Doing the Right Thing Is Against the Law
Doing the right thing is tough. Throughout American history, we’ve seen brave folks do the right thing, even though it is against the law. Not all of us have the opportunity make such brave statements, but most of us are faced with tiny such decisions occasionally. Say, for example, that you find out your roommate is committing major drug trafficking crimes within your shared apartment. How do you resolve such issues? (sharing is caring? a friend with weed is a friend indeed? no no no, this stuff is illegal, stop that) With the Orlando police lacking any sort of investigation, it’s possible that anyone within the apartment could be charged with those drugs. So, do you “take possession” of the drugs and throw them out? What if the police catch you going to the trash can with the drugs, won’t they arrest you anyway? Lucky for you, we have a real life example of just such a case.
In Robinson v. State, 57 So.3d 278 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011), Robinson was convicted of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis as a lesser-included offense of possession of cannabis with intent to sell. At trial, a cop testified that he saw Robinson exit his parents house at 3 a.m, with a bag hidden under his shirt. They saw Robinson look around carefully, remove a trash bag from the garbage can, and carefully place the hidden bag under his shirt into the canister, then placing the white trash bag back on top. So, was Robinson doing the “right thing” by throwing out illegal drugs found within his home? (yes, weed is a terrible thing to waste, but remember, it’s illegal too!).
Unfortunately, the appeals court upheld Robinson’s conviction–though I don’t understand why. Florida law is very clear on this, “temporary control of contraband for the purpose of legal disposition by throwing it away, destroying it, or giving it to police can be a valid defense to the crime of possession of a controlled substance.” Id. Thus, Florida law is clear as to the three (3) ways you can defend the legal disposing of drugs. So, what happened in Robinson’s case? A poorly reasoned decision, that’s what. The devil’s in the details, listed below.
Let’s look at another real life case of Stanton v. State, 746 So.2d 1229 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999), where Stanton was convicted of possession of cocaine after approaching a cop and handing over to him crack cocaine. The appeals court overturned the conviction for the reasons stated above. But why not in Robinson’s case? The 4th DCA here has ignored the law that a citizen may (1) throw away drugs, (2) destroy drugs, or (3) give the drugs to police.
Incredibly, the Robinson court reasoned away rule (1) by claiming that Robinson could “have placed the marijuana in the trash can as a prearranged drop off spot as part of a drug transaction. Or Robinson may have placed it there as a temporary hiding place”. Id. What???? I guess, according to the 4th DCA in Robinson, the “law” is no longer that throwing away drugs is a valid defense–after all, a trash can is simply a hiding place, or a prearranged delivery spot! Is this a new law for trash cans? Maybe Robinson should have pursued rule (2), destroying the drugs–had he smoked it all away this may have never happened.
Lesson for today: no good deed goes unpunished.