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Judge Challenges Liability Drug Charges in Florida


Attorney, Kevin Hayslett explains why Judge Mary Scriven’s decision to overturn a drug possession charge is “huge news” in Florida.

On Wednesday July 27, 2011, Federal Judge Mary Scriven overturne

d a possession charge due to violations of due process. According to Kevin Hayslett as heard on his legal radio show “Kevin’s Law”, “Judge Scriven’s decision to declared Florida statute 893.13 unconstitutional is huge news in the state of Florida.

Florida statute 893 is the statute that governs all drug laws in the state. This includes charges such as possession of marijuana, cocaine, roxicodone, oxycodone, and trafficking. Anything to do with illegal substances is under the umbrella of statute 893. However, in 2002, Florida changed the law so that prosecutors didn’t have to prove whether or not the defendant had knowledge of the fact that the substance in their possession was a drug, and that they possessed it.

In case number, 607-cv-839-Orl-35-KRS, Mackle Vincent Shelton v. Secretary of Department of Corrections, Shelton was arrested on October 5, 2004 and on July 1st 2005, Shelton was found guilty on the charge of delivery of cocaine. Because of the May 2002 amendment to Florida statute 893, the jury was not instructed as to whether or not Shelton had knowledge of cocaine in that offense. As a result, Shelton is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.

According to the NACDL along with several associations and including thirty-eight law professors, the collective entity filed an Amicus Curiae Brief on Shelton’s behalf, stating, “a core principle of the American justice system is that no individual should be subjected to condemnation unless he acts with a criminal intent.”

After reviewing the amicus curiae, Orlando Judge Mary Scriven overturned the Florida Drug Abuse law on grounds that it violates several due process rights. In her written order Scriven claims that it violates due process because the “penalties are too severe, it creates substantial social stigma, and it regulates inherently innocent conduct.”

And it seems that Judge Scriven’s decision is seemingly making waves. On August 17th, Miami-Dade circuit court Judge Milton Hirsch made a ruling that agreed to dismiss possession charges against thirty-nine defendants. According to Judge Hirsch’s order on motions to dismiss, he claims that “in light of the recent Shelton v. Department of Corrections, finding 893.13 unconstitutional, all defendants move for dismissal.”

Attorney Kevin Hayslett of the Clearwater law firm Carlson, Meissner, Hart and Hayslett says that this ruling “doesn’t mean that anyone with a pending possession charge with have their case dismissed immediately. The government does have a chance to appeal her ruling, at which point anything is uncertain for probably three months.” 

Hayslett goes on further to say that Judge Scriven’s ruling is huge news in Florida. He urges that if you do have a pending case in Florida involving drug charges, “you should make your Attorney aware of the Mackle Vincent Shelton case and that a Federal judge has found the statute 893 to be unconstitutional. Because it may have a huge impact on your case.”