The Florida Supreme Court has upheld a controversial drug possession law which turns the United States Constitution on its head. It has been a bedrock of criminal law and procedure that the prosecution is required to prove each and every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict a citizen of a crime. Apparently, the Florida Supreme Court believes that the United States Constitution does not apply to the State of Florida. In 2002 the Florida legislature passed a change to the Florida drug laws which shifted the burden of proof to criminal defendants to prove that the substances they were caught carrying was illegal. At least 48 other states require that the state prove that the defendants knew that the substance they were carrying was illegal. That's because the constitution requires that the state prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In 2011, United States District Judge Mary Scriven, struck down the Florida law when she ruled that it was "draconian and unreasonable." Not to be swayed by the Federal Court, in a 5 to 2 decision the Florida Supreme Court upheld the law by disagreeing with Judge Scriven and finding that the state legislature was serious about cracking down on drug possession by eliminating the need for the state to prove that the defendants knew that what they were carrying was illegal. Since there is a split between the Florida Supreme Court and the Federal District Court, it is likely that the final decision will have to be made by the United States Supreme Court.
Let me explain the significance of this misguided Florida law. Let's say that you ask your friend for a Tylenol to relieve a headache or some back pain. Instead of a Tylenol, your friend gives you a prescription pill, like hydrocodone or Vicodin and you get pulled over by a police officer for speeding and the officer finds the pill on your car seat. Instead of forcing the state to prove that you knew that this was a Vicodin or hydrocodone, you would have to prove that you did not know that it was a Vicodin or hydrodone. Good luck trying to get your friend to come to court and admit that he illegally gave you a powerful prescription drug. This is from the same state that gave us Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman and stand your ground.
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