In Florida, having just seven hydrocodone pills on you without a valid prescription can lead to a 3-year prison sentence. The state is known for prosecuting nonviolent drug crimes more harshly than any other state in the nation. Current laws treat abusers just as harshly as traffickers by imposing lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for possessing relatively small quantities of illegal substances.
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws were intended to dissuade criminal activity and establish uniform punishment for similar crimes; but have many had unwanted effects, including the overfilling of state prisons with nonviolent drug offenders who would benefit from treatment rather than incarceration. Mandatory minimum sentences cost the state billions of dollars to incarcerate addicts when enrolling them in diversion programs would cost significantly less. They unfairly punish low-level offenders, many of whom are first offenders who were caught with a personal supply of illegal drugs that met the standards for trafficking charges.
Currently, lawmakers and opponents of mandatory minimum sentencing are pushing to reform sentencing laws to allow judges to use discretion when issuing punishment. The focus of these reforms centers on offenders who possess the highly-addictive prescription painkillers, hydrocodone and oxycodone. By providing the option for judges to place offenders in a drug treatment diversion program rather than forcing them to place offenders in prison, offenders who are addicts can receive the help they need rather than add to the overflowing prison population.
How Easing Mandatory Minimum Laws Can Help
In 2008, an Orange County judge sentenced a man to 15 years in prison for possessing 30 oxycodone pills with a forged prescription. The combination of his supply of pills plus a fake script resulted in a harsh narcotics trafficking charge, which even the judge did not want to impose.
“My hands are tied by the law, and I have to sentence you to 15 years, and there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it,” said Judge Blechman when sentencing William Forrester, a man who was on disability insurance and had recently had a lung removed due to cancer prior to his arrest.
Oxycodone and hydrocodone are among the most highly-abused narcotics in the state. With a valid prescription, it is completely legal to possess these substances. Doctors commonly prescribe these powerful painkillers following surgery or for cancer treatment; afterward, many patients become hooked.
Current laws place addicts in the same category as traffickers, which is why enabling a “safety valve” provision — which allows judges greater discretion when sentencing drug offenders — can ensure the sentence is proportionate in severity to the crimes committed.
When you face criminal charges for drug trafficking in West Palm Beach, you face a relentless system that may seek to make an example of your case to deter future offenders. For over 30 years, veteran defense attorney Brian Gabriel has stood up for the rights of those accused of drug offenses throughout South Florida and has a highly respected reputation. Brian Gabriel’s goal at The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel is to ensure your Constitutional rights are respected at each step of the legal process while providing for the best possible outcome. Call 561-622-5575 for a free consultation or contact us online.