Florida Drug Law Struck Down, Could Change Thousands of Convictions
Florida’s Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law, which in 2002 was amended to remove language that intent was required for a conviction, was recently overturned in Orlando federal court. Defense lawyers there told the St. Petersburg Times that the July 27 order (PDF) will affect thousands of cases.
The law violates due process, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Scriven wrote in her order. It involved the habeas petition of Mackle Vincent Shelton, who in is serving an 18 year cocaine sentence. Jury instructions in his state court case directed that for a conviction the government had to prove Shelton delivered cocaine, but not that he had knowledge his actions were wrong. In a press release about the case, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers argued that as the law was worded, a Federal Express delivery person could be convicted of delivering a controlled substance if someone used the service to send drugs. Florida is the only state to have such a rule, the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog reports. The Florida Attorney General’s Office told the Law Blog that the office is “reviewing the ruling and will determine its next steps.”