State v. Adkins, No. SC11–1878.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Writing for the CourtCANADY
Citation96 So.3d 412
PartiesSTATE of Florida, Appellant, v. Luke Jarrod ADKINS, et al., Appellees.
Decision Date12 July 2012
Docket NumberNo. SC11–1878.

96 So.3d 412

STATE of Florida, Appellant,
v.
Luke Jarrod ADKINS, et al., Appellees.

No. SC11–1878.

Supreme Court of Florida.

July 12, 2012.


[96 So.3d 414]


Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, FL, Robert J. Krauss, Bureau Chief, John M. Klawikofsky, and Diana K. Bock, Assistant Attorneys General, Tampa, FL, for Appellant.

James Marion Moorman, Public Defender, and Matthew D. Bernstein, Assistant Public Defender, Tenth Judicial Circuit, Bartow, FL, for Appellee.


Arthur I. Jacobs, General Counsel, and Yvonne R. Mizeras of Jacobs Scholz and Associates, LLC, Fernandina Beach, FL, on behalf of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Inc.; Honorable Nancy Daniels, President, Richard M. Summa and John Eddy Morrison, Assistant Public Defenders, Tallahassee, FL, on behalf of Florida Public Defender Association, Inc.; Todd Foster of Cohen and Foster, P.A., Tampa, FL, and David Oscar Markus of Markus and Markus, Miami, FL, on behalf of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Drug Policy Alliance, Cato Institute, Reason Foundation, and Libertarian Law Council; and Elliot H. Scherker of Greenberg Traurig, P.A., Miami, FL, and Karen M. Gottlieb, Coconut Grove, FL, on behalf of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Miami Chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, As Amici Curiae.

CANADY, J.

In this case we consider the constitutionality of the provisions of chapter 893, Florida Statutes (2011), the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, that provide that knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is not an element of any offenses under the chapter but that the lack of such knowledge is an affirmative defense.

Based on its conclusion that section 893.13, Florida Statutes (2011)—which creates offenses related to the sale, manufacture, delivery, and possession of controlled substances—is facially unconstitutional under the Due Process Clauses of the Florida and the United States Constitutions, the circuit court for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit issued an order granting motions to dismiss charges filed under section 893.13 in forty-six criminal cases. The circuit court reasoned that the requirements of due process precluded the Legislature from eliminating knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance as an element of the offenses under section 893.13. On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeal certified to this Court that the circuit court's judgment presents issues that require immediate resolution by this Court because the issues are of great public importance and will have a great effect on the proper administration of justice throughout the State. We have jurisdiction. Seeart. V, § 3(b)(5), Fla. Const.

For the reasons explained below, we conclude that the circuit court erred in determining the statute to be unconstitutional. Accordingly, we reverse the circuit court's order granting the motions to dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

Section 893.13, part of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act, provides in part that except as otherwise authorized “it is unlawful for any person to sell, manufacture, or deliver, or possess with intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, a controlled substance” or “to be in actual or constructive possession of a

[96 So.3d 415]

controlled substance.” § 893.13(1)(a), (6)(a), Fla. Stat. (2011). Depending on the controlled substance involved and the circumstances of the offense, a violation of section 893.13 can be punished as a misdemeanor, a third-degree felony, a second-degree felony, or a first-degree felony. See, e.g.,§ 893.13(1)(a)(1), (1)(a)(2), (1)(a)(3), (1)(b), Fla. Stat. (2011).

Section 893.13 itself does not specify what mental state a defendant must possess in order to be convicted for selling, manufacturing, delivering, or possessing a controlled substance. In Chicone v. State, 684 So.2d 736 (Fla.1996), this Court addressed whether section 893.13 should be interpreted to include a mens rea—that is, a “guilty mind”—element. In reviewing a conviction for possession of cocaine, this Court determined that “guilty knowledge” was one of the elements of the crime of possession of a controlled substance and that the State was required to prove that Chicone knew he possessed the substance and knew of the illicit nature of the substance in his possession. Id. at 738–41. This Court reasoned that the common law typically required “scienter or mens rea [as] a necessary element in the indictment and proof of every crime” and that the penalties facing defendants convicted under chapter 893, Florida Statutes, were much harsher than the usual penalties for crimes where a knowledge element is not required. Chicone, 684 So.2d at 741. This Court further reasoned that the Legislature “would have spoken more clearly” if it had intended to not require proof of guilty knowledge to convict under section 893.13. Chicone, 684 So.2d at 743.

More recently, in Scott v. State, 808 So.2d 166 (Fla.2002), this Court clarified that the “guilty knowledge” element of the crime of possession of a controlled substance contains two aspects: knowledge of the presence of the substance and knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance. 808 So.2d at 169. In addition, this Court clarified that the presumption of knowledge set out in State v. Medlin, 273 So.2d 394 (Fla.1973), and reiterated in Chicone—that a defendant's knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance can be presumed from evidence that the defendant had possession of the controlled substance—can be employed only in cases in which the State proves actual, personal possession of the controlled substance. Scott, 808 So.2d at 171–72.

In response to this Court's decisions, the Legislature enacted a statute now codified in section 893.101, Florida Statutes (2011). Section 893.101 provides in full:

(1) The Legislature finds that the cases of Scott v. State, Slip Opinion No. SC94701 [808 So.2d 166] (Fla.2002)[,] and Chicone v. State, 684 So.2d 736 (Fla.1996), holding that the state must prove that the defendant knew of the illicit nature of a controlled substance found in his or her actual or constructive possession, were contrary to legislative intent.

(2) The Legislature finds that knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is not an element of any offense under this chapter. Lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of a controlled substance is an affirmative defense to the offenses of this chapter.

(3) In those instances in which a defendant asserts the affirmative defense described in this section, the possession of a controlled substance, whether actual or constructive, shall give rise to a permissive presumption that the possessor knew of the illicit nature of the substance. It is the intent of the Legislature that, in those cases where such an affirmative defense is raised, the jury shall be instructed on the permissive presumption provided in this subsection.

[96 So.3d 416]

(Emphasis added.) The statute thus expressly eliminates knowledge of the illicit nature of the controlled substance as an element of controlled substance offenses and expressly creates an affirmative defense of lack of knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance. The statute does not eliminate the element of knowledge of the presence of the substance, which we acknowledged in Chicone, 684 So.2d at 739–40, and Scott, 808 So.2d at 169.


Since the enactment of section 893.101, each of the district courts of appeal has ruled that the statute does not violate the requirements of due process. See Harris v. State, 932 So.2d 551 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006); Burnette v. State, 901 So.2d 925 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005); Taylor v. State, 929 So.2d 665 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006); Wright v. State, 920 So.2d 21 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005); Lanier v. State, 74 So.3d 1130 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011).

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently concluded, however, that section 893.13 is unconstitutional because it does not require sufficient mens rea on the part of the defendant to sustain a conviction. See Shelton v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 802 F.Supp.2d 1289 (M.D.Fla.2011). First, the Middle District reasoned that to withstand constitutional scrutiny, section 893.13 should have provided lighter penalties, “such as fines or short jail sentences, not imprisonment in the state penitentiary.” Shelton, 802 F.Supp.2d at 1301 (quoting Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600, 616, 114 S.Ct. 1793, 128 L.Ed.2d 608 (1994)). Second, the Middle District reasoned that because of the substantial social stigma associated with a felony conviction, a conviction under section 893.13 should require a guilty mind. Shelton, 802 F.Supp.2d at 1302. And third, assuming that a defendant could be convicted under section 893.13 for delivering or transferring a container without being aware of its contents, the Middle District concluded that section 893.13 violates due process by regulating potentially innocent conduct. Shelton, 802 F.Supp.2d at 1305.

Citing Shelton as persuasive—not binding—authority, the circuit court in this case concluded that section 893.13 is facially unconstitutional because it violates the Due Process Clauses of article I, section 9 of the Florida Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The circuit court reasoned that the Legislature did not have authority to dispense with a mens rea element for a serious felony crime.

The State now appeals the circuit court's decision in this Court. The State asserts that section 893.13, as modified by section 893.101, is facially constitutional and that the circuit court therefore erred in granting the motions to dismiss.

II. ANALYSIS

In the following analysis, after acknowledging the applicable standard of review, we first consider the case law that discusses the broad authority of the legislative branch to define the elements of criminal offenses as...

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663 practice notes
  • Jones v. Governor of Fla., No. 20-12003
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • September 11, 2020
    ...convicted of crimes that do not have a mens rea element. See, e.g. , Fla. Stat. §§ 893.13(1), 893.101(2) (explained in State v. Adkins , 96 So. 3d 412, 415–16 (Fla. 2012) ).Most importantly, the primary purpose of these fees and costs is to raise revenue for the operation of Florida's gover......
  • Donson v. Jones, Case No. 3:13cv159/MCR/CJK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • March 2, 2015
    ...unconstitutional pursuant to Shelton v. Secretary, Department of Corrections, 820 F. Supp. 2d 1289 (M.D. Fla. 2011). See State v. Adkins, 96 So. 3d 412 (Fla. 2012). Donson v. State, 99 So. 3d 999 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012) (copy at Ex. S).Page 32 The state courts' rejection of petitioner's due pro......
  • Stringer v. Jones, Case No.: 3:13cv645/LAC/EMT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • February 27, 2015
    ...contends the claim is without merit (id.). Respondent argues the Florida Supreme Court rejected Petitioner's argument in State v. Adkins, 96 So. 3d 412 (Fla. 2012) (id.). Additionally, in Shelton v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 691 F.3d 1348 (11th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 1856 (2013),......
  • Gray v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:10-cv-98-J-34MCR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • January 10, 2013
    ...that the state court's adjudication of this claim is not entitled to deference, Petitioner's claim is without merit. See State v. Adkins, 96 So.3d 412, 423 (Fla. 2012) ("In enacting section 893.101, the Legislature eliminated from the definitions of the offenses in chapter 893 the elem......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
663 cases
  • Jones v. Governor of Fla., No. 20-12003
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit
    • September 11, 2020
    ...convicted of crimes that do not have a mens rea element. See, e.g. , Fla. Stat. §§ 893.13(1), 893.101(2) (explained in State v. Adkins , 96 So. 3d 412, 415–16 (Fla. 2012) ).Most importantly, the primary purpose of these fees and costs is to raise revenue for the operation of Florida's gover......
  • Donson v. Jones, Case No. 3:13cv159/MCR/CJK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • March 2, 2015
    ...unconstitutional pursuant to Shelton v. Secretary, Department of Corrections, 820 F. Supp. 2d 1289 (M.D. Fla. 2011). See State v. Adkins, 96 So. 3d 412 (Fla. 2012). Donson v. State, 99 So. 3d 999 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012) (copy at Ex. S).Page 32 The state courts' rejection of petitioner's due pro......
  • Stringer v. Jones, Case No.: 3:13cv645/LAC/EMT
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • February 27, 2015
    ...contends the claim is without merit (id.). Respondent argues the Florida Supreme Court rejected Petitioner's argument in State v. Adkins, 96 So. 3d 412 (Fla. 2012) (id.). Additionally, in Shelton v. Sec'y, Dep't of Corr., 691 F.3d 1348 (11th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133 S. Ct. 1856 (2013),......
  • Gray v. Sec'y, Fla. Dep't of Corr., Case No. 3:10-cv-98-J-34MCR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • January 10, 2013
    ...that the state court's adjudication of this claim is not entitled to deference, Petitioner's claim is without merit. See State v. Adkins, 96 So.3d 412, 423 (Fla. 2012) ("In enacting section 893.101, the Legislature eliminated from the definitions of the offenses in chapter 893 the element t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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