Legal Briefs

September 2011

Florida Drug Laws

  • On July 27, 2011, a Federal judge declared Florida’s law prohibiting the sale, manufacture, or delivery (Fla. Stat. Sec. 893.13) unconstitutional because it does not require mens rea and carries a harsh penalty. The order is available here. Florida’s drugs laws have been upheld many times before so it is unlikely that the order will stand.

Forensic Reports (Admissibility)

  • The United States Supreme Court ruled that a forensic laboratory report certifying that a defendant’s blood alcohol level was over the illegal limit was inadmissible. See Bullcoming v. New Mexico.

Prison Overcrowding

  • The United States Supreme Court ordered California to release more than 35,000 prisoners or impose other measures to reduce prison overcrowding in a 5-4 decision. Almost 145,000 inmates are incarcerated in California prisons, which were designed to hold only 80,000 inmates. Justice Kennedy noted backlogs approaching 700 prisoners waiting to see physicians and instances where up to 54 inmates shared a single toilet. See Brown v. Plata.

August 2010

Admissibility of Laboratory Test Results
In People v. Bowman, 2010 WL 1038819 (Cal. App. 5 Dist. March 23, 2010), the court ruled that a supervisor may rely on another analyst’s notes and report to testify in his or her expert opinion regarding drug test results.

April 2010

In Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. __, 129 S. Ct. 2527, 185 L.Ed.2d 314 (2009), the United States Supreme Court ruled that affidavits from a forensic analyst identifying the substance taken from the defendant as cocaine was “testimonial” and inadmissible absent live testimony. The case caused significant confusion in the legal system about the admissibility of laboratory documents created by or for law enforcement (or court) purposes as business records. The Supreme Court decided to re-hear oral arguments on the issue in Briscoe v. Virginia. Many legal experts expected the Court to reverse or limit Melendez-Diaz. However, on January 25, 2010, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings not inconsistent with Melendez-Diaz in state court. See 2010 WL 246152 (January 25, 2010).