Areas of Law: Constitutional Law, Criminal Law
Section 893.13 of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, provided that “it is unlawful for any person to sell, manufacture, or deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, a controlled substance… or … to be in actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance.” The law did not specify the mental state required for conviction. In prior decisions, the Florida Supreme Court determined that knowledge of the presence of the substance and knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance were required. In response, the Legislature, in 2011, stated that the decisions were contrary to legislative intent. “The Legislature finds that knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is not an element of any offense under this chapter. Lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is an affirmative defense.” The statute does not eliminate the element of knowledge of the presence of the substance. Since the enactment, each court of appeal has ruled that the statute does not violate requirements of due process. The U.S. District Court (M.D. Fla.) concluded, however, that it is unconstitutional. Based on that decision, a trial court dismissed a case under the Act. The Florida Supreme Court reversed.