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The Champion

January/February 2011 , Page 7 

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Inside NACDL: Intentionally ‘Without Intent’ — Florida vs. Mens Rea

By Norman L. Reimer

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It is one thing to unwittingly slide down a slippery slope, it is another to deliberately plunge headlong into the abyss. But when it comes to the increasing tendency to limit intent requirements in the criminal law, Florida has taken that plunge with utter abandon.

Last May, NACDL and The Heritage Foundation published a groundbreaking report, Without Intent: How Congress Is Eroding the Criminal Intent Requirement in Federal Law.1 The report focuses on shoddy lawmaking that is systematically diminishing the criminal intent requirement – a moral anchor of the American criminal justice system. The notion that a person accused of crime is presumed innocent and should not be punished unless the state can prove that the person acted with criminal intent is inherent in the American system of justice. Not so in Florida.

Several years ago, Florida enacted a statute that eliminated the intent requirement from drug possession and distribution laws. Under this law a

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