Consequences of a Defendant Being Convicted of Possession of Contraband In a Correctional Facility
In Scott v. State, 808 So. 2d 166 (Fla. 2002), the defendant was convicted of possession of contraband (cannabis) in a correctional facility.
At trial, Scott's defense was that he did not possess the contraband and had no knowledge of its presence in his locker, where it was found.
He requested an instruction pursuant to Chicone v. State, 684 So. 2d 736 (Fla. 1996) that the guilty knowledge element includes knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance.
The trial court denied the request.
On review, this Court held that the trial court's failure to give the requested instruction was reversible error. This Court explained that the Chicone decision stood for the proposition that both knowledge of the presence of the substance and knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance are essential elements of the crime of possession of an illegal substance. Id. at 169.
The Court then found that the standard jury instructions on possession were inadequate as they did not inform the jury of the illicit nature of the substance requirement of the guilty knowledge element. Id. at 170. This Court further found that it is error to fail to give the requested instruction even if the defendant did not explicitly say he did not have knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance. Id. at 172.
The defendant in Scott was not in actual, personal possession of the drugs, and the testimony indicated that his locker may have been accessible to other people, which raised the question of whether exclusive constructive possession was proved.
Thus in Scott, the Court found reversible error and requested the Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases to propose an amendment to the jury instructions for possession offenses that would include knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance as an element. Id. at 172 n.7.