It is common for minor drug offenses in Florida to escalate quickly, and often unnecessarily. While state drug laws exist for a reason, that reason can become unclear when a small cocaine possession charge turns into months -- and even years -- of repercussions.
Florida, like most states, enforces its own laws on drug possession and trafficking. However, with a drug history dominated by cocaine cartels in the 1980s, the state considers such offenses seriously. Might the seriousness of these penalties see future change?
The website for the Florida Legislature outlines the general laws for cocaine possession in the state. According to state law, anyone who purchases, sells, manufactures, brings or delivers 28 grams or more of cocaine into the Sunshine State faces an immediate first degree felony. Those in possession of more than 28 but less than 200 grams could face 3 years behind bars, with a mandatory $50,000 fine. Just 200 grams more could result in 15 calendar years in prison and a fine of $250,000. There are other details to these laws on the Florida Legislature's website.
Just last week, News Channel 8 acknowledged that Florida's drug trafficking laws are some of the toughest in the country. Some lawmakers argue that these regulations demand more attention from judges in order to sentence more appropriate penalties. Senate Bill 694 strives to give judges the power to override prosecutors' approval by waiving minimum mandatory sentences. The news outlet shares the three criteria that would allow for exceptions in sentencing:
- The defendant had no history of criminal activity related to drug trafficking
- The defendant did not use violence in the crime
- The defendant did not cause injury or death during the incident
Under these three criteria, the bill aims to lessen the penalties that many first-time offenders face. Because Florida considers drug trafficking to be the selling, purchasing, manufacturing and delivering of a controlled substance, many offenders face penalties that far outweigh the seriousness of their crimes. Echoing the issue presented in the aforementioned source, this bill could also potentially reduce the prison population in the state, and would allow for an updated, more ethical handling of each minor drug offense.