Florida has repealed harsh mandatory minimum sentences for possession or trafficking of small amounts of opioids, but there are still thousands of people in prison time on convictions under a law that is no longer in effect.
The prior law, repealed in 2014, imposed a mandatory three-year sentence for possession or sale of four grams of oxycodone or hydrocodone — approximately eight pills. A person who illegally possessed or sold 28 grams — approximately 54 pills — faced a 25-year sentence.
The new law raised the threshold amounts for the three-year mandatory minimum sentence to 14 grams of hydrocodone (27 pills) or seven grams of Oxycodone (14 pills). The 25-year sentence applies for possession or sale of 200 grams of hydrocodone (386 pills) or 100 grams of Oxycodone (199 pills).
Unfortunately, the new law left no recourse for inmates serving sentences imposed prior to its effective date of June 30, 2014. A published report indicates that many inmates currently serving drug possession sentences are not high-volume traffickers but first-time offenders who may have sold opioids while in financial straits. But a provision in the Florida state constitution blocked lawmakers from retroactively applying changes to criminal penalties.
Relief may be in sight. In 2018, Florida voters in a referendum approved Amendment 11, which removed the constitution’s prohibition on retroactive sentencing. But despite the amendment’s 62 percent margin of approval, legislative efforts that could allow thousands of inmates to be resentenced are floundering. In fact, Florida’s attorney general is supporting a bill to provide that any revision of a criminal statute only operates going forward unless expressly provided otherwise. Until a retroactive sentencing law is enacted, the only remedy for inmates covered by the old law is to challenge the original conviction on legal or constitutional grounds with the aid of a skilled defense attorney.
If you or a loved one are charged with a drug crime in Florida, the attorneys at Largey Law can analyze your case and build the strongest defense possible. We are also experienced in petitioning for post-conviction relief. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us online. We have offices in Tavares, Clermont and Inverness.