Board-Certified Criminal Defense Representation In Central Florida

Intent is key: How Florida prosecutors work to prove distribution

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2024 | Drug Sales & Distribution |

Drug charges can quickly escalate from possession to distribution when a defendant is perceived to have had intentions to sell or deliver substances to a customer base. By contrast, possession is usually classified as a misdemeanor because it involves “simply” being found with controlled substances.

Distribution, on the other hand, is classified as a felony because it involves making large quantities of drugs accessible to other people. Before a defendant is convicted of distribution, the prosecution must demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused had every intention to sell or distribute controlled substances.

The burden of proof: Beyond reasonable doubt

It’s easy to assume that when someone is caught with large quantities of controlled substances, they want to sell to a customer base. But how can the prosecution know for sure that the drugs aren’t just for personal consumption?

Thanks to Florida’s high standard for criminal conviction, individuals who have large quantities of controlled substances don’t get automatically charged with distribution based on an assumption. Instead, the law mandates the prosecution to demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that the accused large stash is for selling. The prosecution tries to demonstrate intent to sell using circumstantial and direct evidence.

Direct evidence

Direct evidence is more incriminating since it establishes an undeniable link between the defendant and their customer base. Law enforcement can obtain direct evidence by positioning undercover officers who act as customers who want to purchase controlled substances from the defendant. Defendants can also be pinned with incriminating statements they made that reveal their plans for selling controlled substances. Such statements can be obtained from messages or phone calls that discuss drug sales.

Circumstantial evidence

Without direct evidence, the prosecution has no choice but to turn to circumstantial evidence to try and pin charges on the accused. While direct evidence is undeniable, circumstantial evidence merely suggests that the defendant may be distributing controlled substances. Some of the facts and observations the prosecution can use to string up a possession charge may include:

  • Finding large quantities of controlled substances in the possession of the accused
  • Discovering packaging supplies like distribution baggies
  • Spotting tools used for preparing and dividing drugs for sale
  • Uncovering unexplained cash in small denominations

Circumstantial evidence, by itself, may not suffice to convict the accused. The narrative the prosecutor tries to string up may easily be dismantled by a skilled defense team.

Individuals who’ve been accused of drug distribution based on circumstantial evidence can benefit from employing the services of an experienced criminal defense team. They can work to find loopholes in the prosecution’s narrative to help ensure that the accused isn’t convicted without sufficient evidence.