This November, Florida May Finally Do Something about Outdated Mandatory Minimum Sentencing
While Florida has rolled back some of its harsher mandatory minimum sentencing laws, many are still stuck with sentences that are years or even decades longer than those convicted of similar crimes today.
However, a referendum on the state ballot this November could change that: Amendment 11 would allow the state legislature to retroactively change sentencing laws, which it is currently barred from doing so by a provision known as the “savings clause” in the Florida state constitution. While a state judge recently ruled that the amendment—which includes other measures—was unconstitutional, the Florida Supreme Court is now reviewing that decision, which will inevitably affect whether or not Floridians can vote on it this November.
Legislature’s Hands Tied in Meaningfully Adjusting Mandatory Minimum Sentences
Florida arguably has what many would call draconian opioid trafficking laws, which places thousands of low-level offenders in prison for significant amounts of time each year, even if they were convicted of something as minor as trying to sell a single bottle of pills. This is no exaggeration, but a reflection of actual, real cases; cases that include Floridians without any prior arrest records being sentenced to 25 years in prison at age 40 for selling a single bottle of pills to an undercover officer.
And while Florida made modest adjustments to issues such as weight thresholds necessary to trigger harsh sentencing for trafficking certain opioids in 2014, the savings clause still prevents the legislature from doing anything for inmates who are serving time under the old, previous thresholds.
Those Sentenced Before 2014 Serving Three Times the Sentence for Same Crime
If the ballot measure passes, that could make a tremendous difference for those sentenced before the 2014 mandatory minimum revisions. Under the new law, what was once a mandatory 25-year sentence and $500,000 fine would instead turn into a seven-year prison term and $100,000 fine. In other words, where the mandatory minimum sentencing has already been adjusted for certain crimes, a person sentenced before 2014 currently serves more than three times the time and pays five times the fine than one sentenced for the same crime today.
Meanwhile, Florida is facing nothing less than an incarceration crisis: Its state prison system alone currently holds approximately 100,000 inmates. Without the legislature making changes to sentencing laws, this number will only increase.
Consult a Florida Drug Crimes Attorney
In spite of changes Florida has made in the last four years to certain mandatory minimum sentencing, a number of crimes still carry extremely harsh penalties that include length prison time. If you have been accused of a drug crime, you absolutely need to contact an attorney who is experienced in defending against these types of accusations so that you are not left unjustly serving 25 years in prison for some minor offense.
Contact our well-respected Florida criminal defense and civil rights attorneys at the Baez Law Firm today to find out how we can best ensure that you remain protected throughout any accusations.