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Drug trafficking mandatory sentencing laws keep many in jail

Florida has some of the harshest drug laws throughout the nation. Even those who do not sell drugs could see over a decade in prison time if the court convicts them of any form of drug trafficking or distribution.

What makes matters worse is Florida’s laws towards minimum sentencing. Under current standards, those arrested prior to a law that would reduce their sentence still have to serve out their full conviction and cannot challenge the court to alter it. It is important for those facing potential drug trafficking charges to understand the severity of this law and how it could impact their potential charges.

Small room for second chances

Recently, Fox 13 in Tampa Bay highlighted people serving decades of time for minimal offenses. One of those people is a man who ran out of pain pill prescriptions for his removed lung. When the pharmacy did not refill his prescription because he took too many pills too early, he forged a prescription to get enough for the rest of the month. Despite never selling a pill, he the court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, which even the judge agreed was too excessive. Even if the state’s change in 2014 towards how many pills were necessary for an arrest would affect his sentence, it cannot apply to him due to the mandatory conviction law.

Earlier cases can demonstrate this law’s impact. Back in 2002, a confidential informant for the police tricked a diabetic grandmother in Sunrise into selling hydrocodone pills. The court sentenced the grandmother to 25 years in prison. Despite the state changing these laws to have this conviction have a maximum of 15 years in 2012, the woman is still there serving her sentence after her arrest 16 years ago.

Potential changes in the future

With how overpopulated Florida prisons have become, the state has been debating measures on how to reduce it. Several lawmakers propose passing Amendment 11, which would allow changes in criminal laws to retroactively apply. This means the thousands of prisoners who have excessively long sentences could get the chance to apply newer laws within the last decade to their current sentence. Numerous politicians have been debating about the impact of this law as it would affect criminals of varying degrees, not just those with decades of drug trafficking time.

Whether or not this amendment passes, those facing potential convictions for drug trafficking need to take as much measures as they can to prevent owing expensive fines and a long amount of prison time. A criminal defense attorney is committed to making sure their client’s lives are not ruined from these punishing laws.