A major issue in most drug cases is whether you were in possession of the drugs. Possession has a specific definition in the Texas Penal Code. It means something different from ownership, which means more than one person can be in possession of the same substance. The state has to prove you had care, custody or control of the drugs. Basically that means you have to know they were, and had some control over them. That is often an issue where the substance is hidden or concealed, or you are on someone else’s property.

A question that may arise – although not often – is whether you knew what the item was. In other words, did you know it was a controlled substance.  Most of the time its going to be hard to argue you didn’t know what it is – but it could happen.

The Florida legislature apparently thought this was a problem, so they passed a law putting the burden on the defendant to prove they didn’t know they had a controlled substance. This week the Florida Supreme Court held the law was constitutional.  Last year a federal district judge held the law was unconstitutional, but the Florida Supreme court did not agree. So as it now stands, the State doesn’t have to prove you knew you had a controlled substance.

I can’t imagine this being all that big an issue. However, why do we need to make the State’s job any easier. It’s not like they have a hard time proving a defendant knew he had a controlled substance. It’s usually pretty obvious. Maybe it will become an issue if the trend continues toward criminalizing substances that are currently legal.

So far Florida is in the minority on this issue – a very small minority. Let’s hope they stay that way.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.
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