A major decision was just handed down this week when Florida’s Supreme Court upheld the state’s controversial drug possession statute. The case, Florida v. Luke Jarrod Adkins, was a closely watched one as the implications for defendants across the state was great. In a 5-2 ruling, the court upheld a law that says defendants arrested with drugs are presumed to have known that what they had was illegal. Moreover, if the defendant claims ignorance, then the law mandates that they must prove that to the jurors.
The decision means that Florida’s definition of drug possession does not require “knowledge” of the illegality of the action, putting Florida in a very small group of states. In fact, at least 48 other states require prosecutors to prove to the jury that the defendant knew they were carrying illegal drugs. The law says that prosecutors still must prove that the defendant was in possession of something, they just don’t have to show that the defendant knew what he had was illegal.
The Supreme Court took the case after a state circuit judge in Manatee County threw out 46 drug possession cases, saying they were at odds with a lower federal court’s opinion finding the law unconstitutional. However, lower federal court decisions are not binding on state courts and the issue was appealed directly to the high court.