Florida’s New Hemp Law Has Completely Transformed Marijuana-Related Arrests & Prosecutions
While Florida’s new hemp law that recently went into effect technically made possession of hemp legal up to .3 percent THC, according to the latest reports, because there is no way for police to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana, this is affecting arrests, seizures, and criminal prosecutions throughout the state.
Specifically, some county state attorneys are instructing their offices to not file charges at all in cases involving suspected marijuana until there is a lab test done to prove the THC level on the item in question. Because certified field tests cannot do this, and hemp looks and smells just like marijuana, this has created an issue for Florida law-enforcement, where there is significant confusion as to who they can target and what they can seize when it comes to drug crimes, including DUI arrests.
How It Is Affecting Probable Cause & Related Criminal Prosecutions
According to some sources, this change also makes it difficult to establish probable cause and search for items incident to suspicions of marijuana that can lead to additional criminal charges, such as weapons charges. Because proof beyond a reasonable doubt requires that the state prove the THC content of the substance (due to the new law), this is going to completely change criminal prosecutions for marijuana crimes, and it will also likely decrease charges for a number of other crimes that police would pursue in connection with marijuana arrests, crimes and charges. According to the message that was sent to law-enforcement agencies, state labs are not able to test the percentage of THC in a sample and therefore there is no current plan to do so.
Arrests Only OK In Some Counties For Suspects Who Admit To Having Illegal Marijuana After Being Read Their Miranda Rights
Indeed, a number of counties have followed suit, whereby deputies have been told not to make any arrests for possession of hemp or marijuana, and to, instead, file a capias request. In fact, some directives have instructed officers to order arrests only if a suspect admits that they are in possession of illegal marijuana after they have been read their Miranda rights. However, note that if officers notice other issues–such as impairment–they can make an arrest, it is the actual prosecution of the marijuana charge that will now be challenging because of the lab test obstacle. In Orlando, for example, police have been informed that they can still search people and their cars if they believe marijuana is present, but that they need to let a suspect go if they are unsure that what they are seizing is, in fact, illegal marijuana.
Contact Our Drug Crime Attorneys
If you have any questions about how Florida’s new hemp law affects marijuana-related arrests and prosecutions, contact our experienced Miami and Orlando criminal attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today for assistance.