Every country on Earth has criminal rules, and they all sound remarkably similar. We Americans enjoy a “presumption of innocence”, and Article 37 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran states that “Innocence is to be presumed”. Two countries, both with a “presumption of innocence”. Do you think they mean the same thing? It is our court’s interpretation of these words that given them teeth and meaning. Trust me, you would rather be presumed innocent in Florida, versus Tehran.
From time to time, American courts chip away at the meaning of criminal laws, and as such, we are creeping ever so slowly towards interpretations more in line with Tehran than Miami. To demonstrate this slow erosion, we’re going to review the recent Florida Supreme Court case of Florida v. Queior, 2016 Fla. LEXIS 841 (Fla. 2016).
This article may start to sound a bit like an episode of Inside Baseball, but the erosion of our rights can be subtle, so bare with me here. The bad decision in Queior arose out of a violation of probation case involving a probationer who tested positive for drugs. Let’s begin with a bit of background on how a violation of probation works. It all begins with the old saying, “Come to Florida on vacation, leave on probation.” Next, you actually violate that probation. Finally, the criminal rules afford you a hearing where, if you’re found guilty of violating, you’re probably facing jail or prison time. But, there is hope. After all, we still have the rules of evidence, right? Continue Reading