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The Temporary Possession Of Drugs Defense

temporary possession of drugs

THE LAW ON TEMPORARY POSSESION

Many people, including criminal defense attorneys believe that if you  get caught with drugs that you are guilty of a crime. However this is not necessarily true if the person only takes temporary possession of the drugs. In Campbell v. State, 577 So. 2d 1932, 1934 (Fla. 1991) the court stated that when the defendant only takes temporary possession of contraband (an illegal substance) in the presence of the owner, the State has not established that the defendant had dominion and control of the contraband.[1]

The courts have shown that taking temporary possession of drugs can be considered temporary possession as a matter of law, and not even get to the jury or judge to determine the factual disputes. In Ford v. State, 69 So. 3d 391, 393 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011) The court held that when a passenger taking “momentary possession” of drugs when the driver tossed them to the passenger to hide as police execute a traffic stop is insufficient to prove the passenger possessed the drugs. The appellate court held that the trial judge was wrong in finding that the defendant violated his probation based on the temporary possession, and reversed the court’s ruling as a matter of law.[2]

TEMPORARY POSSESSION FOR LAWFUL DISPOSITION

It is also lawful to have temporary possession of drugs for lawful disposition of the drugs. However one of the things the court will consider is how long the defendant had control of the drugs. The court has stated that such possession must be temporary. In Ramsubhag v. State, 937 So.2d 1192 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) the court stated “it has been held that no crime is committed where a person takes temporary control of contraband in order to make a legal disposition of it by throwing it away, destroying it, or giving it to [the] police.”

Foot Notes

[1] In Campbell v. State, 577 So. 2d 1932, 1934 (Fla. 1991)(citing Sobrino v. State, 471 So. 2d 1333 (Fla. 3rd DCA 1985) the Florida Supreme Court held “Temporary control of the contraband in the presence of its actual owner, for the purpose of verifying that it is what it purport to be or to conduct a sensory test for quality, prior to the consummation of the contemplated transaction, without more, does not constitute legal possession.”

[2] In Ford v. State, 69 So. 3d 391, 393 (Fla. 2d DCA 2011) during a VOP hearing the court found that the evidence was insufficient to violate the defendant’s probation where the defendant told the police that “the driver had handed the contraband to him when the officers stopped the car and told the [defendant] to hide it in the back seat armrest compartment.”