Mark O'Hara was stopped and searched at the Tampa Bay airport. He was carrying a little bit of pot and 58 Vicodins. He copped to the weed and explained the officers that he had a valid prescription for the Vicodins. They didn't believe him. He was prosecuted for possession with intent to deliver the pills. At trial, he produced both the doctor who wrote the prescription and the pharmacist who filled it for him. No deal. The state argued that there was no "prescription defense" to drug trafficking charges. Stunningly, the trial court agreed and did not instruct the jury about it. Dutifully, the jury returned a guilty verdict against O'Hara, which included a mandatory minimum 25-year prison term.
An appellate court reversed O'Hara's conviction, and hard. The court called the state's argument "absurd," noting:
Under the state's position, a patient who left the drugstore with 60 validly prescribed Vicodin tablets would face a minimum mandatory prison term of 25 years and a fine of $500,000, . . ..Had O'Hara been allowed to present the defense, it would have swayed at least one juror:
Told of the reversal, the jury foreman from O'Hara's trial said he would have voted for an acquittal if he had known about the prescription defense.One would that would be the end of it - if a court called my reasoning "absurd" I think I'd know it was time to move on. But drugs make you stupid, kids, especially when you have the power of the state behind you. The prosecutor in O'Hara's case refuses to dismiss the charges, even though O'Hara has spent two years in prison already.
'I'm not going to sleep tonight,' said Frank Brigliadora, the juror. 'That's definitely an injustice.'
Your War on Drugs(tm).