You don’t have to know you were carrying illegal drugs in order to be convicted of a drug offense, according to a Florida State Supreme Court ruling.
The Miami Herald reports that the court ruled this week that the state’s drug law is constitutional, ending numerous disagreements about it in the past several years.
The current law says you don’t have to know the “illicit nature” of the substance you are carrying in order to face a lawful arrest and eventual conviction. The justices ruled 5-2 defending this law, saying that although the consequences of such a charge could be dramatic and life-changing, that the law was constitutional and will therefore stand as written.
The law was changed in 2002. Originally, authorities had to prove that a suspect had knowledge of the illicit nature of the drugs. After the change, the defendant could still challenge the charge on the basis of not knowing once at trial.
Since 2002 and to this day, you can be arrested and charged regardless of your knowledge.
This means you can face charges if you are “the driver of a rental car used by an earlier person who dropped a bag of marijuana inside, or a traveler at an airport who mistakenly picks up luggage containing someone else’s illegal painkillers,” said Justice James Perry in writing in dissent of the ruling.
In upholding the law, Justice Barbara Pariente said the law could “subject a defendant to staggering penalties ranging from punishment of up to 15 years imprisonment to life in prison for recidivists,” but, she said, it doesn’t violate the constitution.
Several state Appeals Court judges had overturned convictions after Tampa federal judge Mary Scriven had ruled the existing law was unconstitutional and draconian. Thousands of appeals followed her ruling, many were overturned and some have already been reinstated.
Understanding how the laws regarding possession and drug offenses work can be complicated. When you are facing drug charges, it’s hard enough to know who to turn to for support. A local criminal defense attorney is often the staunchest ally you have.
If you are charged with a drug crime, and you don’t believe the charges are legitimate, contact us today. Whether the drugs belonged to someone else or if the police violated your rights during the search or arrest, we may be able to help. Call today for a free consultation.