Florida v. Adkins

November 28, 2011 • Legal Briefs

Challenges to Florida’s unconstitutional drug law scheme continue to gain momentum. Following a successful federal district court challenge to the constitutionality of laws lacking a mens rea (mental culpability, rather than, for example, incidental possession) requirement, people convicted under them have come forward en masse to ask state courts to reexamine their convictions. As described in the background to a previous brief, the district court held that these sorts of laws offend the constitutional guarantee of due process. Florida’s Supreme Court has consolidated over 40 appeals resulting from that federal court decision (which itself is now on appeal). Cato has once again joined the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance, Calvert Institute for Policy Research, Libertarian Law Council and 38 law professors on a brief supporting the rights of persons convicted under the “strict liability” statutes. We urge the Florida Supreme Court to follow the federal district court’s lead and strike down laws prohibiting the sale, possession, or delivery of illicit substances without requiring mental culpability. That court now has the opportunity to reverse these unwarranted convictions and purge a nationally singular stain on civil liberties.

About the Authors
Tim Lynch
Adjunct Scholar and Former Director, Project on Criminal Justice
Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro is the director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and publisher of the Cato Supreme Court Review.