Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Florida Drug Law Ruled Unconstitutional

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the Federal Judge’s ruling that has declared Florida’s drug law unconstitutional.


Florida’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law was amended in 2002 by State lawmakers to remove the requirement of “guilty knowledge” or in legal terms, “mens rea.”

This change to the law made it possible for prosecutors to charge individuals with drug possession without having to prove that the person knew they were in possession of said drugs.  A good example of this is a person who is charged with drug possession after the police find drugs in the center console of their car during a traffic stop.  The individual may not have known that they were in possession of the drugs (especially if there were other individuals in the car), but until now prosecutors did not have to prove they had knowledge to charge them with the crime.

U.S. District Judge Mark Scriven of Orlando issued a ruling on July 27, 2011 that said the State drug law as amended was unconstitutional as it violates due process because the burden of proof is removed from the prosecution.  Judge Scriven stated that the current amended law essentially criminalizes the unknowing possession of a controlled substance.

Why This Matters To You:

Judge Scriven’s ruling to strike down Florida’s drug law may have far reaching effects.

The current amended law unconstitutionally ignores the presumption of innocence and shifts the burden of proof to the defense.  With Judge Scriven’s ruling, prior criminal convictions for drug possession may be eligible for appeal.  Further, those facing current charges may now have additional defenses based on knowledge of possession that they did not previously have.

Finally, it can be expected that the Florida State Legislature will amend and/or fix the current drug statute which should properly shift the burden of proof back to the prosecution and bring Florida’s drug law into line with those of other states in the nation.

What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for a drug related crime contact a St. Petersburg Drug Charges Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending Drug Charges offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).