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When does drug possession become with intent to sell?

July 20, 2012
By The Wiseman Law Firm

Most people who are involved in the illegal drug trade or who use drugs for recreational purposes are aware that intent to sell carries much more serious penalties than mere possession.

Florida has some of the more onerous drug laws in the nation since many illegal drug runners and distributors are able to evade the US Coast Guard and border patrols and unload vast quantities onto Florida’s shores for shipment throughout the country.

Although possession of any illegal narcotics is a felony in Florida, except for small quantities of marijuana, the penalties are more severe for intent to sell. You also face possible federal penalties since it is a federal crime to possess a controlled substance with the intent to distribute under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Factors Indicating Intent to Sell

Other than selling an illegal drug to an undercover agent or admitting to the offense, the prosecution must prove you had the intent to sell or distribute the banned substance. Intent can be shown by catching you with the following:

  • Large quantities of a controlled substance
  • Baggies or other types of packaging
  • Guns
  • Scales
  • Large amounts of cash
  • Address book filled with names and contact information
  • Chemicals used to manufacture certain drugs like ecstasy or methamphetamines
  • Several bags of drugs in your pocket while standing on a street in an area known for drug trafficking

Defenses to Intent to Sell

There are numerous defenses to a charge of intent to sell, most of which involve constitutional violations:

  • Illegal search and seizure of your house or car by police
  • Entrapment
  • Procedural violations such as failure to follow or prove a chain of custody
  • You were not in actual or constructive possession of the drugs
  • Unlawful interrogation or custody
  • Search warrant violations

Many times a skilled criminal defense attorney can demonstrate that you purchased a large quantity for personal use only or that any paraphernalia found was for your own use or protection.

Also, if you share a home or apartment with others or you are in a vehicle with other people at the time you are caught. you may be able to demonstrate that you did not possess or have any control over the drugs.

If the drug is marijuana, you may be able to use the medical necessity defense even though Florida has not legalized marijuana for medical purposes.


Possession of drugs with intent to sell is punishable depending on the type of drugs and where it is sold. For example, selling marijuana is a third degree felony with up to 5 years in prison, but is elevated to second degree if you are caught selling within 200 feet of a university, public park or public housing facility. You face mandatory prison if you are selling within 1000 feet of a school or child care facility.

Selling cocaine is a second degree felony with up to 15 years in prison but becomes a first degree felony with up to 30 years if you are caught selling in the above areas.

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