Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Tampa Criminal Attorney
Free Consultation Call 24/7

If You've Been Arrested in Tampa Bay or Surrounding Areas, We Can Help You Immediately!

Tampa Criminal Attorney > Blog > Drug Crime > The Three Ps Of Drug Possession

The Three Ps Of Drug Possession


In the late 1980s, mostly in response to the drug overdose death of college basketball standout Len Bias, lawmakers approved a slew of harsh anti-drug laws. Extremely aggressive enforcement of these laws continued until the late 2000s. At that time, lawmakers began rolling back some of the harsh laws. Moreover, former President Barack Obama pardoned thousands of people who had been sentenced under these laws. At the same time, changing public perceptions about drug use, as evidenced by the growing marijuana legalization movement, prompted authorities to temper their enforcement.

But the War on Drugs continues. Annually, authorities arrest more than a million people for drug-related offenses. Over 80 percent of these arrests are for simple possession. However, as outlined below, there is a significant difference between a drug possession charge and a drug possession conviction. These charges often don’t hold up in court.

Due to the changing environment, a Tampa drug crime attorney can often successfully resolve drug possession charges, especially since these prosecutions have so many moving parts. This successful resolution could be a complete dismissal of charges, a plea to a lesser-included offense, like reckless conduct or possession of drug paraphernalia, or a not guilty verdict at trial. Drug possession charges have significant direct and collateral consequences. So, any of these resolutions greatly benefits the defendant, now and in the future.

Produce the Substance in Court

Physical evidence, like illegal drugs, is only admissible in court if police officers had a valid search warrant, or a limited search warrant exception applied.

Generally, officers don’t have search warrants in drug possession cases. Typically in these cases, officers stumble upon drugs during a traffic stop or during a response to a disturbance call. So, Hillsborough County prosecutors must rely on a search warrant exception. Some prominent ones include:

  • Consent: Property owners, like vehicle owners, may give voluntary consent to search their property. Frequently, voluntariness, or lack thereof, is an issue in these searches. If officers threaten to get search warrants unless owners consent, their permission is arguably not 100 percent voluntary.
  • Exigent Circumstances: If officers reasonably believe someone might be in trouble, perhaps because they responded to a report about a fight at a party, they may enter a house or other building and conduct a safety check. During this security sweep, they may seize any contraband they see in plain view.

The plain view doctrine is also a standalone search warrant exception. If officers see an illegal item, they do not need a judge’s permission to seize it.

Prove It Was Illegal

There is a major difference between unscientific “field tests” and chemical laboratory tests. Marijuana, which is generally illegal under federal and state law, is a good example. This substance has the same physical qualities as hemp, which is 100 percent legal under state and federal law. Only a THC content test can distinguish between the two.

Oxycontin and other prescription pain pills are in a special category. Almost no one retains written prescriptions. Furthermore, many people do not keep their pills in a labeled bottle. Instead, they put them in a pill caddy or other container. Police officers usually do not believe defendants if they say they have a valid prescription. Producing a valid prescription is usually a fatal weakness in terms of the evidence in the case.

Establish Possession

Possession, which basically means proximity in this context, is defined very broadly in both state and federal law. For example, a pickup truck’s bed and a passenger car’s trunk are usually part of the passenger area, even though passengers usually have no access to these areas, at least while the vehicle is moving.

The other two elements of possession are knowledge and control. Federal and state law defines these elements much more narrowly. In fact, in many cases, a defendant could literally be sitting on illegal drugs and not legally possess them. 

Reach Out to a Dedicated  Hillsborough County Attorney

A criminal charge is not the same thing as a criminal conviction. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Tampa, contact the OA Law Firm. After hours, home, and jail visits are available.



Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Client Reviews

"I was in the unfortunate situation of having to hire a lawyer for my grandson and since I did not know of anyone that could refer me, I had to rely on my judgement of character and when I sat down in front of Omar, I knew that I had made the right decision. He is a very professional, well versed in the law, knowledgeable young man that takes the time to explain every aspect of your case to you. He returns calls promptly, knows your case inside out and is very punctual in meetings and court hearings. I could not have chosen a better, more qualified lawyer to represent my grandson. He comes highly recommended by me and you will not go wrong in obtaining his services."

- Gloria

"It is with pleasure that we wish to recommend Mr. Omar Abdelghany in his practice as a Criminal Defense Attorney. He was hired in the defense of our son. The defense included more than one offense, which required legal maneuvering to address the issues. Omar's skills came into play in positioning the case, which resulted in a good outcome given the facts at hand."

- Ted

"Lawyer Abdelghany, has been a tremendous blessing and stress reliever, not only to me but also to my family members in need of professional help. He was understanding of my situation and worked with me financially. I am overall grateful for him and would refer all my family and friends to hire him."

- Khalil G.
View More