As a criminal defense lawyer, I encounter possession cocaine with intent to buy, sell, or deliver cases all the time. Unlike simple possession of cocaine, possession cocaine with intent is a crime that concerns the commercial aspects of the cocaine trade. In other words, the main difference between simple possession and possession with intent is the allegation that the crime was allegedly committed for a commercial purpose as opposed to personal use.
In the eyes of the law, possession of cocaine for commercial use
is far worse than possession of cocaine for personal use.
Florida Statutes and federal law are much more sympathetic to people who are addicted to cocaine versus those who sell it to make money. In many ways, the criminal justice system views cocaine dealers as predators who prey on drug addicts to make money. This image affects every aspect of a possession with intent case.
This is because the law recognizes that people who commit simple possession of cocaine often times do so because of the drug’s addictive nature. While addiction is not an affirmative defense to possession, the law does recognize that cocaine’s addictive properties cause people to do criminal acts that they otherwise may not do. In other words, there is a physiological reason that motivates people to break the law, as opposed to a desire to make money.
This difference makes a possession with intent case far more serious than a simple possession case. First, the penalties are much more serious. Second, some possession with intent charges carry stiff minimum mandatory prison sentences. Third, prosecutors and judges view cocaine dealers in a much worse light than those who are addicted to cocaine. Fourth, someone accused of possession with intent is less likely to be given a break than a person accused of simple possession, even as a first time offender. Fifth, even when a possession with intent case does not carry a minimum mandatory prison sentence, some prosecutors will insist on a prison sentence because they consider drug dealing to be far worse than personal use.
For these and other reasons, it is extremely important for a criminal defense lawyer to act prudently when defending someone accused of possession with intent. It is imperative to analyze each and every aspect of the case to flush out any and all defenses. For example, if a person is accused of selling cocaine within 1000’ feet of a school, a prudent criminal defense lawyer will actually go to the scene of the alleged sale and measure the distance to the school.
Nothing can be taken for granted and no one,
especially police detectives trying to build a case,
can be trusted.
Later on in this section we will discuss the legal elements of possession with intent that must be proven by the prosecutor, defenses to possession with intent charges, the role of forensic evidence, confidential informants, substantial assistance agreements, how police build possession with intent cases, and a host of other topics.