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Legislature debates minimum sentences for drug convictions

A mandatory minimum sentence is a criminal punishment that a judge must apply in a case where the defendant is found guilty of the underlying crime. For many crimes in Florida, judges have the discretion to consider the crime, the defendant and the extenuating circumstances of the case, when handing down a sentence. Many drug crimes may be punished under the somewhat subjective ruling of the court.

However, recently, the state senators of Florida entertained the idea of imposing a mandatory minimum sentence on individuals convicted of selling Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid. Allegedly, it has caused a number of overdose deaths in Florida and other states, due to its potential strength and its mixture with other drugs.

The senators weighed whether the mandatory minimum sentences -- which ranged from a minimum of 3 years in prison to a minimum of 25 years in prison, depending upon the amount of the drug found with the defendant -- would deter alleged criminals. Alternatively, whether imposing such an unwavering mandate would be detrimental to those who could benefit from rehabilitation outside of the prison system. Ultimately, the senators voted on an amended form of the mandatory minimum bill, which would allow judges to retain some discretion in Fentanyl conviction cases.

The state legislator will move this bill forward. They will vote on it to determine if Fentanyl drug convictions will receive the serious punishment of a mandatory minimum sentence.

As presented in this story, drug crimes can be met with serious consequences. And, it is for this reason that some individuals facing trial on such charges choose to enlist the help of criminal defense attorneys to guide them through their options for protecting their legal rights.

Source: Palm Beach Post, "Florida ponders mandatory minimum sentence for selling synthetic opiod," Jim Saunders, May 2, 2017

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