Unknown actions?

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Unknown actions?

My soon-to-be sister-in-law is selling drugs out of her grandmother’s house. The grandmother has no knowledge of this going on. I want to turn her in for this, however, I do not want anything to happen to the grandmother. This is happening in the state of Florida. Can the grandmother be charged with anything?

Asked on December 19, 2016 under Criminal Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

No, legally, she can't be charged criminally: criminal charges require criminal "mens rea" or intent, which includes at a minimum, knowledge--you can't intend what you don't even know about, after all. 
However, if there is evidence suggested that the grandmother knew (including if the sister-in-law tries to blame it on the grandmother to get leniency for herself), then she may be charged: the authorities aren't perfect or mind readers, so even if the grandmother in fact did not know, if there is evidence of knowledge that suggests that she did, they may try to charge.
Also, sometimes a property from which drugs are being sold can be taken by the state under the process of civil forefeiture, even if the homeowner had no knowledge. Civil forefeiture allows the authtorities to seize property used to sell drugs without having to get a conviction of the owner. 
Before acting, therefore, consult with a criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the situation in detail and advise as to the risks.


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