Two Florida lawmakers want to overhaul the state’s legal system so that it shows more leniency to certain drug offenders. The moves are being advertised as a way to save taxpayers money.
According to the lawmakers, the state’s jails are being overrun with low-level, first-time drug offenders. These offenders are often sent to jail for years due to Florida’s mandatory minimum drug laws, which force judges to sentence certain offenders to long prison sentences. For example, if someone is caught with pain pills with no prescription, their sentence will be determined by the weight of the pills discovered. If the weight is below 51 grams, the defendant is charged with possession. If the weight is above 51 grams, the defendant is charged with drug trafficking, which carries an automatic 15-year prison sentence.
The lawmakers are introducing several new bills that would change the way drug offenders are sentenced. The proposed legislation includes a bill that would eliminate weight-based drug sentencing and one that would reduce the state’s mandatory minimum to three years. Proponents believe this would ease the burden on the prison system and reduce the number of tax dollars spent on prisoners. Currently, there are around 1,500 first-time offenders serving sentences in Florida prisons, which costs taxpayers $29 million each year. The new bills will be introduced early in 2018.
Florida has harsh penalties for those convicted of drug crimes. These penalties include lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences and steep fines. However, a defendant doesn’t have to face drug charges alone. A criminal defense attorney may be able to protect their rights as they go through the court system. They might also work to undermine the prosecution’s case, which could cause the charges to be dismissed or reduced.