Yesterday, March 2, 2015, two court decisions came out of Florida that are important to the civil liberties of Floridians. One dealt with Real ID compliant drivers licensing and the other was through jury nullification of laws dealing with marijuana.
The first was held in a Collier County courtroom with former Libertarian Party of Florida candidate for Governor, Adrian Wyllie. Wyllie was challenging the constitutionality of Real ID compliant drivers licensing in Florida by surrendering his license in 2011 and continue to travel on Florida roads. Wyllie was eventually arrested on Florida’s West Coast and his trial was held yesterday. Two months ago Wyllie filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds his First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated by forcing him to comply with the Real ID Act of 2005 to travel.
Judge Mike Carr, the new judge handling the case, did not agree and offered Wyllie the option to plead ‘no contest’ and pay a $150 fine, which Wyllie took. The prosecution was seeking six month’s probation but Wyllie could have served up to one year in jail under Florida statute. Wyllie said yesterday, “I think he rushed through it. I think with the change in judges at the last minute, he didn’t have the time to give the motion in which we submitted a couple weeks ago true, thoughtful, review.”
Other states in the union offer both, Real ID compliant licenses and non-compliant drivers licenses to their residents – Florida is not one of those states. Wyllie said he will pursue the issue in the Florida legislature; however, success in 2015 is unlikely. An effort to do what other states have done on the issue could be successful in 2016 if there enough will by the public. Past attempts to end Real ID in Florida have failed even though bills have been introduced in the past. Arizona, Maine and Utah are some of the states which have passed resolutions publicly denouncing Real ID. Utah’s resolution states, “REAL ID is “in opposition to the Jeffersonian principles of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.” It continues, “…the use of identification-based security cannot be justified as part of a ‘layered’ security system if the costs of the identification ‘layer’—in dollars, lost privacy, and lost liberty—are greater than the security identification provides”:
Another court decision yesterday occurred in Broward County, Florida resulting in the jury nullification of the Florida law concerning the growing of marijuana. Hollywood, Florida resident Jesse Teplicki was growing marijuana at his residence to help him deal with anorexia which has negatively affected him since the age of nine years old. Teplicki found marijuana helped increase his appetite and relieved constant nausea. State prosecutors didn’t see it that way and charged him with manufacturing marijuana and could have faced up to five years in prison. The jury effectively nullified the law against marijuana possession and production for personal medical purposes by finding Teplicki not guilty. Jury nullification is the right of juror’s to find in favor of a defendant, not on the facts of the case, but whether they feel the law is just. In a growing number of cases throughout the United States, prosecutors are losing cases because Americans do not feel it is proper to send citizens to jail for using and/or possessing marijuana.
The jury’s decision, which is not expected to be appealed by the State of Florida, reflects the change in public opinion over draconian drug laws in Florida, especially when dealing with using marijuana for medical purposes. It also demonstrates the power of the jury to nullify unjust laws put forth by the Florida legislature. In November, 2014, 58 percent of Floridians voted in favor of a medical marijuana constitutional amendment but was two percent shy of the needed 60 percent for passage.