Levi Collins and Joanna Hardin were both arrested after Brevard County sheriff’s deputies found a mix of illegal drugs in their car during a traffic stop on Merritt Island. Collins was arrested on charges of possession of amphetamines, trafficking methamphetamine, possession of narcotics and possession of less than 20 grams cannabis. Hardin was also arrested on a charge of giving false information to a law enforcement officer.
Under Florida law, it is a criminal offense for a person to knowingly give false information to a police officer concerning the commission of a crime. Giving False Information to Police in Florida is commonly referred as “Lying to Police.” If you have been accused in Florida of giving false information to a police officer, obtaining an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney is critical to avoiding a conviction or mitigating the potential penalties one may face.
In Florida, Giving False Information to Police is considered a “crime of dishonesty” and is vigorously prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville. There are many viable defenses to this type of charge, the first being that the information one gave to police was actually true. The prosecution must prove that the information was in fact “false.” This is often difficult to do where the facts are not clearly established with regard to the underlying incident.
Many times, these charges are based on the accused’s recounting of an incident such as a drug deal, a fight, or other activity involving police dispatch, where genuine questions arise in the officer’s mind about what actually happened. Many times, these doubts in the officer’s mind whether one is telling the truth or not is not really reasonable, and is based on a distraught witness at the scene of the crime who may or may not have a motive to falsely accuse one of a crime. If this is the case, proving falsity beyond a reasonable doubt will be difficult, if not impossible for the prosecutor.
Another defense one has is not knowing that the statement one made to police was false. The prosecution must establish the accused’s knowledge of the falsity of the information. Sometimes, another witness may tell one false information of what allegedly happened at the scene, when one was not present, and then one reports this false information to police, and is subsequently arrested. Even though this will be presently difficult for the accused, the prosecutor will have an even tougher time proving one knowingly provided false information, especially if the accused gave information that he or she honestly thought was the truth or thought was reliable. If the accused can demonstrate a basis for his or her beliefs, then knowledge of falsity will be difficult to prove. Even if the accused was careless or reckless in making a statement or assertion, this does not amount to “knowledge” of the falsity of the information.
As for the drug charges, Officials said the deputies found 6 ounces of meth packaged for distribution, oxycodone and marijuana inside the vehicle. When police find illegal substances, many times they are found in a place where more than one person had access, such as a car or a bag that is in close proximity to one another. Under Florida law, the State must prove two very crucial elements of constructive possession before one can be convicted of Possession of illegal substances in Jacksonville:
– Knowledge of the drug’s presence AND
– Dominion and control over the drug
In a jointly occupied vehicle, the accused’s proximity to contraband is insufficient to establish constructive possession. In situations like this, the State must present independent proof of the defendant’s knowledge and ability to control the contraband. The independent proof is usually established through the person in the car talking to the officer and admitting to possession of the drugs. In this case, Hardin might run the risk of also being charged with a drug possession charge like Collins was, if the State feels they can satisfy the actual and constructive possession requirement.
If in a situation like this and one obtains an experienced attorney, that advocate can conduct depositions of all state witnesses and examine any evidence, many times revealing major problems in the State’s case that will allow one’s charge to be lessened or dismissed. For example, in this case, like other drug related cases involving automobile searches, there may have been a 4th Amendment issue involving an illegal search, or the truthfulness and veracity of involved witnesses might be in need of severe questioning, leading to a favorable outcome on a motion to suppress evidence. If the evidence is suppressed, the charge may not stand.
If one obtains an experienced Jacksonville drug crimes defense attorney, one’s attorney may be able to file a motion to suppress any illegally obtained evidence and argue any potential defenses to one’s possession of the illegal substance either on one’s person or in one’s home.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
Additional Source: Two busted on drug charges after Merritt Island traffic stop, Stacey Barchenger, Florida Today