Court Explains How Prior Marijuana Crime Convictions Impact Sentencing in Florida

Laws pertaining to the medical and recreational use of marijuana continue to change in Florida and throughout the country. As such, many acts that were once criminal are now legal. A prior conviction for a marijuana-related offense can still adversely impact a defendant’s presentence investigation report, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling in which the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence for possessing a handgun as a felon. If you are charged with a weapons crime, it is important to speak to a Sarasota gun crime defense attorney about your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that police officers arrested the defendant for aggravated assault with a weapon. When they searched the defendant at the time of the arrest they found a loaded gun in his pocket; it was later revealed that the gun had been stolen two years prior. The defendant had numerous prior felony convictions, including convictions for the possession of marijuana and possession of marijuana with the intent to sell.

It is alleged, therefore, that the defendant was indicted for being a felon in possession of a handgun. He entered a guilty plea without a plea agreement. The probation office drafted a presentence investigation report which used a base offense level of 20 due to the defendant’s prior felony controlled substance offense. The defendant objected, arguing that he should not have been assigned a base offense level of 20 because marijuana was not a controlled substance under the sentencing guidelines. The court overruled his objection and sentenced him to 63 months’ imprisonment. He appealed.

How Prior Marijuana Crime Convictions Impact Sentencing in Florida

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, the court explained that it previously ruled in two other cases that possessing marijuana with the intent to sell constituted a controlled substance offense under the sentencing guidelines. As such, it found that the trial court did not err in using a higher base offense level.

The defendant asserted, however, that the law had changed since the aforementioned rulings. Specifically, he asserted that Congress amended the Controlled Substances Act to exclude hemp. Further, the categorical approach required the court to assume that the defendant’s conviction was for the least culpable conduct, possession of hemp with the intent to sell, as hemp was included in the applicable drug statute at the time of his arrest.

The court declined to adopt the defendant’s reasoning, however, noting that it relied on the assumption that the court would determine whether a previous conviction for a controlled substance offense as defined by state law by comparing it to the federal analogue. The court rejected this assumption and affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with a Trusted Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorney

People charged with weapons offenses can face greater penalties if they have prior convictions for drug crimes and other serious offenses. If you are charged with a gun crime it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your options. The trusted Sarasota criminal defense lawyers of Hanlon Law can assess the facts of your case and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome available. You can reach Hanlon Law through the online form or by calling 941-462-1789 to set up a meeting.

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