Florida Supreme Court rules no knowledge of drugs for Conviction required

The Florida State Supreme Court, on July 12, 2012, in a 5-2 ruling, in State v. Adkins upheld a 2002 law which puts the burden of proof on defendants to prove that the citizen defendant did not have knowledge what was in the container or package, etc. they were carrying contained illicit narcotics. Florida is the only state in the country that does not require the prosecution prove that defendant citizen knew the substances they were carrying were illegal.

The Florida Supreme Court held that by the legislature enacting Florida Statute ยง893.101, the Legislature eliminated from the definitions of the offenses in chapter 893, Florida’s Drug Statute, the element that a person must have knowledge of the illicit nature of the controlled substance. The legislature created the affirmative defense of lack of such knowledge.
This means that a defendant charged with the crime must prove he or she had no knowledge the substance was a narcotic.

The Court held that the statutory provisions do not violate any requirement of due process articulated by the Florida Supreme Court or the Supreme Court. “In the unusual circumstance where a person possesses a controlled substance inadvertently, establishing the affirmative defense available under section 893.101 will preclude the conviction of the defendant” the Florida Supreme Court stated.

The Florida Supreme Court’s decision is in response to a Federal Middle District of Court’s judges opinion ruled the entire Florida law was unconstitutional, calling it a significant departure from the notion that Defendant citizens are innocent until proven guilty.

Prosecutors must still prove that a defendant knew the drug was in their possession. “In the unusual circumstance where a person possesses a controlled substance inadvertently, establishing the affirmative defense available under (the law) will preclude the conviction of the defendant,” Justice Canady wrote for the majority.

Albiet in the miniority of possession and drug cases, there are people that do not know what they are carrying on behalf of someone else contains nacartics. And if they are arrested, who is likely to come forth and tell law enforcement, “yes, those were my drugs, arrest me, you’ve got the wrong person?” What makes this holding particularly disturbing is Florida Minimmum Mandatory sentencing scheme for quanties of drugs for which the person had no intent to sell.

In dissent, Justice James Perry said the majority ruling relied on the flawed notion that it was “highly unusual” that innocent people would unknowingly carry around illegal drugs. “Common sense to me dictates that the potential for innocent possession is not so highly unusual as the majority makes it out to be,” Perry wrote.

As it stands, a final word on which ruling stands would have to be made by the U.S. Supreme Court because federal district court rulings are not binding on the state supreme court.