A traffic stop on the West side of Jacksonville led the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to confiscating 45 pounds of marijuana on Wednesday afternoon, according to a report from The Florida Times Union. A man was pulled over for a traffic violation in Jacksonville and the officer said he smelled marijuana smoke emanating from the vehicle. The officer asked the driver if he had any pot in the vehicle and he answered yes. After searching the vehicle the officer discovered fifteen pounds of marijuana in a suitcase. An hour later police arrived at the man’s house with a Duval County search warrant and discovered 30 pounds of marijuana, seven cell phones, a loaded gun, and several thousand dollars in cash. The man has been arrested on charges for drug distribution in Jacksonville.
To be charged with Jacksonville possession of an illegal drug, physical or actual possession is not a requirement. It is sufficient to have “constructive possession” of the illegal substance. Constructive possession means you have knowledge of an object plus the ability to control it. So if drugs are in your car, or even your house, but not physically on your person, police still have the ability to make a drug possession arrest. They will have to prove that you knew the drugs were there however. With regard to marijuana, possession of less than 20 grams is a first degree misdemeanor, and over 20 grams is a third degree felony. However, possession of over 25 pounds is a first degree felony and comes with a minimum mandatory three year sentence as well as a $25,000 fine. This level of possession is considered trafficking in marijuana.
So what did the man arrested Wednesday do wrong? Besides possessing 45 pounds of an illicit drug, by smoking marijuana in the car, which was transporting a suitcase full of the drug, he gave the officer probable cause to search the vehicle. The officer said he smelled marijuana smoke when he approached the car. Police will use a claim like this to give them a reason to search your vehicle. Without probable cause, police are not allowed to search your vehicle, or home, unless you give them permission, which you don’t have to do. You can always say no, unless, as the man in this story did, you give them a reason to override your objection. That reason is probable cause. As for the warrant to search the man’s house, it is not clear exactly what the man said to police, but without telling them you have more drugs at home, are distributing drugs, or some other substantial reason, it is unlikely police will get a warrant to search a house simply by finding drugs in a vehicle. In this case, however, because such a large amount of marijuana was found in the car, and because the man admitted to police that he had it in his possession and likely told them more, police were probably able to convince a judge to sign off on the search warrant on the assumption that they would find more drugs and evidence of drug distribution, which they did.
If you or a loved one is ever in a situation like this, do not give the officer probable cause to search your vehicle in the first place, do not consent to a search, and if arrested, do not speak to police before calling call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Drug Criminal Lawyer is experienced in handling drug charges and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.