Florida Sentencing Reform Update

Post Date: April 8, 2013

Hello, Florida FAMM!

I want to call your attention to some new developments in the legislative session. As you know, we’ve been pushing for a “safety valve” that would allow judges some discretion over sentencing in prescription drug “trafficking” cases. Unfortunately, it appears as if that particular reform does not have the support to keep moving through the committee process this year.

However, in recognition of that, FAMM and our partners have been working hard on an alternative reform that we think might have more support than the safety valve. Today, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee will hear SPB 7148, a bill designed to reform the statute that governs prescription drug trafficking. I wanted to take this opportunity to give you a brief overview of what this bill does (and doesn’t do). Tomorrow, the House Justice Appropriations Committee will hear the same reform in HB 159.

As most of you know, under current law, prescription painkillers (e.g., Oxycodone, hydrocodone) are treated like heroin, and the minimum weight threshold for trafficking is four grams. Because the entire pill is weighed, and not just the controlled substance in the pill, as few as seven pills can trigger “trafficking” and yield a three-year mandatory minimum sentence.

SPB 7148 amends the drug trafficking statute (F.S. 893.135) by removing Oxycodone and hydrocodone from the current section that punishes trafficking in these substances and other opiates, and creates a new section for “trafficking in prescription drugs.”

That new section raises the threshold trafficking weight from four grams to 14 grams, and changes the penalties associated with prescription drug trafficking. The proposed new weights and penalties are as follows:

  • Trafficking in 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, of Oxycodone or hydrocodone: 3-year mandatory minimum term and $50,000 fine. (Under current law, a 3-year mandatory minimum term and a $50,000 fine are provided for trafficking in 4 grams or more, but less than 14 grams, of Oxycodone or hydrocodone.)
  • Trafficking in 28 grams or more, but less than 50 grams, of Oxycodone or hydrocodone: 7-year mandatory minimum term and $100,000 fine. (Under current law, a 15-year mandatory minimum term and a $100,000 fine are provided for trafficking in 14 grams or more, but less than 28 grams, of Oxycodone or hydrocodone.)
  • Trafficking in 50 grams or more, but less than 200 grams, of Oxycodone or hydrocodone: 15-year mandatory minimum term and $50,000 fine. (Under current law, a 25-year mandatory minimum term and a $500,000 fine are provided for trafficking in 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, of Oxycodone or hydrocodone.)
  • Trafficking in 200 grams or more of Oxycodone or hydrocodone: 25-year mandatory minimum term and $500,000 fine. (Under current law, a 25-year mandatory minimum term and a $500,000 fine are provided for trafficking in 28 grams or more, but less than 30 kilograms, of Oxycodone or hydrocodone. Trafficking in 30 kilograms or more of these drugs is punishable by life imprisonment.)

As you can see, this bill makes a number of significant changes, all of them improvements. However, the changes are not retroactive, which means the new thresholds and penalties will apply only to offenses committed on or after the effective date (likely July 1, 2013).

As I said, this reform will be heard in at least two legislative committees this week (one in the House, and one in the Senate), and I will keep everyone apprised of the bill as it moves along in the legislative process.

Thanks once again for all of your support.

Best,

Greg Newburn

FAMM Florida Project Director