Is "Passing the Dutchie" Against Florida Law?

smoking.jpgRemember the old song, "Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side?" The term "dutchie" is related to Dutch Master cigars, which are used as blunts by unwrapping the paper, removing the tobacco and replacing it with marijuana. A slang word for this modified cigar is "dutchie." So, are you guilty of Possession of Cannabis for merely passing it to a friend? Believe it or not, our Florida courts have addressed this issue (though not with actual Dutch Master blunts, sorry...).

In the case of Bart Hamilton, Appellant, v. State of Florida, Appellee. 2nd District, Case No. 97-05295, 24 Fla. L. Weekly D1289b, detectives of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department testified that they arranged to purchase sixty dollars' worth of cocaine through a confidential informant in a supermarket parking lot. The detectives watched as the dealer's pickup truck pulled into the parking lot, noting that defendant Hamilton was in the front passenger seat. The confidential informant rolled down his window and asked the driver if he had the ``stuff.'' The truck driver responded affirmatively and handed Hamilton a clear plastic baggie containing rock cocaine which Hamilton passed on to the informant. The informant then handed Hamilton sixty dollars in cash which Hamilton immediately passed on to the truck driver. Neither the truck driver, the informant, nor detectives spoke to Hamilton. When uniformed police officers stopped the pickup truck several blocks from the supermarket parking lot, the pickup truck driver fled while Hamilton remained seated in the passenger seat. Unfortunately, Hamilton was convicted after jury trial of Sale and Delivery of Cocaine.

So, back to our song, is the mere passing of drugs a crime here in Orlando? According to the Hamilton court, no. Hamilton's conviction for Sale & Delivery was thrown out. The court held that the mere fact that Hamilton passed the cocaine from one party to another party, where he was sitting between the two, did not establish that he had dominion and control over the cocaine and, therefore, did not support a conviction for possession of cocaine. Id. The court relied on the case of Campbell v. State, 577 So. 2d 932 (Fla. 1991), which held that dominion and control is not established where a ``defendant takes temporary possession of contraband, in the presence of the owner, for the sole purpose of verification or testing, and there is no other evidence from which dominion or control could be inferred.'' Id. at 935. Furthermore, of significance to the court was the idea that there was no evidence from which to infer that Hamilton was otherwise involved in the transaction. In fact, Hamilton may have handled the cocaine only because the confidential informant pulled up to the passenger side of the pickup truck rather than the driver's side. Do I recommend passing drugs and drug money on the left hand side? No. But, it never hurts to call a criminal defense attorney should the situation arise....