against a drug possession charge is never a good idea. The law is simply too complicated, and it’s far too easy to make a serious mistake or to say something that can be used against you. Instead, if you are arrested and charged with possessing illegal drugs in the Tampa Bay area or anywhere else in central Florida, contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer at once.

A criminal defense lawyer can explain the charge or charges against you, review the particulars of the case, and then fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. A “not guilty” verdict is always the defense’s goal, but if the evidence against a suspect is overwhelming and a conviction is sure, a good defense lawyer can negotiate for reduced or alternative sentencing.

In the state of Florida, if you are charged with the possession of illegal drugs, politely insist on your right to remain silent and your right to have an attorney present during any questioning. Sign nothing, admit to nothing, and confess nothing before you meet with and consult an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney regarding your case.

Robin Fuson
By Robin Fuson