Florida Considering Bills to Ease Mandatory Minimums

In 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 477 (HB 477), adding the opioids fentanyl and carfentanil to the list of drugs that can result in mandatory minimum sentences. Now, two bills have been proposed in the Florida Legislature that could allow judges to depart from mandatory minimum sentencing requirements.

House Bill 481 (HB 481) provides that mandatory minimum sentences for controlled substance offenses may be reduced by up to a specified percentage for offenders meeting certain criteria. Senate Bill 694 (SB 694) authorizes a court to impose a sentence other than a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment and mandatory fine for a person convicted of trafficking if the court makes certain findings on the record.

“This year, the momentum is stronger than ever in the Senate for real criminal justice reform,” State Senator Rob Bradley, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the Miami Herald. “It remains to be seen if our friends in the House share that appetite.”

SB 694 cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee on a 15-5 vote on February 22, 2018, and now heads to the Senate floor for consideration. Shortly before that vote, the Senate Justice Appropriations Subcommittee had heard from a vocal opponent of the measure, lobbyist Barney Bishop from the conservative criminal justice reform group Smart Justice Alliance.

“You’re helping drug traffickers,” Bishop said of the SB 694. “Do you know how much pot you’ve got to have to meet the trafficking minimum for this bill? You have to have 25 pounds. That’s 25 backpacks.”

With very little time remaining in the 2018 legislative session, it remained to be seen whether the Senate measure would gain any traction in the House of Representatives—where a separate measure had not moved through the chamber.

Miami Criminal Defense Attorney for Mandatory Minimum Drug Crimes

Florida Statute § 893.135 imposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking offenses involving certain amounts of controlled substances. It is important to remember that an alleged offender can be charged with a drug trafficking crime as the result of simply possessing more than a specified amount of a controlled substance—drug trafficking crimes do not require any actual or intended distribution of the illegal drug.

Mandatory minimums under this statute include offenses involving people who knowingly sell, purchase, manufacture, deliver, or bring into Florida.

When a person is accused of one of the crimes listed above, a judge is powerless to issuing a sentence that deviates from the mandatory minimum required. It is in the best interest of any individual facing one of these charges to immediately retain legal counsel.

Evan Hoffman is an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Miami who can fight to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Contact The Hoffman Firm today to receive a free, confidential consultation that will let our attorney provide a complete evaluation of your case.

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