Since last summer, Florida has had some of the toughest fentanyl-related laws in the country.
WPTV 5 reported on the law, House Bill 477, which was signed into law in July 2017. Under this law, individuals who possess large amounts of fentanyl face drug trafficking charges with lengthy mandatory minimum sentences. In addition, fentanyl dealers can be charged with murder if someone overdoses on a drug they received from a dealer.
Lawmakers passed the measure in response to the growing opioid crisis nationwide, which now claims more lives each year than traffic accidents. The Florida Senate passed the measure the same day a state commission reported more people died from fentanyl overdoses in the first half of 2016 than from any other drug.
Opioid Criminal Defense in Jacksonville
We have seen the opioid crisis reach epidemic proportions in America, and we applaud the government's efforts to reduce its impact on our communities. However, we are also keenly aware that authorities have pushed overcrowded prisons to the breaking point by issuing harsh sentences against drug violators. There is little tolerance for drug violators, either in the criminal justice system or in society at large, as drug convictions continue to be among the criminal convictions most likely to prevent a defendant from obtaining employment.
Florida law provides for the following minimum mandatory sentences for those caught in possession of fentanyl:
- A minimum of 3 years in prison and a $50,000 fine for possession of between 4 and 14 grams.
- A minimum 15 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for those in possession of 14-28 grams of fentanyl.
- A minimum of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for those in possession of more than 28 grams.
That means defendants caught with just one half-ounce face 15 years in prison, while an ounce of fentanyl will put them behind bars for 25 years. And those are the minimums! In an era where California and many other states are abandoning mandatory minimum sentences, Florida appears to be doubling down, to the detriment of people accused of crimes. Mandatory minimums take sentencing power out of the hands of judges and hand it to prosecutors. That's why it's so important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney protecting your legal rights.
Changing Opioid Laws Could Snare Jacksonville Residents
Florida drug laws are found in F.S. 893.03 and categorize drugs as Schedule I to Schedule V, with Schedule V being primarily over-the-counter medications. Heroin is a Schedule I narcotic, while Schedule II drugs include opium, codeine, hydrocodone, cocaine and other derivatives. However, authorities continue to reclassify fentanyl and its derivatives as Schedule I.
When law-abiding citizens are charged with drug offenses, shame and embarrassment can lead to quick convictions. In many cases, prosecutors are willing to offer first-time offenders a plea bargain, and first-time offenders, eager to put an incident behind them, too often readily accept.
However, a Clay County criminal defense attorney should always be consulted before such deals are accepted. A felony drug conviction can have a lasting impact on your life, and may increase the criminal penalties of a future drug charge.