Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Miami judge tosses out drug cases, cites federal ruling

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch echoed the ruling of a federal judge and tossed drug cases against 39 defendants Wednesday, saying he feels a section of Florida's drug law is illegal.

At issue is a 2002 change in the state law where legislators said authorities no longer had to prove that accused drug dealers had "knowledge" that they carried illegal drugs, but defendants still could use that defense at trial.

Three weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled that the state's drug law was "draconian" because it does not differentiate between a true drug dealer and a person who is inadvertently carrying drugs without realizing it .

Scriven's ruling in an Osceola County case has sparked hundreds of requests around the state, including some in the Tampa Bay area, from defendants saying they didn't know they had drugs on them.

Though Hirsch's ruling agreed with Scriven, no one went free Wednesday.

He placed a one-week stay on his order to give prosecutors time to appeal.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a statement later Wednesday saying her office would appeal. She already has in the Osceola County case of Shelton v. Department of Corrections.

In his decision, Hirsch said he was bothered by the possibility that a person who accidentally carried drugs for another person could be charged with a crime. The ability to bring up the issue once the case reaches trial was not enough, he wrote in an opinion.

"It reaches beyond those who willfully do wrong, beyond those who negligently do wrong, beyond those who carelessly do wrong and includes within its wingspan those who meant no wrong," Hirsch wrote. "As the Shelton court rightly notes, the simple acts of possession are part of daily life."

Bondi promised a vigorous fight.

"This decision is flawed and it unduly hinders prosecutors' efforts to keep criminals off our streets," she said.

Her comments mirrored those of Miami-Dade police Maj. Charles Nanney, of the narcotics bureau, who later said the ruling made it harder for officers to do their jobs.

"It's encouraging drug use," Nanney said.

Hirsch acknowledged that the vast majority of people whose charges he was dismissing may have been fully aware that they carried illegal drugs. But that was no reason to ignore what he saw as disregard for civil liberties.

Miami judge tosses out drug cases, cites federal ruling 08/17/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 18, 2011 8:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  2. Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    Music & Concerts

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, a publicist said. He was 69.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  3. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  4. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement


    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
  5. Gregg Allman, iconic Southern rocker from Florida's Allman Brothers Band, dies at 69


    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.