Did you know Florida is has some of the harshest mandatory drug sentencing laws in place in the country? According to WSFU News, these laws could be changing drastically soon leaving it up to the court system and judges to decide on a fair punishment on a case-by-case basis.
Currently, the mandatory drug sentencing laws are as follows:
- First-degree misdemeanor - Up to a year in jail for the first conviction or a year in jail plus treatment and home detention for those with prior convictions. This charge comes from being caught with up to 20g of marijuana without a medical marijuana license. All other drug possession charges are treated more seriously.
- Third-degree felony - Up to 5 years in prison for being caught with more than 20g marijuana, up to 28g of cocaine, up to 10g of ecstasy, up to 1g of LSD, or up to 4g of heroin.
- First-degree felony - Up to 30 years in prison and fines as high as $250,000. A first-degree felony is charged when the individual is caught with more than 25 pounds of marijuana or any of the above substances in any measurement higher than those leading to a third-degree felony.
In 1979, Florida passed mandatory drug sentencing laws as an attempt to crack down on drug related crimes. The thought was that if the laws were harsh, there would be less drug deals and drug use as offenders would be afraid of the punishment. Of course, that isn't what panned out and now legislation is discussing the proposed Senate Bill 642 that would get rid of the mandatory drug sentences.
A recent study by FAMM (Families Against Minimum Sentencing) showed the benefits of changing the harsh punishments set in place for those caught with illegal substances. Some of the most important benefiting factors including the millions of dollars that would be saved and the decrease in prison populations. Currently, many prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug related crimes.
The Senate Bill That Could Change Mandatory Drug Sentencing Laws
If passed, Senate Bill 642 would "require that the court imposes, for an offense relating to trafficking in certain substances, a sentence pursuant to the Criminal Punishment Code and without regard to any statutory minimum sentence if the court makes specified findings under certain circumstances."
The passing of this bill could potentially allow the early release of offenders who are serving time due to non-violent drug related crimes. If you or someone you know have been charged with a crime involving drugs, assistance from an experienced defense attorney can make a huge difference in the charges that may follow. Russell Spatz can be reached at (305) 442-0200.
Florida Drug Possession Laws. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://statelaws.findlaw.com/florida-law/florida-drug-possession-laws.html
Jordan, G. (n.d.). Sweeping Legislation Would End Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentences In Florida. Retrieved from https://news.wfsu.org/post/sweeping-legislation-would-end-mandatory-minimum-drug-sentences-florida
The Florida Senate. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00642