The push for major drug law reform is becoming stronger and heating up across the country, with the legalization of marijuana and medical marijuana at the forefront of the debate. Many supporters and researchers are trying to convince lawmakers that stringent drug laws do nothing to eliminate or reduce drug use around the nation. Instead, they are arguing that the regulations are making the situation worse and causing more harm than good. Recently in Florida, a controversial drug possession law was called into serious question. This law, passed in 2002, states that the burden of proof rests on the defendant. This means that the person who was caught carrying a drug must prove that they did not know they were carrying an illegal substance.
In July of 2011, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled that this Florida law was unconstitutional, saying that it was in direct opposition to the constitutional principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. The federal judge even said the law was "draconian and unreasonable." The immediate aftermath of this decision was a massive increase in the number of drug cases being dismissed; however this was not the end of the story.
The Florida Supreme Court then took on the debate over this law. In a 5-2 ruling, the court upheld the law. The Justice who spoke for the majority said the Florida legislature had passed the law with the clear, unmistakable desire to get tough on drug trafficking. The law was designed to simplify the conviction process by making it so that prosecutors do not need to prove that the individual in question knew they were carrying an illegal substance. The only thing they must prove is that the defendant knew they actually had the substance.
The opposition is very upset with this ruling. The other two Justices that were in minority dissent to the ruling said the decision was based on flawed reasoning. The idea that it is unusual for innocent people to have an illegal drug unknowingly is not enough for such a law to remain intact. The state Supreme Court is a higher authority than the federal district court so the law will remain until the U.S. Supreme Court enters into the argument and makes a decision—if they decide to do so.
As it stands, 48 other states in the nation uphold legislation that is directly opposed to Florida's law. In these states, the state prosecutor has the burden of proof to prove that the defendant knew that whatever substance they were carrying was illegal. If you are a resident of Florida and have been charged with a drug crime, you will have to deal with this legislation. That means proving that you are innocent is not going to be very easy. In order to have a fighting chance of escaping these charges, you should work with an experienced drug crime attorney who will fight aggressively for you.