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Perlet & Shiner, P.A. Motto

Mandatory Minimums In Florida Drug Cases


Florida has a very high rate of incarceration – among the highest in the United States, which in turn has far and away the highest incarceration rate in the world. In recent years, Florida has experienced a shift away from being ‘tough on crime,’ and toward focusing more on rehabilitation than punishment. This has led to the abolition of some mandatory minimum sentences – however, some do remain, and if you are arrested on drug charges, it is crucial that you understand what you might face.

A Reaction To Crime

In the late 1970s and 1980s, South American drug cartels sought a U.S. base, and eventually decided on Miami and its nearby environs. This caused crime in Miami and much of the east coast of Florida to skyrocket, especially in terms of trafficking crimes. As a reaction to this enormous escalation of violence and drug sales, harsher sentences were instituted as a way of being “tough on crime.” While the destruction of the Medellin Cartel in the early 1990s curtailed much of the violence, the law has remained the same; trafficking is one of the few crimes that is still subjected to mandatory minimum sentences in Florida.

Florida law singles out three categories of crime for mandatory minimum sentencing, and all of them are seen as not only a crime, but a wrong against society. One is drug trafficking, which is seen as serious because one person can affect thousands; the other two are gun crimes (generally, any usage of a firearm that is unauthorized or happens during the commission of a felony); and certain sex crimes known as lewd and lascivious molestation – essentially, child sex abuse. If you are convicted of drug trafficking, it is a guaranteed fact that you will serve the minimum required – on the average, between 7 and 25 years, depending on the severity of the crime.

A Changing Landscape

Things have begun to change in Florida, with a bona fide movement in recent years to steadily do away with – or at least to reform – mandatory minimum sentences. In the last decade, bills have been introduced with regularity to try and lower the required sentence time and increase the threshold required to trigger them, in addition to seeking to release those incarcerated before the change in state law. While mandatory minimums may eventually be a thing of the past, so far no legislation has been passed on the issue since 2014.

Until real reform becomes law in Florida, however, mandatory minimum sentences are very much a problem to be reckoned with, with all the details of the standard charge. For example, be aware that Florida’s trafficking laws do not require a showing that you sold drugs, merely that you possessed enough to conceivably sell drugs to others. The amount found in your possession is the factor that will convince a prosecutor to charge you with simple possession versus trafficking – for example, if you are caught with 200 grams of cocaine, that is an amount that merits a trafficking charge, even if you never made any attempt to sell them.

Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Crimes Attorney

As of this writing, mandatory minimum sentences are still the law of the land in Florida, and having an attorney on your side who understands the potential high stakes of being convicted of a drug crime is crucial. The West Palm Beach drug crimes attorneys at the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help you understand your options. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.


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