The Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act is almost unique among criminal drug statutes in the United States. Like all states, Florida prohibits the possession, sale, and delivery of certain controlled substances. However, a recent revision of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Act removed Florida’s burden of proving one aspect of defendants’ mens rea in drug cases. Although several cases have challenged the Florida Comprehensive Drug Act for disregarding the traditional role of mens rea in criminal law and for subjecting innocent people to prosecution, the state of Florida continues to prosecute and obtain convictions under the statute.
This Note addresses the constitutionality of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Act, specifically in light of the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Part I examines the legislative history of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Act and courts’ application of the Act. Part II analyzes state and federal cases with differing views about the statute’s constitutionality. Part III argues that under existing U.S. Supreme Court precedent the Florida Comprehensive Drug Act is constitutional and does not exceed the limits of the Due Process Clause. Finally, Part IV explores the likely future of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Act and some principles that limit its perceived impact. This Note concludes by suggesting that the U.S. Supreme Court should defer to the discretion of state legislatures in eliminating the mens rea element from criminal statutes except in the most egregious cases.
Marc B. Hernandez,
Guilt Without Mens Rea: How Florida’s Elimination of Mens Rea for Drug Possession is Constitutional,
66 Fla. L. Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/flr/vol66/iss4/5