Florida’s Response to Opioid Epidemic is Extreme

The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, with 78 people dying from an opioid-related overdose every day. In 2015, over 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose. This crisis is the collateral consequence of pharmaceutical companies over-prescribing these highly addictive substances. People who are addicted to opioids often commit crimes to support their habits, including selling drugs, prostitution, theft and robbery.

The Fentanyl Problem

The opioid epidemic has worsened in the last few years, due in part to the introduction of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. This drug is an extreme pain management tool most often used in operating rooms and hospice environments. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 25 to 50 times more potent than heroin.

OxyContin is one of the most common and abused opioids available, both by physician prescription and illegal sales. As state governments and federal agencies focus on addressing the over-prescribing of OxyContin, drug users and sellers have turn to fentanyl to fill in the growing opioid demand. This highly addictive and dangerous drug is often mixed with heroin or cocaine because it is cheaper than either of them, and creates an extremely potent, and at times lethal, substance. People using these drugs are often unaware of what they are taking, which can lead to severe injury or death.

New Minimum Mandatory Sentences

Rather than address this problem as the health and substance abuse issue it is, Florida has chosen to create new minimum mandatory sentences specifically addressing fentanyl. This is a rare course of action because there has been a push-back within the state against minimum mandatory sentences.

These new sentencing guidelines are troubling for many reasons, but the biggest problem is that they apply to someone who merely possess fentanyl, not someone who distributes or sells it. The new sentencing requirements are:

  • Possession of 4 grams of fentanyl carries a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 3 years.
  • Possession of 14 grams of fentanyl carries a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 15 years.
  • Possession of 28 grams of fentanyl carries a minimum mandatory prison sentence of 25 years.

Under this sentence structure, someone who possess a very small amount of fentanyl for personal use could spend three years in state prison.

Expert Legal Representation is Critical

The stakes are high, so it is critical that an individual hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if they are arrested for possession of fentanyl. With minimum mandatory sentences, it is important to understand that:

  • The prosecutor, not the judge, is the only person who has the discretion to “come off” the minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines.
  • An expert criminal defense attorney is familiar with the prosecutor’s office, and knows who to talk with to present relevant facts.
  • The criminal defense attorney can advocate your case with the prosecutor, proving valid and compelling reasons to come off the minimum mandatory sentences.
  • If you plead guilty to the charges of possession of fentanyl, there is no chance to receive a sentence below the minimum mandatory, regardless of the judge’s opinion on the matter.

Certified criminal defense attorney Ben Stechschulte is a former prosecutor who knows the criminal legal system, and how to achieve the best possible outcomes for his clients. His expertise in drug-related cases and with the minimum mandatory sentencing process allows him to aggressively advocate for the individuals he represents. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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