Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Tampa Car Accident Lawyer
FREE Consultations Available
Tampa Car Accident Lawyers > Blog > Drug Crimes > Defending and Resolving Marijuana Possession Cases in Hillsborough County

Defending and Resolving Marijuana Possession Cases in Hillsborough County


The political climate is changing with regard to marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal in Florida, and so is industrial hemp. The industrial hemp law, which took effect in July 2019, has a significant effect on marijuana criminal cases, as explained below.

Despite these changing winds, Florida arguably has the harshest marijuana possession law in the country. Simple possession of under 20 grams is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. That’s a pretty stiff penalty for a single joint. Some cities have suspended or limited marijuana enforcement activities. But these are executive orders which could be rescinded tomorrow and cannot be relied on.

Although the law remains harsh, the changing climate gives Tampa criminal defense attorneys more options in these cases. These options usually rely on some traditional marijuana defenses, as well as a new one, courtesy of the aforementioned Senate Bill 1020.

Legal Definition of Marijuana

When lawmakers legalized hemp, they partially included marijuana. According to SB 1020, “hemp” is any marijuana product which contains less than 0.3 percent THC. That seems straightforward. But most law enforcement entities, including most Florida Highway Patrol divisions, do not possess testing equipment which can distinguish marijuana from hemp based on THC level.

The state has the burden of proof to show that the substance the defendant possessed was illegal. Until the Legislature amends SB 1020 or buys the necessary equipment, it’s impossible to make this showing beyond a reasonable doubt.

Texas lawmakers recently passed a similar law with a similar 0.3 percent threshold. Shortly thereafter, the Texas Department of Public Safety sent a memo to troopers instructing them to “cite and release” in misdemeanor marijuana possession cases.

Definition of Possession

Simple possession cases account for about 80 percent of the criminal drug matters in Hillsborough County. Police officers mistakenly believe that the cases are easy to prove in court. They are not. Legally, possession and proximity are not synonymous. Prosecutors must also establish:

  • Knowledge and
  • Control

These two additional elements are very difficult to establish in vehicle possession matters. Assume Jake is in the back seat when an officer pulls over Samir for speeding. After officers sell marijuana, Samir gives them permission to search the car. They find marijuana in the glove compartment. Then, they arrest everyone in the car, including Jake, for marijuana possession.

But Jake probably did not legally possess the marijuana. It’s impossible to prove knowledge, unless Jake saw Samir put the drugs in the glove compartment or Samir told him “there is marijuana in the glove compartment.” Additionally, it’s very difficult for a person in the back seat to control something in the front seat. That’s especially true if the glove compartment was locked.

Resolving Drug Possession Matters

Since marijuana possession is almost always a nonviolent offense, pretrial diversion is usually available, especially if the defendant had no criminal record. If the defendant completes some program requirements, such as attending a self-improvement class, prosecutors dismiss the case before trial.

Deferred adjudication may be an option as well, even if the defendant has a criminal record. If the defendant successfully completes probation, the judge dismisses the case.

Connect with Experienced Lawyers

A new law gives marijuana possession defendants additional legal options. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa drug crimes attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

The experience you need in your pursuit of justice

The greatest distinguishing feature among attorneys is their level of experience. Our firm has more than 60 years of legal experience, much of it spent in the courtroom at trial. As a result, our Tampa personal injury lawyers rarely encounter an unfamiliar situation and can thoroughly answer your urgent questions. Our criminal defense practice features a board certified criminal trial lawyer and two former prosecutors with impressive knowledge of trial tactics and procedures.

The resources to provide quality representation for the length of your case

Whether your case involves medical malpractice, an auto accident or a wrongful death, your attorney must be prepared to take the case all the way through trial to verdict. Many personal injury attorneys advance the cost of litigation, so they can only last so long before financial pressures start to mount. As a client, you have to wonder whether an attorney's advice to settle your case reflects the quality of the offer or your attorneys need to get paid. Fortunately, The Matassini Law Firm has the resources to pursue civil verdicts and settlements that reflect the actual value of your case.

Call our Tampa Bay car accident lawyers for a free consultation

A crisis in your life calls for capable and compassionate assistance. The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. addresses your needs all the way through the legal process. For your free initial confidential conference with one of our Tampa car accident attorneys, call us today at 813-217-5715 or contact us online.

Share This Page:
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Toll Free
2811 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, Florida 33609