In recent years, prescription drug abuse has become a hot button issue, especially with the Florida Legislature. For that reason, the crime of trafficking in prescription drugs has become one of the most harshly punished offenses in the State. In South Florida, people are arrested everyday for trafficking in substances such as alprazolam (Xanax), oxycodone (OxyContin), and a wide array of other pharmaceuticals. What's surprising is that possessing certain amounts of these substances can constitute trafficking. Remember - trafficking in Florida is not defined as moving or transporting a certain amount of drugs. Florida Statutes states that "any person who knowingly sells, purchases, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of [amount of the substance]" can be charged with trafficking. In other words, you can be charged with trafficking just for having a certain amount of pills in your pocket, even if there was no intent to sell or distribute them.
Trafficking in Prescription Drugs
Posted By Eric Matheny
Let's take oxycodone for example. Oxycodone is a powerful opiate prescribed mostly for the pain associated with a severe injury or post-surgical recovery. Oxycodone is the generic name. The drug is more commonly known by its trade name, OxyContin. In the State of Florida, trafficking in oxycodone carries some of the toughest penalties around. From 4 grams to 14 grams - and remember, this might be just a handful of pills - the MINIMUM sentence a judge can impose is 3 years in state prison, as well as a $50,000 fine. From 14 to 28 grams, the MINIMUM sentence a judge can impose is 15 years, with a mandatory fine of $100,000. If the amount is 28 grams or more - maybe 75 pills or so - the MINIMUM sentence a judge can impose is 25 years, with a mandatory fine of $500,000.
I stress the word "minimum" because the judge can sentence much higher than that if he or she chooses to. I also stress that word because these sentences are called "minimum mandatories." That means, the judge does not get to choose your sentence. It doesn't matter if you're a straight A student and this is your first offense. The judge is powerless. The judge must impose AT LEAST that number of years if you are found guilty. The State Legislature has determined that a fistful of pills should carry more mandatory years in prison that a room full of one-kilo bricks of cocaine.
Minimum mandatory sentences can be waived, but can only be done by the State Attorney's Office. If you or someone you know has been charged with trafficking in oxycodone, or any other prescription drug, contact a South Florida criminal attorney who handles trafficking cases. A good trafficking attorney may be able to persuade the State Attorney to waive a minimum mandatory sentence, resulting in a favorable plea bargain. As well, a good trafficking attorney will examine the case for errors committed on behalf of the police. Remember - if the police didn't follow the rules, then it doesn't matter what the substance is or how much of that substance the accused person allegedly had in his or her possession. A good trafficking attorney can prepare a motion asking the judge to exclude the evidence (the drugs). When this happens, the charges are almost always dismissed.