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What is the standard of proof for the prosecution in drug cases?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2021 | Drug Charges

Anyone facing drug charges in Florida could have serious concerns about receiving a lengthy sentence. Multiple felony drug charges could lead to spending years in prison, and even a misdemeanor could send someone to jail. Since drug charges are criminal offenses and not civil matters, prosecutors have a high bar to meet regarding the standard of proof.

Proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt

A person with a significant amount of marijuana in their home might face “intent to distribute” charges. For these charges to have merit, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person intended to sell or give away the drugs to others. Despite the amount, the defendant may claim the marijuana was for personal use.

So, what other evidence besides quantity could the prosecutor provide? Without witness testimony, revealing texts, cash recovered, baggies, scales or other evidence of distribution, reasonable doubt may exist regarding that intent.

In criminal cases, jurors receive instructions to arrive at a guilty verdict only when there is no doubt the defendant committed a particular crime. A case against a defendant might be compelling, but doubt may linger due to a weak case or flimsy evidence.

Proof in other proceedings

“Clear and convincing evidence” becomes the standard in certain civil cases, such as those involving restraining orders. In civil matters such as lawsuits where the stakes are lower, a “preponderance of the evidence” reflects the standard. A jury only needs to believe it is more than 50% likely the defendant is guilty or at fault.

Due to the chance of imprisonment, heavy fines, a permanent criminal record and a possible loss of civil liberties, the threshold of clear and convincing evidence or a preponderance of the evidence is too low in criminal cases.

Defending against drug charges could involve a strategy intended to raise doubt. The accused may wish to speak with a defense attorney about such an approach.