Clearing Traffic through Legislation

Posted by Jessica Travis in Criminal Law Blog











Clearing Traffic through Legislation

Florida Legislature Change Drug Trafficking

By Jessica Travis on Friday, October 24, 2013

With the recent crackdown on pill-mills and illegal prescription use throughout the Sunshine State, Florida laws have taken a hard stance on stopping the trafficking and illegal dealings of prescription drugs. In an attempt to rid Florida of the prescription pill epidemic that recently plagued the nation, strict and excessive laws were set against illegal prescription pill abuse. However, these harsh laws, that specifically targeted drug offenses regarding the most widely used and abused pills hydrocodone and oxycodone, have been reformed to relieve the previous severe penalties associated with being arrested with the drugs.

Before Florida legislature reformed these laws, being busted for possessing four grams or more of either drug without a valid prescription triggered a drug trafficking charge that had a mandatory three year prison sentence. FLA. STA. §893.135 (c)(2). Most prescription pills, specifically hydrocodone and oxycodone, weigh out to about 500 miligrams per pill. Therefore, this charge and mandatory prison sentence seems harsh and excessive considering four grams of the drugs equal about seven or eight pills. Being

arrested for larger amounts of these drugs can carry up to fifteen and twenty-five year mandatory sentences.

These harsh laws have affected the criminal justice system in Florida. According to Florida’s State Department of Corrections, the number of inmates locked up for trafficking prescription pills quadrupled from between 2006 and 2011. Furthermore, because these tough state laws did not discriminate between simple possession and trafficking or dealing in the sale of these pills, drug users were often being punished just as harshly as those illegally trafficking the prescription narcotics. Due in part to these facts, legislators recognized that the Florida law penalties against hydrocodone and oxycodone needed to be reformed. Florida Representative Katie Edwards who campaigned for the reformation of these laws addressed the issue, stating, “[w]e recognize that it doesn’t make sense financially, or otherwise, to send someone to state prison for three years under a mandatory-minimum sentence for possession of seven hydrocodone pills.”

Using the Florida Representative’s stance on the issue, Katie Edwards and other Florida legislators set out to change the minimum-mandatory sentences for prescription pill arrests. These legislators proposed that the amount of hydrocodone and oxycodone to elicit a three year minimum-mandatory sentence should be three times the previous amount. This proposal also set out to adjust the sentence for being arrested for larger amounts of these drugs from the mandatory twenty-five year prison sentence to seven years.

The Florida House of Representatives passed the proposed legislation on April 11, 2014. Governor Scott’s failure to timely

veto the bill means that the reformed legislation on mandatory sentencing for hydrocodone and oxycodone has been enacted. Under the changed law, it now takes a minimum of fourteen grams of hydrocodone and seven grams of oxycodone to trigger a three-year mandatory prison sentence.

Although the changes in the law has relieved some of the excessiveness of the mandatory sentences for prescription pills, being arrested for possessing these pills, no matter the amount, still carries serious legal consequences. Therefore, it is important to contact a diligent and experienced criminal defense attorney with any legal matters regarding criminal possession or trafficking of prescription pills.

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