Florida Mandatory Minimums
Minimum Sentences for Drug Offenders in Tampa, FL
The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate globally, and Florida is one of the worst offenders. According to state and federal data, Florida imprisons 556 out of every 100,000 residents. This is due in large part to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. A large fraction of Florida's state prison population is comprised of nonviolent drug offenders, as mandatory minimums target drug crimes the harshest.
In the 1980s and ‘90s when the nation declared its "war on drugs," Florida focused on trafficking. However, it soon became clear that the mandatory minimums were placing harsh prison sentences on low-level drug offenders. Florida's drug trafficking laws are now so severe that carrying seven prescription painkillers without a prescription could land you in prison for three years.
Florida Statute § 893.135 outlines mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes:
- Marijuana (25-2,000 pounds): 3 years in prison and/or a $25,000 fine
- Prescription painkillers (4-14 grams): 3 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine
- Meth (14-28 grams): 3 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine
- Cocaine (28-200 grams): 3 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine
- LSD (1-5 grams): 3 years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine
The greater the quantity of the illegal substance, the higher the mandatory minimum sentence will be. For example, most of these penalties increase to 7, 15, or 25 years in state prison for higher quantities of drugs.
Are Florida's Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences Too Harsh?
In January of 2012, the Florida Legislature researched the law, confirming that it had extended far beyond its original intentions. Its research found that the law increased the penalties for selling Vicodin and OxyContin, popular brand names for hydrocodone and oxycodone. So, the state’s prison system saw a spike of new inmates who were addicts rather than the drug lords the law was supposed to wrangle. The report analyzed that of 1,200 cases—74 percent of them involved someone who had never been to prison before.
Drug Possession vs. Sales
Florida's drug trafficking laws are distinct from most other states because the law doesn't distinguish by selling and not selling. Only the quantity matters. You may be in possession of 14 grams of prescription painkillers and be sentenced the same way a person would be sentenced for selling or distributing it.
Florida Drug Courts
Florida has a program for felony drug offenders that focuses on counseling and rehabilitation as methods to combat drug crimes and help offenders recover. The Felony Drug Court Program allows drug offenders to participate in an 18-month supervision program in conjunction with the state Department of Corrections and Drug Pre-Trial Intervention. Drug offenders who qualify for drug court and complete their treatment program will have their charges dismissed. Tampa's drug court is the Hillsborough County Thirteenth Judicial District.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a narcotics offense, contact a Tampa drug crime lawyer at our firm. Thomas & Paulk is dedicated to defending the accused.
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