Many states are examining some of the harsh prison sentences that they
have in place for certain crimes. Because overcrowding is such a huge
problem, legislators are trying to find a way to ensure that the funds
they have are being spent properly. They want to continue to appear tough
on crime, but know that they will need to make changes in order to have
space for the most dangerous offenders.
Florida officials are taking a closer look at some of the mandatory minimum
sentences being handed down in certain
drug offenses. This means that when an individual is convicted of a crime, such as drug
distribution, the courts have no discretion in the amount of prison time
the offender will receive. They are not allowed to depart downward from
these guidelines based on other factors present in the case, such as the
individual's prior criminal history.
Under a recent bill proposed in the state Senate, mandatory minimums would
be eliminated for trafficking small amounts (under 14 grams) of oxycodone
and hydrocodone. Judges would be allowed to review some of the external
factors in these cases, and decide the amount of time that the individual
should serve rather than forcing a lengthy sentence for a non-violent offense.
The bill also suggests that the courts take a different approach to determining
the quantity of drugs at issue in these cases. Currently, the amount of
drugs is calculated by the weight of the pills that a person has at the
time of the offense. The new bill would change this to simply be the weight
of the active ingredients of the drug, which would be a significant difference.
While this proposal and other similar bills may lead the legislature to
modify their approach to drug crimes, there are still extremely severe
penalties in place for those who are convicted. Jail or prison time is
possible, and offenders could find themselves struggling after completing
their sentences. This can include difficulty in finding work or a place
to live, as well as being able to qualify for student loans.
If you believe that you are under investigation by police for a drug crime
or other criminal offense, it is essential that you speak to an experienced
criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You must have someone on
your side who understands how these cases proceed, and who can advise
you on what you have to do to protect yourself.
Often, law enforcement agencies will have committed substantial resources
toward investigating these offenses. They may be very aggressive when
trying to get you to admit your involvement. You should not talk to anyone
until your attorney is at your side.