Florida Legislature Reforms Prescription Drug Trafficking Sentences

Post Date: April 11, 2014

By a vote of 113-2, the Florida House passed a bill today aimed at reducing the number of people subjected to mandatory minimums for prescription drug offenses. The House vote follows the Florida Senate’s passage of SB 360 in late March.

“This common sense bill is a step forward in addressing the demand side of the prescription drug epidemic,” said Rep. Katie Edwards. “Rather than sending a nonviolent addict to prison, we should take advantage of our drug courts and substance abuse treatment programs to help get the person on the right track. Too many families have been torn apart by harsh mandatory minimum sentences, and this bill helps right that wrong.”

Under current Florida law, unauthorized possession of as few as seven hydrocodone pills is enough to trigger a drug trafficking charge and a three-year mandatory minimum prison sentence; two dozen hydrocodone pills is enough to trigger a seven-year mandatory minimum sentence. SB 360 raises those thresholds, as well as the threshold for oxycodone pills. The bill now goes to Florida Gov. Rick Scott for signing.  

“The current threshold for prescription pill trafficking is terrifyingly low,” said Greg Newburn, Florida director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “This legislation raises that threshold a little higher, which will keep that many more Floridians from being subjected to nonsensical mandatory minimum sentences.”

According to a legislative staff analysis, SB 360 could save Florida nearly $50 million in prison operating and capital costs over the next five years.

“At a time when many legislators across the country are reacting to overdose deaths with policies shown not to work, Florida legislators are passing sensible laws that will save lives and money,” Newburn said. “Representative Katie Edwards and Senator Rob Bradley showed incredible stewardship on behalf of their constituents and the rest of Florida. Together, they set a much-needed example on how to lead with level heads on an issue that has no easy answers.

“We’d also like to thank Representatives Dave Hood, Dennis Baxley, Matt Gaetz, and Charles McBurney, as well as Senator Greg Evers, for making passage of this bill possible.” 

For more information, contact Greg Newburn, Florida director of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, at gnewburn@famm.org

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