JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A federal judge says Florida's drug laws are unconstitutional.
The recent ruling could open up prisons, letting convicted users out. The attorney general's office says it's filing an appeal. They don't want drugs or drug dealers coming into neighborhoods where they could target children.
"Could some of these convicted drug dealers go back on the streets," asked Action News Reporter Catherine Varnum. "Yes, that is a possibility," said public defender Katy Harris. Harris will help do it. It's all because of a federal judge's ruling that says Florida's drug law is unconstitutional.
Rich Mantei with the state attorney's office says because of the ruling, he expects the courts to be busy giving drug dealers a second chance at freedom. "There's no shortage of creative defense attorney's who I'm sure will bring the argument forward," said Mantei.
Florida's drug law changed in in 2002 when the Florida legislature said prosecutors no longer need to prove those accused knew what they were doing was illegal. For example, if you delivered a letter that had a drug in it, but didn't know it, you could still be charged with delivering a drug. That's why this judge says the law is convicting innocent people.
That's why both sides will be looking at what happens next very closely. "Most folks have already pleaded guilty and admitted their offense," said Mantei. "It's going to be on a case by case basis," said Harris.
The public defender's office is expecting to get a lot of letters from inmates wanting to file an appeal. Some people convicted on drug charges could get up to life in prison. It could be months before anything more develops in this case. The appeals process takes well over 90 days.