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Drug legislation amended to remove mandatory minimums

On May 2, it was reported that legislation regarding Florida's rising opioid epidemic sparked a debate among lawmakers. This debate put an amendment that would establish mandatory minimim penalties for those who were convicted of being in possession of fentanyl in jeopardy.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is often mixed with heroin. The bill that would establish mandatory minimum penalties had already been approved by the House. In its initial form, the bill would have required a minimum three-year jail sentence for up to 14 grams. The minimum prison sentences would be bumped up to at least 15 years for up to 28 grams and 25 years for those convicted of being in possession of more than 28 grams.

However, many lawmakers argued that the mandatory minimums were particularly harsh. As such, the Senate amended the bill to remove the mandatory minimums as some lawmakers argued that mandatory minimum sentences do not work. Further, tough drug laws may simply destroy lives. While the amended legislation would still make it a crime to be in possession of fentanyl, another lawmaker argued that the bill does not address Florida's opioid problems.

People who have been handed drug charges may face serious consequences if a conviction is obtained, including incarceration, fines and probation. They may be unable to seek future employment, may lose school scholarships and may have trouble finding housing. As such, they may want to meet with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that a strategy to counter the charges can be developed. One possibility would be to examine the manner in which the search that led to the seizure of the drugs was conducted.

Source: The Ledger, "Amendment endangers passage of drug sentencing bill", Zac Anderson, May 2, 2017

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