Those Accused of Drug Crimes Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Florida Supreme Court Decides
Good news, Florida druggies! You're no longer burdened by that whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing -- the Florida Supreme Court last week upheld a 2002 law that forces some defendants caught with drugs to prove their innocence, rather than placing the onus on prosecutors to prove anything. Phew!
Oh, wait -- that's terrible and makes things way easier for prosecutors when they want to chuck people in jail -- which Justice James Perry took issue with in the dissent:
"What will become of the innocent?" Perry wrote, per the AP. "Under the majority's decision and the above examples, the innocent will from the start be presumed guilty."
It deals specifically with the defense used by defendants who say they didn't know they were carrying drugs -- it deals with it by saying "Prove it." In most, normal places, prosecutors have to prove the defendant knew what he was carrying was illegal. Under this law, defendants have to prove they didn't know it was drugs.
Derek Byrd, president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the Florida law flies in the face of the concept of criminal intent, a "bedrock principle" of criminal law in the United States.
"In essence, someone could be given hydrocodone, be told it was a Tylenol and be guilty," Byrd said. "I'm a lifelong Floridian. It's embarrassing."
Justice Charles Canady said the law doesn't violate a defendant's right to due process because, hey, why not:
"Isn't the reality here that these drugs that are illicit are valuable and the people who own them don't just go casting them about at random?" he said.
Good idea, Charlie -- just base your opinion on what you think drug dealers do.
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