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Introduction of Contraband

Everything You Need to Know About Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility Charges

The Statute

Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility is a very serious crime carrying harsh and severe penalties. This crime is codified in Section 951.22 of the Florida Statutes. The statute states, in pertinent part, that:

  • “It is unlawful, except through regular channels as duly authorized by the sheriff or officer in charge, to introduce into or possess upon the grounds of any county detention facility as defined in s. 23or to give to or receive from an inmate of any such facility wherever said inmate is located at the time or to take or to attempt to take or send therefrom any of the following articles, which are contraband:
  • Any written or recorded communication. This paragraph does not apply to any document or correspondence exchanged between a lawyer, paralegal, or other legal staff and an inmate at a detention facility if the document or correspondence is otherwise lawfully possessed and disseminated and relates to the legal representation of the inmate.
  • Any currency or coin.
  • Any article of food or clothing.
  • Any tobacco products as defined in  s. 25(12).
  • Any cigarette as defined in s. 01(1).
  • Any cigar.
  • Any intoxicating beverage or beverage that causes or may cause an intoxicating effect.
  • Any narcotic, hypnotic, or excitative drug or drug of any kind or nature, including nasal inhalators, sleeping pills, barbiturates, marijuana as defined in s. 986, hemp as defined in s. 581.217, industrial hemp as defined in s. 1004.4473, or controlled substances as defined in s. 893.02(4).
  • Any firearm or any instrumentality customarily used or which is intended to be used as a dangerous weapon.
  • Any instrumentality of any nature which may be or is intended to be used as an aid in effecting or attempting to effect an escape from a county facility.
  • Any cellular telephone or other portable communication device as described in s. 47(1)(a)6., intentionally and unlawfully introduced inside the secure perimeter of any county detention facility. The term does not include any device that has communication capabilities which has been approved or issued by the sheriff or officer in charge for investigative or institutional security purposes or for conducting other official business.
  • Any vapor-generating electronic device as defined in s. 203, intentionally and unlawfully introduced inside the secure perimeter of any county detention facility.”

What Does the State Need to Prove?

In order to prove that a criminal defendant is guilty of the Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility, the State must establish these elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The criminal defendant:
    1. Introduced contraband into; or
    2. Knowingly introduced contraband into; or
    3. Transferred contraband to an inmate in; or
    4. Got contraband from an inmate in; or
    5. Procured contraband from; or
    6. Attempted to procure or transfer contraband from;

A detention facility; and

  1. The criminal defendant did not do these actions through regular channels, authorized by officers in charge of the detention facility, or the sheriff.

What are the Penalties for Introducing Contraband into a Detention Facility or Jail?

Misdemeanor Introduction

If a criminal defendant introduced written communications, recording, food, money, clothing, or alcohol into a county detention facility, the crime will be punished as a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one (1) year of incarceration, one (1) year of probation, or community control, and a fine of up to $1,000.

Felony Introduction

County Correctional Facilities

If a criminal defendant introduced weapons, drugs, phones, or other communication devices into a county detention facility, the crime will be punished as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years of incarceration, five (5) years of probation or community control, and a fine of up to $5,000.

Additionally, this offense is classified as a Level 3 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, meaning that a judge can sentence a defendant to just probation or the maximum of five years of incarceration.

State Correctional Facilities

If a criminal defendant introduced contraband other than firearms, weapons, or explosives into a state detention facility, the crime will be punished as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years of incarceration, five (5) years of probation, or community control, and a fine of up to $5,000.

Furthermore, this offense is classified as a Level 4 offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, meaning that a judge can impose the lesser sentence of just probation or the statutory maximum penalty of five years of incarceration.

Introduction of Weapons into a State Correctional Facilities

If a criminal defendant introduced weapons, explosives, or firearms into a state detention facility, the crime will be punished as a second-degree felony punishable by up to fifteen (15) years of incarceration, fifteen (15) years of probation, or community control, and up to $10,000 in fines.

For this offense, a judge must sentence a defendant convicted to a minimum of twenty-one (21) months of incarceration, but can also sentence the defendant to the statutory maximum (absent any circumstances necessitating downward departure).

Is Lack of Knowledge a Defense?

Due to the vague wording of the statute, it is unclear whether lack of knowledge is a concrete defense to Introduction of Contraband charges. The plain language of the statute implies that just possession or introduction without knowledge is enough to establish the offense. Furthermore, the jury instructions regarding Introduction of Contraband offenses do not state that knowledge is an element of the crime. Therefore, even a person ignorantly entering a detention facility with what is considered contraband under the statute could be charged with this crime.

Despite the wording issues, Florida Court of Appeal decisions have provided some guidance. State v. Oxx, a Fifth District Court of Appeal case, held in 1982 that knowledge is a required element of the offense:

In its order, the trial court held that the failure of the statute to expressly require mens rea or scienter made unknowing possession a criminal offense. This is not correct. Knowledge of possession is generally considered a part of the definition of possession as used in criminal statutes making possession a crime. Section 893.13, Florida Statutes (1981), prohibiting the actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance, and its predecessors, have never specifically required “knowing” possession, yet possession has always been defined to include knowledge of the same. A similar construction has been placed on other criminal possession statutes. Although the legislature may punish an act without regard to any particular (specific) intent, the State must still prove general intent, that is, that the defendant intended to do the act prohibited.

To broaden the scope of this holding, the Florida Supreme Court stated in Chicone v. State that, unless legislative intent indicates a clear intent to dispose of the mens rea, or criminal intent, mens rea will be presumed to be necessary to prove the offense was committed. In particular, the Florida Supreme Court stated:

We are also influenced by the fact that ‘[t]he existence of a mens rea is the rule of, rather than the exception to, the principles of Anglo-American criminal jurisprudence.’ (citing Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 500 (1951)). The United States Supreme Court has stated that offenses that require no mens rea generally are disfavored, and has suggested that some indication of legislative intent, express or implied, is required to dispense with mens rea as an element of a crime . . . There is no such indication of legislative intent to dispense with mens rea here. Our holding depends substantially on our view that if the legislature had intended to make criminals out of people who were wholly ignorant of the offending characteristics of items in their possession, and subject them to lengthy prison terms, it would have spoken more clearly to that effect . . . Of course, [the legislature] could have intended that this broad range of conduct be made illegal, perhaps with the understanding that prosecutors would exercise their discretion to avoid such harsh results. However, given the paucity of material suggesting that [the legislature] did so intend, we are reluctant to adopt such a sweeping interpretation.

Since there is no definitive legislative intent to abandon the mens rea requirement regarding the Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility statute, knowledge can be presumed to be a required element of the offense.

Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility Defenses

A criminal defendant cannot be convicted for possession of drugs as well as for introducing the drugs into the detention facility for the same act.

The list of contraband provided in the statute is specific, and a criminal defendant can use this list as a defense if they were charged with introduction of contraband and the item they introduced was not on the list.

  • Lack of Knowledge

As discussed above, lack of knowledge of the contraband can be a defense to Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility charges.

  • No Proof as to Transfer of Contraband

A defense can be made if there a is lack of proof, or evidence, as to who gave who the contraband (depending on whether the criminal defendant is charged as giving or receiving the contraband).

  • Failure by Officer

If an officer failed to remove items from the criminal defendant’s person, and the person brought them into the corrections facility, the officer’s failure can provide as a defense to the charges.

  • Consent

If the jail personnel consented to the criminal defendant introducing the contraband, this consent can be provided as a defense for the charges.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

Introduction of Contraband into a Detention Facility is a serious charge, carrying penalties of long incarceration, probation, and large fines. If you or a loved one has been charged with this crime, contact an experienced Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team of Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of criminal defense experience and will explore every possible defense applicable to the case. Contact Pumphrey Law Firm today at (850) 681-7777 or send an online message to discuss your case during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.

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