Here in Orange County and Seminole County, trafficking in hydrocodone cases are filling up our prisons with people that have no business being labeled a criminal. Yep, your tax dollars hard at work, locking up drug addicts with money that could be spent on books and teacher salaries. As you know, Florida is way behind the times on pill trafficking laws, as our Federal government abandoned trafficking sentences based upon the entire weight of a pill long ago–and instead bases sentencing on the weight of the illegal substance contained within the pill (wow, science, weights and stuff … didn’t we learn how to correctly weigh something in the 6th grade?) Since when does the Federal government take the lead on money saving, rational behavior?
Anyway, back to the story. The First District overturned a trafficking in hydrocodone conviction, and it went down like this. Defendant Ayotte spent the evening with his girlfriend at a local bar. So far, so good. An officer observed defendant show some pills to another person and possibly exchange them. Not so good. Defendant denied such actions, testifying that the pills in his pocket were being held for his girlfriend because her outfit did not have pockets (trafficking amount of pills by Florida weight standards, not trafficking by Federal weight standards). Ayotte v. State, 2011 WL 263163 (Fla. 1st DCA 2011).
The First DCA overturned the trafficking conviction, because the jury instructions did not include the most obvious defense of all–the prescription defense, which in this case was established by the agency relationship between the defendant and his girlfriend. The failure to instruct the jury on such constituted reversible error, as the state failed “to refute Appellant’s role as his girlfriend’s agent”. Id. Yep, the prescription defense is alive and well, and we can only hope this trend continues.