Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bellizia: Ineffective Counsel for Failing to argue heroin was not weighed

In Bellizia v. Dep’t of Corrections, No. 09-13838 (Aug. 20, 2010), the Court affirmed the grant of habeas relief to a Florida inmate because his defense counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to challenge the State’s failure to weigh each of the pellets of heroin found on Bellizia..

The Court noted that under Florida caselaw, which had been controlling law for many years, visual examination of drug packages is insufficient to determine the weight of the package. The State must weigh and test every package. Here, the State failed to weigh the drugs and Belizia was sentenced to a 22-year term based on an estimate of the weight of the drugs. No competent counsel would have failed to argue that the weight was illegally calculated.