Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. - Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

Marijuana possession penalties in South Florida vary

If you're caught with under 20 grams of marijuana in South Florida, the consequences could well depend on what county or even what city you're in. In Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, it's not unlike getting a traffic ticket; you may be able to get away with paying a $100 fine. However, in Palm Beach County, you're more likely to have your driver's license suspended and end up with a criminal record.

All three counties have ordinances that allow law enforcement to issue a citation for marijuana possession in small amounts. However, the sheriff of Palm Beach County says he wants his deputies to charge alleged offenders with a crime.

His reasoning is that it will give those caught with even small amounts of pot access to drug counseling. He says, "We are not giving you some minor citation that allows you to stay on drugs." At least one Florida attorney, however, questions how many people are actually going to seek drug counseling for marijuana use.

The city of Fort Lauderdale is also taking a tougher stand. It opted out of the ordinance in Broward County that allows for citations rather than arrest.

If you're a first-time offender caught with under 20 grams of pot, it's unlikely that if you'll arrested, you'll have to spend any time in jail if you are arrested instead of given a citation. However, you'll still need to appear in court and a conviction still results in a criminal record. If you have other convictions on your record, a conviction for marijuana possession could lead to jail time.

If you do find yourself facing a drug charge for marijuana possession, a criminal defense attorney can work to get the offense reduced to a citation or otherwise help mitigate the consequences.

Source: Sun Sentinel, "Busted for pot? No eased penalties offered by Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, unlike other counties in S. Fla," Skyler Swisher, April 22, 2016

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