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Florida Legislature May Ease Up On Prescription Drug Trafficking Mandatory Sentences

Seven, eight years ago, Florida lawmakers couldn’t get enough mandatory minimums for prescription drug trafficking. Lawmakers up in Tallahassee believed that mandatory prison time was the only solution for those charged with trafficking in prescription drugs, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Percocet), and diazepam (Valium). For hydrocodone and oxycodone, mandatory prison terms range from 3 years up to 25 years, depending on the amount possessed.

In Florida, trafficking is based on the amount of the drug possessed by the accused. The accused’s intent means nothing. It doesn’t matter if the accused is a drug addict who intends to take the pills or a dealer who is going to sell them. A mandatory sentence applies to everyone, regardless of the facts and circumstances.

Hard as it may be to believe, our Florida lawmakers are actually wising up. No longer are they the brain-dead career politicians who take a “tough on crime” stance to win votes. Maybe, just maybe, there’s at trace of humanity among them.

But humanity aside, it’s simple bottom line economics. It’s much, much cheaper to treat addicts with probation and drug courts than it is to send them to prison for a quarter of a century.

Min-man reform could save Florida almost $50 million over the next five years.

The old min-mans were aimed at curbing the prescription drug epidemic that plagued Florida - namely Broward County - from about 2006 through 2010. With lots of money and resources being poured into taking down prescription drug clinics (“pill mills”) and going after large-scale traffickers, the problem is actually decreasing.

But what we are left with are lots of addicts who stockpile pills for their own use. Many of these folks are hard-working, non-violent, and have no prior criminal history. But for their drug addictions, they are ordinarily law-abiding.

Is it in any way fair to simply lock these people up for what may be the rest of their lives?

Absolutely not. Which is why I think our lawmakers are starting to see the light. Min-mans have ruined the lives of too many good people.

The legislation that is pending right now doesn’t abolish min-mans, but it does raise the amount of drugs that can be in your possession before the mandatory minimums are triggered.

It’s not great but it’s a start.

After all, this is the government we’re dealing with.

Eric Matheny is a Miami trafficking lawyer and Broward trafficking lawyer.