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Garcia v. Florida

Supreme Court of Florida
901 So. 2d 788 (2005)


Facts

Deputy Sheriff Joseph Irizarry observed Garcia (defendant) driving erratically. Irizarry stopped Garcia’s vehicle to conduct field sobriety tests. Irizarry then arrested Garcia for driving under the influence. Two additional deputies searched Garcia’s vehicle incident to his arrest. Under the front passenger seat, the officers discovered what appeared to be a softball covered in electrical tape. A laboratory determined that the item contained a mix of methamphetamine and a cutting agent. Garcia claimed that he was unaware the item had been in the vehicle and that he did not know what it contained. In support of this contention, Garcia explained that other people had access to his vehicle and that the vehicle had recently been stolen and returned. Garcia was charged with trafficking in methamphetamine and ultimately convicted of the lesser-included offense of possession of methamphetamine. The trial court instructed the jury that knowledge that the substance was methamphetamine was a required element of the drug-trafficking offense. With regard to the lesser-included offense of drug possession, the court’s jury instruction did not specifically state that knowledge of the nature of the illicit substance was required but did note that the definition of possession provided in the trafficking charge continued to apply. Garcia appealed to the district court, arguing that, among other things, the trial court erred in providing a jury instruction on possession that did not expressly require knowledge of the nature of the illicit substance. Although the district court agreed with Garcia’s argument, it found that Garcia had not properly preserved the error and that the error was not a fundamental one that could be addressed without proper preservation. [Editor’s note: The district court certified its opinion to the Florida Supreme Court, based on a conflict with Goodman v. State, 839 So.2d 902 (Fla. 1st DCA 2003).]

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Quince, J.)

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Dissent (Wells, J.)

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