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Challenge to state drug laws head to Florida high court

By James Call

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wfsu/local-wfsu-994648.mp3

Tallahassee, FL – A case that could result in the release of hundreds, if not thousands, of drug offenders is on a fast track in the Florida Supreme Court. James Call reports the state is appealing a Manatee County judge's decision which struck down Florida's drug law because it lacks a requirement for guilty knowledge of illegal narcotics.

Florida is the only state that doesn't have a guilty knowledge provision in its drug law. And two weeks after the Manatee ruling that that omission makes it unconstitutional, the 2nd District Court of Appeal certified the case as an issue of great public importance and sent it to Florida's highest court.

The three judge panel noted until the issue is resolved prosecution of drug offenses will be subject to great uncertainty.

Since the ruling, charges have been dismissed against 42 Manatee County defendants. The appellate court noted many more motions to dismiss are pending and that thousands of cases could fall under the ruling.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi appealed the decision. Saying Florida law is valid because defendants still can assert an affirmative defense that they didn't have guilty knowledge. The Supreme Court has set oral arguments for December 6.