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
Miami-Dade County, 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.
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
Miami-Dade County 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.