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Clearwater Criminal Defense Attorney Discusses the Florida Supreme Court Ruling Regarding Florida’s Drug Laws and What it Means for our Criminal Justice System

Many in the legal community and lay people as well have been waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to hand down a ruling regarding Florida’s drug laws. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently held that Florida’s drug statute 893.13 was unconstitutional.[1] The decision made the news and brought about many questions from defendants, attorneys, judges, and lay citizens in our state.

The District Court concluded that Florida’s drug law is unconstitutional, violating the Due Process Clauses of the Florida and United States Constitutions, because it does not require sufficient mens rea on the part of the defendant to sustain a conviction.[2] This means that the law does not require knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance as an element of the offenses under this chapter of the law. The State appealed that decision.

On July 12, 2012 the Supreme Court of Florida issued its opinion.[3] The Court held that the Legislature did not exceed its constitutional authority in redefining section 893.13 to not require proof that a defendant knew of this illegal nature of the controlled substance. The Court found that it was not improper burden shifting to require the defendant to prove lack of knowledge as an affirmative defense. The opinionstates that 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.”[4]

This is the first in a series of articles discussing how this ruling will affect those charged with drug offenses in Florida.

Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC. is a full-service Clearwater criminal defense firm. Conveniently located in Largo, our office is only minutes away for residents of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. Our Criminal trial attorneys routinely handle criminal defense for residents of Largo, Pinellas Park, Seminole, Madeira Beach, Indian Rocks, Kenneth City, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Beach, Treasure Island, Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Safety Harbor, Dunedin, PalmHarbor and Tarpon Springs.

If you are in the need of assistance or for more information, please contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein, PLC. at 1-855-PSF-FIRM or (727) 531-2926 for a free consultation and case evaluation.

[1] Shelton v. Sec’y Dept. of Corr., 802 F. Supp. 2d 1289 (M.D. Fla. 2011)
[2] Id. at 1301
[3] State of Florida v. Luke Jarrod Adkins, et al. No. SC11-1878 (Fla.2012)
[4] Id. at 22