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Intending to Sell Drugs vs. Use Drugs

Intending to Sell Drugs vs. Use DrugsQuestion: You’re caught with 50 rocks of crack cocaine. Are you guilty of possession of cocaine with intent to sell–or are you guilty of mere possession?

Answer: Depends on who YOU is, right? If you are Charlie Sheen, a cop may reason that the 50 rocks are for personal use. If you are poor and live in the inner city, a cop may arrest you for an enhanced charge of possession with intent to sell or deliver.

Is this fair? No. You might be thinking, ‘what ever happen to good ‘ol fashioned police work? Well, who has the time for that nowadays?

Angelia Harris was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to sell within a 1,000 feet of a park. Harris v. State, 72 So.3d 804 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011). She appealed, possibly claiming her 50 rocks of cocaine were simply her personal stash. So, did the appeals court agree?

First of all, let me remind you of how difficult it “should” be to prove any “with intent to sell or deliver” charge where the cops never witnessed any attempt to sell or deliver. It should be impossible to prove! But, that would require trial judges to make some tough decisions, so it doesn’t unfold in quite the way an intelligent reading of the case law would lead you to believe.

Harris had 50 rocks of cocaine. That’s a decent amount of crack, but it’s not a “substantial” amount. So, when the amount found is not “substantial”, the courts are required to (but never do) look for other suspicious circumstances that would indicate an intent to sell.

The State noted that Harris didn’t have any drug paraphernalia on her to smoke the crack, so it must have been her intent to sell it. Add to that reasoning the arresting officer’s humble opinion that the location and amount all point to ‘intent to sell’, because crackheads only have two or three pieces of crack on them–and a crack pipe to smoke it with. No self respecting crack head would leave 50 rocks un-smoked.

Thankfully, the appeals court didn’t buy this load of crap. (I’ve seen some Orange County judge’s buy this heap, but that’s a story for another day–off the record). The appeals court in Harris reversed the conviction, knocking it down to a simple possession of cocaine. About a thousand “with intent” cases have been reversed, add this one to that list.

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