Florida May Be On the Verge of Changing How It Treats Drug Offenses & Sentencing
In November, the Florida Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved legislation that would alter how drug offenses are treated in Florida. Specifically, it would provide judges with more deference in straying from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements for individuals charged with drug dealing if they did not use a firearm in the commission of an offense, do not have any felony convictions, and are non-violent. It also mandates that drug offenders caught with small amounts of drugs can be sent to county jails, but not state prisons, and anyone found with less than two grams of any drug except fentanyl could not be sentenced to more than 12 months in jail.
Florida’s Current Drug Laws Are Broken, And Treat Regular People the Same as Major Drug Traffickers
Currently, Florida law requires mandatory sentencing for drug crimes, no matter the circumstances involved, and Florida houses the third-largest prison population in the U.S., with many languishing in prison under these outdated laws. For example, someone who committed the same drug crime in 2016 as someone else in 2011 would be out of prison by now, while the 2011 offender would not. And while fewer people are going to prison each year, they are also serving longer sentences than in previous years. All existing research indicates that mandatory minimums are ineffective and many of those convicted on these kinds of drug offenses are almost never arrested again once released.
The current laws were intended to target major drug traffickers but instead ended up ensnaring regular people who, for example, were caught with one joint or with pain pills for physical injuries and did not have a prescription. As a result, the law ended up going far beyond its intended scope. For example, of the 1,200 cases analyzed in a Miami Herald article, 74 percent of the inmates had never before been to prison; meaning that the laws were imprisoning addicts not top level dealers. And someone who, for example, possessed or sold 22 hydrocodone pills – less than what’s included in a single prescription – would serve a minimum trafficking sentence of 15 years.
New Law Would Allow Those Already Convicted to Petition for Reconsideration
The injustice of this reality has led to complaints from judges around the state, who have pointed out that the current laws force them to treat the addicted and organized crime the exact same. However, the proposed bill would allow anyone who already has a mandatory sentence that the courts reconsider their sentences in light of the new law.
Contact an Experienced Florida Drug Defense Lawyer
If you have been caught with any amount of drugs deemed to be illegal at the state or federal level, you will still face significant penalties, as this legislation is far from becoming law. Contact our West Palm Beach drug offenses attorney at the office of William Wallshein, P.A. today to ensure that your rights are protected.