Are you facing drug possession charges? Here's a possible defense: "hey, so, uh ... I forgot about those drugs, therefore I didn't really possess those drugs, see?" Cannabis club worker Eric Meoli tried this one out in a San Francisco courtroom recently, and it actually worked!
Meoli was on the hook for possession of "less than four grams" of magical psilocybin mushrooms, which he had obtained in the most stereotypically San Francisco way imaginable: From a medical marijuana-seeking "hippy" with insomnia, while hanging out at a public park. Meoli's lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Lutes-Koths, told the court that, after accepting the hippy's hallucinogenic gifts, Meoli put them in his backpack and forgot about them for six whole months. (Side question: Why do you think Meoli might have trouble remembering things sometimes?)
In May, police stopped Meoli for riding his bicycle on a BART station platform. After handing his backpack over to police so they could look for his identification, the cops found the shrooms in a pocket and bingo, BUSTED. Once again: The police, found the drugs, in Meoli's backpack. So how was he acquitted? Lutes-Koths explains:
"One of the elements of the law requires that the defendant know of the presence of the substance," said Lutes-Koths. Prosecutors couldn't prove Meoli had knowledge of possession of the mushrooms when he was arrested, she said.
A jury is given the instruction that says if circumstantial evidence leads to two different conclusions, one that points to guilt and one that points to innocence, the jury must adopt the one that points to innocence, she explained.
We wouldn't count on all juries across America following the spirit and letter of the law like Meoli's did, given how tough-on-crime some communities are. But just imagine all the funny scenarios that could arise: "Yeah, so those bricks of cocaine in my trunk? Totally slipped my mind they were even there, ha. It's like I disowned them, pretty much." And as for "that bag of marked bills that 'someone' stole from Bank of America? Well, you know, officers, I've been really busy trying out my new telescope lately, and totally forgot it was in the basement, ha. It belongs to the basement now, pretty much." And etc.