ORLANDO (CBSMiami/NSF) – A section of a state law which makes it illegal to possess a “counterfeit payment instrument” has been found unconstitutional by a Central Florida appeals court.
The Orange County case stems from the 2011 trespassing arrest of Brian Thomas, who was carrying a suitcase that included 35 checks with other people’s names on them, blank check stock, a printer and Florida identification that did not belong to Thomas, according to court documents.READ MORE: Fort Lauderdale Man Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Teen Girl
A circuit court ruled that it was unconstitutional to make it illegal to simply possess counterfeit checks. Prosecutors argued that the law was meant to address people who have counterfeit checks with the intent to defraud someone else.
Thomas’ attorneys, however, contended that the law could lead, for example, to a contractor being prosecuted for unknowingly accepting a counterfeit check from a customer.READ MORE: Housing Crisis: County Mayors To Hold Roundtable On Skyrocketing Rents
A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal agreed, saying the Legislature cannot pass criminal laws that violate constitutional due-process rights.
“Criminalizing the mere possession of counterfeit payment instruments criminalizes behavior that is otherwise inherently innocent and thus violates substantive due process,” said the opinion, written by Judge Jacqueline Griffin and joined by Chief Judge Vincent Torpy and Judge Wendy Berger.MORE NEWS: 'Ride Of Silence' To Raise Awareness For Cyclists Safety On The Road
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