Thursday, April 7, 2011

Florida Legislators Considering Eliminating Minimum Mandatory Sentences

St. Petersburg Criminal Attorney and Former State Prosecutor Melinda Morris of the Morris Law Firm discusses the possible changes the Florida Legislature is considering to eliminate minimum mandatory sentences for non-violent offenders.

Issue:

For decades Florida has had tough-on-crime laws that included minimum mandatory sentences.  This has meant that judicial discretion in handing out sentences was severely limited by law.  Florida law states that, for example, if you commit the crime of drug trafficking prescription pills, there is a potential minimum mandatory sentence of 3 years.  Under current law, if you are found guilty, the judge has no discretion in your sentencing.

Florida law makers are now considering eliminating minimum mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders.  Their rationale includes cutting the cost of keeping non-violent offenders in prison which is borne by Florida taxpayers.  As well, legislators have considered that many non-violent offenders who are subject to minimum mandatory sentencing are drug addicts who would be better and more economically served by receiving treatment as opposed to incarceration.




Why This Matters To You:

With Florida’s minimum mandatory sentencing in place, a drug addict caught carrying just one bottle of pills could be subject to a mandatory sentence of 3 years or more.  Florida is combating a prescription drug problem across the state where pill mills and illicit pain clinics feed drug addiction and land non-violent offenders in the criminal justice system.  In fact, one of every 10 inmates in Florida is serving time for a drug offense.

The bill (SB 1334) sponsored by Senator Ellyn Bogdanoff of Fort Lauderdale seeks to eliminate minimum mandatory sentencing which would allow judges additional discretion in their sentencing, and may allow non-violent offenders into treatment programs and drug court.

Although much of the debate in Tallahassee centers around the hot topic of prescription drugs, the proposed bill would also apply to other drug crimes such as possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine, and possession of other controlled substances.


What To Do Next:

If you have been arrested for a drug related crime contact a St. Petersburg Drug Charges Attorney to discuss possible defenses and specific strategies that may exist in your case.  Call the Morris Law Firm at 727-388-4736 to discuss your case directly with an attorney, or fill out our Online Form to be contacted for a Free Initial Consultation.  The Morris Law Firm can help and has specific knowledge and experience in defending drug charges offenders throughout Pinellas County and the entire Tampa Bay, FL Area (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Hillsborough, Pasco, Bradenton, Manatee, and Sarasota).