« Texas man gets 220-year state sentence for kiddie porn possession (and uncharged child rapes) | Main | NYC prosecutors now seeking to dismiss rape charges against DSK »

August 22, 2011

WSJ takes note of the mess that is Florida's (now unconstitutional) criminal drug laws

I have been a bit surprised to have not yet seen much mainstream discussion of the mess unfolding in Florida where a federal district judge (blogged here) and a state circuit judge (blogged here) have recently declared the state's criminal drug laws facially unconstitutional.  I am now pleased to see this new Wall Street Journal article and WSJ Law Blog entry showing that some folks in the MSM are paying attention.  Here are the basics of the story via the blog post:

To win a conviction under the drug laws of most states, a prosecutor has to convince a jury that the defendant knew he owned or sold an illicit substance. But in 2002, Florida became the only state in the country to do away with the “knowledge requirement” in its main drug law.

A federal judge in Orlando was the first to strike a blow to the law late last month, ruling that a central part of Florida’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law violated the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Then, last week, a state judge in Miami cited Judge Scriven’s opinion in overturning the drug-distribution convictions of 39 defendants....

The office of the Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, has filed notices of appeals in both cases. “This decision conflicts with binding state court precedent upholding Florida’s drug law,” said Bondi, shortly after Judge Hirsch issued his ruling on Wednesday. “This decision is flawed and it unduly hinders prosecutors’ efforts to keep criminals off our streets.”

The issue will likely be settled by a higher court — the Florida Supreme Court, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or, possibly, the U.S. Supreme Court. It is unlikely that Florida will see a mass exodus of its prison population until then. But if the key part of the law is ultimately struck down, “it could get pretty chaotic,” said James Felman, the lawyer for Mackle Vincent Shelton, whose conviction Judge Scriven overturned.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections, nearly 94,000 people have been sent to state prisons for drug crimes since the start of 2002. 

Recent related posts:

August 22, 2011 at 04:35 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2014e8adc70c7970d

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference WSJ takes note of the mess that is Florida's (now unconstitutional) criminal drug laws:

Comments

“This decision is flawed and it unduly hinders prosecutors’ efforts to keep criminals off our streets.”

Is this really that much of an issue? How often does a defendant contest knowledge?

It seems to me, to be safe, the govt. should allege knowledge in the vast majority of cases it can prove it and, when it can't, any constitutional infirmity of such an approach would necessarily be limited to those few cases.

What's wrong with that approach?

Posted by: none | Aug 22, 2011 5:26:03 PM

simple none! it requires judges and DA's and defense attorneys with BRAINS! and a feeling of right and wrong!

Posted by: rodsmith | Aug 22, 2011 6:34:06 PM

It will be interesting to see collateral consequences of this mess. For instance, I can foresee challenges to federal sentencing guidelines that are increased based on prior Florida drug convictions.

Posted by: C.A. | Aug 23, 2011 10:34:03 AM

simple none! it requires judges and DA's and defense attorneys with BRAINS! and a feeling of right and wrong

Posted by: thomas sabo sale | Nov 7, 2011 1:48:54 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB