The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments last month regarding the constitutionality of a particular state drug law. Their ultimate decision will not only impact the defendants in this specific case, but may have ramifications for countless other Florida drug crime cases.
Florida Drug Law at Issue
According to a federal judge in Orlando, the drug law at issue doesn’t require prosecutors to prove intent in drug cases – the federal judge ultimately held the law to be unconstitutional. Currently, Florida is the only state that doesn’t require prosecutors to prove intent.
Many Florida state courts have also had issues with this particular law. For example, the case currently before the Florida Supreme Court arose when a Manatee County Judge threw out 42 cases after determining the law deprived the defendants of their due process rights. Moreover, since the federal court ruling, nearly 80 drug cases have been thrown out by two Florida circuit court judges.
Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals is one of the few courts to actually uphold the law. The reasoning for upholding the law given by the 1st DCA is that defendants are able to raise arguments regarding their lack of intent as affirmative defenses – and if raised, it would then shift the burden back to the prosecutors to prove intent. Ultimately, the Supreme Court in Florida will have to decide if they agree with the Federal Court in Orlando or the 1st District Court of Appeals.
Potential Florida Legislation
However, this entire issue may be deemed moot if some Florida lawmakers have their way. According to the Associated Press, state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff and state Rep. Erik Fresen may attempt to pass legislation which would at least require the state to prove intent in drug trafficking cases.
Bogdanoff told the Associated Press, “”As a lawyer, I have problems constitutionally with forcing a party to prove their innocence versus the state proving guilt.” Bogdanoff continued, “We’re shifting that burden to potentially an innocent person, which I believe is against everything our constitution stands for.”