Florida's Supreme Court says the state's drug law is constitutional, ending a flurry of legal fights that saw scores of felony cases thrown out by lower courts, reports the Miami Herald. In a 5-2 decision, justices ruled Thursday that prosecutors do not need to prove that someone charged with drug possession knew that about the “illicit nature” of the narcotics they carried.
The decision was closely watched in legal circles because thousands of drug convictions could have been thrown out had the high court struck down the law. But in upholding the statute, justices pointed out that the Legislature has broad leeway to craft laws, and there is no protected right to carry contraband. The law was changed in 2002, when legislators removed the burden from authorities to prove that a defendant had “knowledge” of the illicit nature of the drugs — although the accused could raise that defense at trial. The recent challenge to the law had its roots in the July 2011 ruling of a Tampa federal judge, Mary Scriven, who said the law was unconstitutional and “draconian.” That sparked thousands of appeals statewide.