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Do Mandatory Minimums Actually Prevent Drug Crime?
In early 2020, the Florida legislature took up a bill aimed at reducing mandatory minimum sentences in place for certain drug-related crimes. Historically, this has been a hot-button issue, but over time, measures like this have found more and more support among voters – even the Florida Prosecutors’ Association supported the 2020 measure. However, the bill died in committee in March, with no further action since. One wonders if mandatory minimum sentences will ever be abolished or reduced in Florida, given the persistent belief that their imposition lowers drug crime. That said, there are studies that show almost the opposite effect.
Mandatory Minimums Are Still The Law
Mandatory minimum sentences are in force in Florida for many crimes, with drug trafficking being one of the most commonly seen. They were instituted in the late 1990s, at a point where cocaine trafficking had caused a wave of serious violence and Florida law had been insufficient to stand against it. Over time, however, patterns became clear that showed mandatory minimums were falling disproportionately on low-level drug offenders and minorities, rather than serving their intended purpose – a 2017 study showed that these types of sentences actually increased prison populations with no real effect on crime rates.
In Florida, there are three types of crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences: drug trafficking, sex crimes (particularly those involving child abuse, such as “lewd or lascivious molestation”), and gun-related crimes. Not every charge in these categories carries a mandatory minimum, but most of them do, and this can be the case regardless of whether the underlying charge is a misdemeanor or a felony.
If you have been charged with any kind of drug trafficking, you will almost certainly face a mandatory minimum sentence, though the minimums can range from 3 years to life, depending on the drug you are accused of trafficking and the amount in question. A judge may sentence you to a longer period in jail, but cannot go below the minimum. This will apply whether you are sentenced under Florida law or federal drug trafficking laws – the U.S. Sentencing Commission also imposes mandatory minimums for certain offenses, including drug trafficking and identity theft crimes.
Keep in mind that while some low-level drug offenders who are caught merely possessing small amounts of illicit substances, most Florida State’s Attorneys are not interested in making deals with those convicted of drug trafficking – the crime is simply viewed as too serious. Depending on your specific situation, you may be able to plead to a lesser charge, avoiding a mandatory minimum – but this is not always possible. Enlisting an experienced attorney to help you with this process can make all the difference.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Trafficking Attorney
Originally, mandatory minimum sentences were intended to catch cartel members and others engaged in large-scale trafficking – but over time it has become clear that the law has not done its job. Still, for now, it is the law in Florida, so if you have been charged with drug trafficking, it is important that you have an attorney on your side who can guide you through that process. The West Palm Beach drug crimes attorneys from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh are ready and willing to try and assist you with your case. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.