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Potential Change To Florida’s Drug Overdose Laws
In this legislative session, Florida’s houses have seen fit to enact sweeping new laws on every issue from LGBTQ+ rights to zoning. In terms of criminal justice, there have been several changes that can adversely affect the rights of defendants, particularly those who face drug charges. Florida’s drug crime laws are some of the strictest in the U.S., and these changes only add to that reputation.
Florida has extremely strict drug laws, due to a past history of drugs and drug abuse. Even first-time offenders may wind up serving jail time if convicted of drug offenses, simply because these crimes are treated not as individual events, but as crimes against society – drugs can destroy lives and families, and those who sell and distribute those are seen as attackers of society in general.
Florida has a cause of action referred to as drug-induced homicide, in which a person who provides a drug or mixture of drugs to another person who later overdoses can be charged with murder if the drugs are found to be the proximate cause of the overdose victim’s passing. The term ‘proximate cause’ means an event which is “sufficiently related” enough to be the immediate cause of injury. For example, if a truck swerves to avoid a bicyclist, and hits a car, the proximate cause of any injury would likely be the bicyclist’s negligent driving.
The bill that passed this legislative session, which has passed both houses but not been signed by the governor as of this writing, is HB 365, which deals with capital drug offenses. It will make two major changes to current drug law:
- The first is that instead of proximate cause, the providing of drugs need only have been a “substantial factor” in a person’s overdose death to warrant charges. In other words, the drugs need not have been the proximate cause of death – they only have to have been a substantial factor in the person’s passing;
- The second is that a person who provides drugs that lead to a non-fatal overdose can be charged with a second-degree felony. There is a clause in the bill that states that a person who ‘acts in good faith’ and reports an overdose may receive immunity from charges, but the decision of whether or not one reports in ‘good faith’ is subjective.
While this may help to stop more overdoses, the bill does also have its detractors, with some in the legislature arguing that it will harm those who are addicted to drugs rather than those who distribute them. Only time will tell.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Offenses Attorney
Drug crimes are taken very seriously in Florida, and if you are in a position where you face charges, it is crucial to enlist a competent attorney to help you navigate the legal process. A West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from the firm of Perlet & Shiner, P.A. will work hard to protect your rights. Contact our office today at 561-721-0552 to speak to an attorney.