A federal judge has declared Florida's drug law unconstitutional, potentially throwing thousands of criminal cases into jeopardy. U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven of Orlando issued a ruling Wednesday that struck down the state's Drug Abuse Prevention and Control law, saying it violates due process because it doesn't require that prosecutors prove that a person knew he or she possessed illegal drugs.
Lawmakers amended the law in 2002, becoming the only state in the nation to get rid of "guilty knowledge," also called mens rea. In essence, lawmakers eliminated the requirement that prosecutors prove that the defendant intended to commit the crime, shifting the burden of proof to the defense. Scriven's ruling aims to shift it back to prosecutors.