Following Miami-Dade County’s new ordinance allowing - though not requiring - police officers to issue civil (non-criminal) citations for misdemeanor possession of marijuana, Broward County lawmakers are set to vote on a similar ordinance at the end of this month.
Under Florida law, possession of marijuana less than 20 grams is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of a year in jail and a $1000 fine.
In Miami-Dade County, officers may exercise their discretion and issue a non-criminal ticket for misdemeanor possession so long as the individual is not using the drug in public and the marijuana is not found in conjunction with other drugs or during the commission of other crimes.
Under Broward’s proposed ordinance, civil citations would require a $100 for the first offense and $250 for repeat offenses. Community service hours could be performed in lieu of paying the fine.
Right now, first-time offenders in Broward County may be eligible for the Misdemeanor Diversion Program (MDP) if they have absolutely no criminal history. You may also participate in Misdemeanor Drug Court, which may lead to the dismissal of your charge if you complete a drug program.
If you have a prior criminal history, you may likely be able to resolve your case with a withhold of adjudication (no conviction) and the payment of court costs. A withhold of adjudication will not trigger the mandatory one-year license suspension that a conviction for a drug offense carries.
No word yet on whether this ordinance has a chance of passing in Broward, which is a significantly more conservative county than its neighbor to the south. In fact, Broward has a conviction rate that is almost eight times higher than Miami-Dade’s.
Eric Matheny is a Miami marijuana possession attorney and Broward marijuana possession attorney.