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Broward County Leads The Way In Reevaluating Drug Sentences
Florida is known as one of the U.S. states with the harshest drug penalties, due to its past history as a trafficking capital. These penalties include mandatory minimum sentences for the majority of drug offenses – but over time, light has been shed on the inherent inequity of mandatory minimums by groups like The Innocence Project. If you are charged with a drug offense, you need to be aware that while mandatory minimums are still in force, there is work being done to try and reform Florida’s draconian sentencing practices.
Mandatory Minimums Do Not Lower Crime Rates
Mandatory minimum sentences were en vogue in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and were enacted ostensibly to deter major traffickers, and to ensure that individual defendants received fair and uniform sentences for the same crime. However, multiple studies have shown that instead, the policy devastates poor communities, explodes state and federal budgets, and do very little to lower overall crime rates. Florida’s legislature had started to move away from mandatory minimums at one point, but in the early 1990s, many were reinstituted, wanting to cut down on crime. The gambit has not been successful.
Because of the failure of mandatory minimums to deter crime, Broward County has been one of the leaders in reexamining mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug defendants. In August 2020, it officially recommended sentence reductions for 21 defendants, all of whom were serving sentences of 15-30 years for trafficking prescription pills. The State Attorney’s office focused on these defendants because unlike with so-called ‘street’ drugs, the amount of prescription pills required to achieve ‘mandatory minimum’ status was very low. The implicit unfairness of this situation called out for review – not necessarily freedom, but a revisiting of each case to ensure that justice was carried out.
If You Are Charged
If you are charged with a drug offense, it is crucial that you understand the potential sentence that you may be facing. Know if you have been charged with a state crime or a federal crime. Understand that any drug trafficking crime will carry a mandatory minimum sentence as of this writing, while a possession charge generally will not. However, it may be possible to plea-bargain, or to reach another agreement with the State’s Attorney, to avoid the mandatory minimum.
Most importantly, however, do not place all of your faith in sentence reform. While it is true that the Florida legislature is entertaining bills related to reversing mandatory minimums and otherwise allowing nonviolent drug offenders the chance to have their sentences reevaluated, there is no guarantee of anything. If you have been charged with drug possession or trafficking, a dedicated attorney will be more helpful to you at the moment than anyone else.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Crimes Attorney
While it remains to be seen whether any other counties in Florida will pick up where Broward County has left off, those who are charged with drug crimes still need to enlist a West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney to help guide them through the system. The firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. has handled many of these cases before, and will work hard on yours. Call our offices today to speak to an attorney.