Simple possession of marijuana - without any evidence indicating that the possessor intends to sell the marijuana - can either be a felony or a misdemeanor in the State of Florida.
The most basic measuring stick by which officers can decide to charge you with misdemeanor possession or felony possession is by weight.
In Florida, possession of 20 grams or less is misdemeanor possession. The maximum penalty for misdemeanor possession of marijuana (cannabis) is a misdemeanor conviction (adjudication), one year in county jail, and a fine of $1000.
Possession of more than 20 grams, up to 25 pounds, is felony possession of marijuana. The maximum penalty for felony possession of marijuana is a felony conviction (adjudication), five years in state prison, and a fine of $5,000.
Some of the differences, other than the weight of the substance...
If you are in possession of 20 grams or less, the officer may exercise his or her discretion and can issue you a promise to appear (PTA) instead of physically arresting you. A PTA is technically an arrest but you do not have to suffer the indignity of being handcuffed, taken to jail, having to post a bond, and having your mugshot plastered all over the Internet.
If you are arrested for the felony possession charge, the officer has no choice but to physically arrest you. You will be transported to jail where you may post a bond or wait until your bond hearing (the next day) where a judge may be willing to release you on your own recognizance (ROR) or perhaps release you to Pretrial Services (PTS).
As for the resolutions of your case, in Miami-Dade County and Broward County, diversion programs are routinely available for first-time offenders charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana. In Miami-Dade County, the program is known as Pretrial Diversion (PTD). In Broward, the program is known as the Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MDP). You may also participate in Misdemeanor Drug Court in Broward County.
A conviction (adjudication) to a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge will not make you a convicted felon. You will not lose your civil rights. However, you will have your driver’s license revoked for one year.
For the felony charge, currently Miami-Dade and Broward do not have diversion programs available for felony possession of marijuana. In Miami-Dade County, first-time offenders may be offered Drug Court or perhaps a withhold (no conviction) and a term of probation. In Broward, you may participate in Drug Court (provided you are eligible) or you may accept the customary plea offer of 12-18 months of probation.
As long as you are not adjudicated guilty (convicted), you may seal a possession of marijuana charge, felony or misdemeanor.
Eric Matheny is a Miami possession of marijuana attorney and Broward possession of marijuana attorney representing clients charged with both misdemeanor possession of marijuana and felony possession of marijuana in Miami-Dade and Broward.